Saturday, April 19, 2008

Faculty colloquium

I do have doubts about the point of general faculty colloquia, meaning afternoons where we present papers to each other. People who share interests -- the logicians for example -- talk to each other anyway, and philosophy has got so professionalized that those who don't share the same interests are likely not to get much from a paper speaking to debates remote from home. (The old culture of amateurism in philosophy -- the idea we can all chip in to debates about anything -- is perhaps past its sell-by date.)

But yesterday's effort here was tolerably entertaining. Adam Stewart-Wallace, one of our grad students, gave a paper about contextualism in semantics, with Alex Oliver commenting. That session at least had the virtue of making me not feel in the least bit guilty that I'd not read Travis or Cappelan and Lepore (some of their arguments under discussion seemed -- as presented -- pretty poor, so I'm certainly not encouraged to find out more).

Next, Michael Potter talked off the cuff in part about the implications of Gödel's disjunctive conclusion from the first incompleteness theorem in his Gibbs lecture -- either our minds are not machines or there are absolutely unprovable-by-us arithmetical truths. Ben Colburn commented. I think Michael wants to read more into the second disjunct than I do (I give a very domesticated reading in my Gödel book, p. 262).

Finally Quassim Cassam fussed about the "basis" of self-knowledge with Jane Heal responding. But the distinction we need to sort that out is of course an old one -- self ascriptions of pain (say) are not evidentially based, but they aren't mysterious, they are causally based (the hook-up between pains and linguistic expressions being set up in linguistic training). The point was made in Smith and Jones and I'm not sure that I have any intellectual itch here that wasn't satisfactorily scratched by our treatment.

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