Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Back from Oxford

I'm back from Oxford where I was giving a talk at Dan Isaacson's philosophy of maths seminar. I was a bit anxious about the occasion in advance as I knew that Michael Dummett still tends to go. In the event he did come, and nodded and smiled encouragingly from time to time, and said he enjoyed the talk as he left at the end of the discussion. Which has certainly made my week. The discussion was helpful (Dan was pressing me hard to be clearer), but the basic line of argument seemed to survive. Phew. So I'll write up a version of this stuff over the next week and put it on my website. Watch for a link.

I'd not been to Oxford since The Daughter left about eight years ago: and I'm always struck anew how wonderful the place looks (even on a rainy late-autumn night). Cambridge really hasn't anything to compare with Radcliffe Square, or indeed the streets around and about.

I spent more than I should have done in Blackwell's. I've made a start since on James Ladyman and Don Ross's Every Thing Must Go: Metaphysics Naturalized which I bought despite the outrageous price, gripped by reading the first twenty pages or so in the shop. Having now finished the first long chapter, I find myself in considerable agreement with their basic line. Indeed, I'd say they rather pull their punches in criticizing arm-chair metaphysics based -- if based on science at all -- on a grasp of science that stops round about A-level chemistry (as they rudely but fairly put it); and some of the discussion so far is a bit oracular. Still, there's a lot of the book to come, so we'll see how well they sharpen their points and hammer them home. So far, so rather good!


Ben said...

Excellent: I'm glad it went well.

Ocham said...

Hey Peter I still have that question about the definition of 'satisfy'. I joined the forum but it seems a bit empty. And I gather you are not following sci.logic any more (that seemed a sound move).

Consequently I'm still stuck on p6 or whatever. You have something on the lines of

x satisfies 'is white' iff x is white

but I don't see how you would generalise that.

Peter Smith said...

Ocham: talk of an object satisfying a predicate first appears on p.21. There is no more to the notion (as I am using it there) than is given by the illustrative cases, followed by the explanation of how satisfaction conditions for predicates feed into determining the truth-conditions of sentences containing the predicates. So when is "Fn" true? When the thing named by "n" satisfies the predicate "F". (Nothing exotic is going on.) And actually nothing much later depends on this page. (A slightly worrying thought! Maybe it shouldn't really be there!!)

Ocham said...

Sure, it was p. 21 where I came to a halt. So are we defining 'satisfy' in terms of 'true'?

I looked up 'true' in the index and got nowhere.

But if you say this is not connected with the rest of the book, probably doesn't matter.

(Also, it is a worrying thought, as you say yourself. It is highly confusing to a beginner to the subject to be given more than is strictly necessary to teach them the subject). But I shall press on.

a said...

Cambridge has the backs. I prefer the view of the Avenue (Trinity College) or King's College Chapel to anything Oxford has. But then I'm an Oxford man, so perhaps the grass is always greener?