Logic in Europe and North America

A reader sent me email with the following interesting observations about the relative status of logic in Europe and the US (a propos Ken Taylor’s remarks in the recent Jobs thread over at TAR and my post here):

i’d like to offer the following observation about a difference that i see between logic in europe (including the uk) and logic in north america. well, a couple of ideas come to mind actually. one is that the funding agencies in europe seem to be more tolerant of theoretical computer science than the post-cold war NSF. (you can see this reflected a bit in the job postings on CRA for research positions in computer science in the US; research positions tend to be very applications oriented.) there is growing pressure here for applications as well, but the climate seems more tolerant for the type of work that logic/applied logic falls under. now, at top places –cmu, mit, uc berk, so on–it won’t seem this way. and they will continue cherry picking the best people to retain their standing. but my sense is that the bottom drops out below these places; and you need a critical mass of people working at second tier research universities, regional research centers and at teaching colleges for a discipline to thrive. Europe seems to have these other components in place, and may start having better luck stopping the poaching of its best people by the US if the new visa restrictions continue to cut into the international student enrollments in the us.

but here it isn’t that way at all. i mean, i can run a real modal logic course or a real probabilistic logics course and students (a) are prepared and (b) won’t drop. my gut tells me that i’d have a hard time running these courses at a second-tier research center in the US, which is roughly what my research center here would be, judged by the resources i have at my disposal.

another idea was that i think a good part of AI (and the AI conferences I attend) would count as philosophical logic in north america, once you get the sociological and terminological differences ironed out. or, maybe the better way to put it is that the distinction between philosophical logic and applied logic seems to be rapidly breaking down. the editorial board of JPL and the new synthese KRA issues reflect this general trend, but the integration here seems, i don’t know, more indigenous.

back to jobs. i think that hiring in north american philosophy programs is lagging behind these research trends, but it probably isn’t that unusual for hiring to lag research trends. the more pressing worry is that the logic community in north america does not seem to be as well organized or supported as the logic communities in europe.

I think all of this is dead on.

Computational Models of Scientific Reasoning & Applications IV

Brian has already linked to this year’s Berkeley/Austin Formal Epistemology workshop and the Pitt/CMU Symposium on Imprecise Probabilities. Here’s a related event:

CMSRA-IV will be held September 21-23 in Lisbon. The mission statement reads, in part, “The CMSRA workshops are designed to promote research of high-level cognitive reasoning that addresses both the logico-philosophical issues surrounding high-level cognitive notions such as ‘knowledge’, ‘belief’ and ‘rationality’ among others, and also addresses the computational issues involved in constructing practical working models of such reasoning. Research in this area is being driven by practical concerns and purely theoretical concerns. From a practical point of view, distributed computing and autonomous robotic agents offer two examples of research areas where there is increasing interest in improving the capabilities of agents (or distributed processes) to reason about what each ‘knows’. From a logico-philosophical point of view, the natural emphasis on formal semantics and syntax that computational modeling demands is generating new formal studies of concepts and relations that have been traditionally studied by philosophical logics, opening promising new lines of research.”

This should be exciting. And, hey, it’s in Lisbon.

New Logic Blog

Jon Cohen has started That Logic Blog with a post on symmetry in propositional logic and connections to problems of automorphism of colored graphs. And I fully agree with his statement that “while many people may believe [propositional logic] to be a completely mined out and somewhat trivial area, this is not so.” Especially if you consider complexity of propositional proof systems to be part of that area.

Death by Frege

After a term in sunny SoCal, it’s now back to Arctic temperatures and teaching. Today is day 1 of my philosophy of mathematics course, charmingly referred to by one student as “Death by Frege.” And I’m not even making them read Grundgesetze! The reading list might be a little optimistic, but hey, who doesn’t like a challenge?

Logic and Philosophy IV

In his JfP Analysis 2004-05, Brian Weatherson notes an apparent dearth of logic job openings this season. I mentioned in the comments there, and previously here, that this season is actually pretty good for straight “AOS: Logic” jobs at top departments. Ken Taylor suggested that a dearth of logic jobs, combined with an apparent decline in the number of American-trained logicians suggests a decline in logic in the field on this side of the pond. It does seem to me to be the case that there’s more logic being done in Australasia and the UK than in the US and Canada, and even more in continental Europe. I don’t know why that is. Why is that? But then Jason Stanley made the very good point that there are a bunch of very good, younger logicians who are or have made their mark not by contributions to straight logic, but by using logic in work in M&E. I’ve conjectured before that this is where logic seems to be going in philosophy in the US: Logic in philosophy departments takes less the form of straight “theorem proving logic” but of applications of logic in work that is really in M&E. That raises some important questions about the role of logic in graduate training, which there will be a panel on at the ASL Spring Meeting/Pacific APA. Too bad Jason won’t be there.