Thursday, September 30, 2010

Michael Eldridge

Pragmatist philosopher Michael Eldridge died unexpectedly on Sept. 18, sad news indeed.

Talking with Mike has always been a highlight of my attendance at SAAP. Always ready with something interesting to talk about, Mike was one of those philosophers, not as common as you might think, who led his life and interacted with people in a way that was of a piece with his philosophical convictions.

His personal support and his welcoming attitude at SAAP meetings were instrumental in turning me toward pragmatism. In his company, it was obvious that a philosophical attitude which is meliorist--optimistic about human progress--but pragmatic--grounded in factually assessing how to make a difference--is not only well-justified but also a fine way to lead a life.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Gender and Skepticism

A colleague told me a disheartening observation/hypothesis concerning the students in his epistemology class.

The class as a whole has generally had a positive reaction to the readings assigned thus far in the course but had a negative, even hostile, reaction toward the latest article they discussed, a marvelous piece by Miranda Fricker called "Scepticism and the Genealogy of Knowledge."

My colleague is a contextualist, a feminist, and a pragmatist anti-skeptic. "I just realized how, if I wanted to, I could once and for all turn the class opinion against the skeptic," he confided. "All I'd have to do is to consistently refer to the skeptic as 'she'."

Thursday, September 02, 2010

Baby Logic and a Question

I've been talking with philosophers in my department about curriculum revisions and our logic course. Right now we only have one logic course. It would be nice to add an advanced course, but I don't particularly want to teach it--or rather, I'd like to teach it, but there are about a dozen courses I'd like to teach more than that one.

Some of us have referred to the course as "baby logic." This is a term I heard a lot in grad school, where there was a 1-quarter baby logic course and 2 further quarters of advanced topics--and none of those even touched on modal logic or many other possible topics in philosophical logic.

My question for you is why it's called baby logic and what baby logic refers to. Is it the content of a standard introductory course (even when "introductory" means "all you can ever get at this institution without taking your pretty self over to the math department")? That is, is baby logic sentential and predicate logic up to (or through) identity? Or is it less? One colleague thinks "baby logic" refers only to the informal logic that is typically taught in critical thinking courses. I could see how it might refer to sentential logic--on the grounds that truth trees are a mindless automatic procedure but models in predicate logic are not.