Tuesday, December 13, 2005


UCLA/USC Graduate Conference

I'm pleased to say that my paper 'The price of bivalence; epistemicism and the forced-march sorites' has been accepted at the First Annual UCLA/USC Graduate Student Conference. Here's the abstract:

As I characterize it, epistemicism is the view that, our powerful intuitions to the contrary notwithstanding, vague expressions draw sharp boundaries - a single grain of sand marks the difference between the heaps and the non-heaps; a single hair divides the bald men from the not-bald men, etc. - but that independently plausible epistemic considerations explain why we are ignorant of where these boundaries lie. Such a position offers a strikingly simple solution to the Sorites paradox, and does so whilst preserving classical logic and semantics, but only at a price. In this paper I argue that Sorensen and Graff’s epistemicist theories of vagueness cannot meet all of the explanatory burdens they incur; in particular, I argue that they cannot diagnosis the allure of Sorites reasoning without leaving problems arising from the so-called forced-march Sorites looking intractable. In the final section, I offer a diagnosis of why their attempts to meet these two demands result in tension, and suggest that the problem will generalize to any epistemicist position that takes both of the explanatory demands seriously.

The keynote speaker is Professor John Perry from Stanford.

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Congratulations, welcome to the blogosphere, and first!
Thanks. I suggested to the person in charge of the colloquium here back in September that we should try get you down here, and they agreed but I'm assuming nothing actually happened off the back of the conversation. So long as you're interested, I'll give people a gentle prod here.
Congratulations! I'll be there too talking about the role of axioms in mathematics. It looks like I'll have to start following this blog, given what you've been talking about so far.
That's cool, Kenny, I'll look forward to meeting you there. What's the talk on?

I clearly should have been following AntiMeta more closely over the past few months too - all the stuff on realism and anti-realism debates in philosophy of maths is just up my street (though I'm on the other side, just to warn you). I'll need to chase up some of the links on forcing too - we're doing a course around Kunen this year, and I'm finding it too difficult a text; it's a mathematician's book, and I'm a mere philosopher.
Ok, please ignore the request for details of your paper, fortunately I was able to read it myself. I just finished Maddy 1997 a few weeks ago, so I had a better sense of the issues than I would have had otherwise. I'll need to think harder about the main issues - I'd like to make sure I've a better grasp of the relationship you're suggesting between the mathematical issues and the philosophical ones. It's really interesting stuff - it'll be fun to get a proper chance to discuss it properly. But a few quick comments (one non-philosophical):

- On page 8 you talk about CH when I think you meant AC.

- I don't think Frege's project was that of 'logicizing all of mathematics' - that's very difficult to reconcile with his explicit agreement in the Grundlagen with Kant that geometry was synthetic a priori.

- Neo-logicists have usually been careful to acknowledge that logicism in its true form collapsed with Basic Law V. I've never heard the claim made that we should stretch what counts as logic to encompass, say, abstraction principles. It's precisely the use of such non-logical principles that puts the 'neo' in 'neo-logicism'.
I should obviously pay more attention to comment threads I've appeared in in past, so I don't miss useful points like the ones you've made! I've been re-editing the paper for a bit, and didn't notice the AC/CH switch until seeing your remark. And you're right that I need to be more careful about just what I characterize as either Frege's or Hale/Wright's logicisms.
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