Archive for the ‘Philosophy’ Category

The meaning of “is”

March 22, 2018

… and betting on baldness.

Through the Australasian Association of Philosophy’s Facebook page, this To φ Or Not To φ (Daily Nous Philosophy Comic) by Tanya Kostochka:

(#1) And that’s just the beginning: cf. I’m Louise with I’m your daughter


Jerry Fodor

December 21, 2017

In the NYT on 11/30, an obituary by Margalit Fox, “Jerry A. Fodor, Philosopher Who Plumbed the Mind’s Depths, Dies at 82”, beginning:

Jerry A. Fodor, one of the world’s foremost philosophers of mind, who brought the workings of 20th-century computer technology to bear on ancient questions about the structure of human cognition, died on Wednesday at his home in Manhattan. He was 82.

The cause was complications of Parkinson’s disease and a recent stroke, his wife, Janet Dean Fodor, said.

More of the obit below, then a few personal remarks, and an extended discussion of an early influential work by Jerrold Katz and Jerry Fodor, The Structure of Langage: Readings in the Philosophy of Language (1964).


Xmas, Zippy, Sartre, the Big Duck, and Nedwig, too

December 16, 2017

It started to look a lot like Christmas back at the end of October, and now the great wave of celebration impels us towards the day. I have my personal holiday dates: the 15th of December, for years my evacuation day from Ohio (immediately after grades were due at Ohio State); the 20th, my arrival day in California, by then transformed from dry-season gold to the rainy-season green of rebirth; the 16th, today, marking for me not only the birthday of Ludwig van Beethoven but also the birthday of my friend Ned Deily, a day I came to see as Nedwig, by association the feast day of Hedwig and the Angry Inch. (Extended discussion of these significant events in my 12/17/16 posting “Two late December holidays”.)

Meanwhile, Bill Griffith has several times connected the coming of Christmas with Jean-Paul Sarte and the Big Duck of Flanders NY (on Long Island), and here I’ll follow him a bit along that rocky, twisted path. Enjoy the journey with me.


Magrittean disavowals

August 19, 2017

About the terminology Magrittean disavowal / Disavowal, not the phenomenon. Mike Pope suggests that the terminology may be original with me, and that might be so. But the phenomenon has been around since Magritte’s 1929 painting — the famous pipe image captioned Ceci n’est pas une pipe —  and similar examples have been around for longer than that, in apparently paradoxical sentences like the one above (or its French equivalent Ceci n’est pas une phrase), in a sign that announces This is not a sign (French: Ceci n’est pas un panneau), and, more distantly, in the ancient Liar Paradox, with a number of variants:  I am lying – Everything I say is false – This sentence is false.


More pipe philosophy

July 21, 2017

On the Philosophy Matters Facebook page, this take on Magritte’s The Treachery of Images (which comes up on this blog every month or so):


Words on a wall

July 8, 2017

The latest xkcd (#1860):


That’s Lewis Carroll’s Humpty Dumpty on that wall, discoursing on semantics as in Through the Looking-Glass. The stand-in for the baffled Alice in the book is the aggressively disputatious Science Girl of xkcd.


Hilary Putnam

April 3, 2016

A few weeks back (I have been preoccupied with many things), the announcement of the death of the great philosopher Hilary Putnam, who was one of my teachers at Princeton and later became an academic friend. From the NYT on 3/18/16, “Hilary Putnam, Giant of Modern Philosophy, Dies at 89” by Bruce Weber, which begins:

Hilary Putnam, a Harvard philosopher whose influence ranged widely across many fields of thought, including mathematical logic, philosophy of mind and language, epistemology and metaphysics, died on March 13 at his home in Arlington, Mass. He was 89.

In the world of contemporary philosophers, Professor Putnam was known for the breadth of his thinking, the vividness of his provocative arguments, and his penchant for self-questioning and willingness to change his mind.

In a field of inquiry characterized by elusive concepts, dizzying “isms” and subtle taxonomies, philosophers are in continual battle to resist simplification. Infinite, or at least enormous, complexity is the nature of things, Professor Putnam argued, writing that “any philosophy that can be put in a nutshell belongs in one.”


Falling trees

August 23, 2015

Yesterday’s Bizarro puts a fresh twist on an old philosophical puzzle:

Previously on this blog, a Zippy (posted 10/15/12) on a related theme, with the punning punch line:

If a red-breasted nuthatch sings in a forest & there’s no one there to google it, did it post a tweet?

So what does it refer to in the top panel? In the old conundrum, it refers to the falling of the tree. But in the bottom panel, it refers to the tree itself, which turns out to have the power of speech; it can certainly make a sound (of its own volition).