E. E. C. Jones in the SEP

Everyone should read this new entry in the SEP

Emily Elizabeth Constance Jones (1848–1922), a contemporary of Bertrand Russell and G. E. Moore at Cambridge University, worked primarily in philosophical logic and ethics. Her most significant contribution to the former area is her application of the intension-extension distinction to singular terms, anticipating Frege’s related distinction between sense and reference and Russell’s pre-“On Denoting” distinction between meaning and denotation. Widely regarded as an authority on philosophical logic by figures as diverse as F. C. S. Schiller and G. F. Stout on the one hand and C. S. Pierce on the other … Russell delivered a paper to the Moral Sciences Club, subsequently published as “Knowledge by Acquaintance and Knowledge by Description”, responding to a critical paper by Jones, delivered to the same society some months earlier. Jones also published in ethics, and was regarded by Henry Sidgwick, her mentor, as one of his prize students. Yet, despite the fact that she published numerous articles, a monograph and several textbooks (some going into multiple editions), and was a very visible member of the English philosophical community from the 1890s until her death in 1922, she is now almost entirely forgotten.

Next time I’m teaching history of analytic philosophy, I’ll assign Jones (and Stebbing).  Not sure why I didn’t do it this year: I did assign Russell’s "Knowledge by acquaintance" after all!

Jones was not the only woman contributing to philosophical logic and related areas at the beginning of the twentieth century: Pierce’s student, Christine Ladd-Franklin (1847-1930) made significant contributions to logic and psychology, and the writings of Lady Victoria Welby (1837–1912) on meaning were widely read. … Later figures include the philosopher of science, Dorothy Wrinch (1894–1976), a Girton student who went on to study under Russell, and Susanne Langer (1895–1985), who wrote a dissertation under Alfred North Whitehead at Radcliff in 1926. Wrinch, who published papers in Mind on, among other things, the theory of relativity, later abandoned philosophy for chemistry, teaching for many years at Smith College. Langer, who later achieved prominence in the philosophy of art, published several technical articles on type theory and related topics early in her career (see, for example, Langer 1926, 1927). Possibly the most prominent woman analytic philosopher of the first half of the twentieth century, however, was another Girton student, L. Susan Stebbing (1885–1943), Professor of Philosophy at Bedford College, London, and co-founder of the journal Analysis.

Postdoc in Logic/Philosophy of Science at Calgary

The Department of Philosophy at the University of Calgary invites applications for a one-year postdoctoral fellowship starting on September 1, 2011. The area of specialization is logic or the philosophy of science. The fellow will be expected to have a well-defined research project, teach one course in the area of specialization, and participate in the research activities of the Department. All requirements for the PhD must have been completed by the starting date and no earlier than September 2007. The stipend is $50,000 Canadian per year.

Specific inquiries about this position may be directed to:

Ali Kazmi, Head
Department of Philosophy
University of Calgary

Complete dossiers, including a cv, at least three letters of reference, postgraduate transcripts, a recent sample of writing, and a detailed research proposal may be sent to:

Merlette Schnell, Manager
Department of Philosophy
University of Calgary
2500 University Drive NW
Calgary, Alberta T2N 1N4

Applications will be accepted until April 15, 2011 or until the position is filled.

Hilary Putnam Awarded 2011 Schock Prize in Logic and Philosophy

The Swedish Academy awarded the 2011 Rolf Schock Prize to Hilary Putnam "for his contribution to the understanding of semantics for theoretical and ‘natural kind’ terms, and of the implications of this semantics for philosophy, theory of knowledge, philosophy of science and metaphysics".

Here’s the citation:

Hilary Putnam is one of the most versatile philosophers of our time. He has written more than 20 books and more than 300 articles, on subjects ranging from mathematical logic to religion.

The work that is being rewarded with the 2011 Rolf Schock Prize in Logic and Philosophy belongs to the interface between philosophy of language, philosophy of science and metaphysics. In particular, it concerns the semantics for two sorts of linguistic expressions: theoretical terms in science, like ‘atom’ and ‘energy’, and everyday words for ‘natural kinds’, like ‘gold’ and ‘water’.

The starting point is Willard Van Orman Quine’s critique of the distinction between analytic and synthetic propositions. The former are said to be true by virtue of their meaning, while the truth of the latter also depends on the world. Thus, ‘all bachelors ride bicycles’ is synthetic, while ‘all bachelors are unmarried’ is analytic.

Unlike Quine, Putnam held fast to this example of analyticity: anyone who denies the proposition must be using one of the words to mean something other than we do. But for theoretical terms, no clear-cut distinction is possible. These terms are associated with clusters of natural laws. If we reject all statements of laws concerning energy, we have undoubtedly changed the meaning of the term ‘energy’; but for a change to take place it is unclear which, or how many, statements we must reject.

Accordingly, the meaning of theoretical terms can be preserved when a theory is modified. This revision of semantics makes, in turn, scientific realism possible: the new theory deals with the same phenomena as the old one.

Putnam subsequently combined these views with meaning externalism. The meaning of ‘natural kind’ terms, such as ‘water’, is determined by language users’ surroundings and not by the stereotypical characteristics they associate with the term, such as quenching thirst and flowing in rivers. On another planet outwardly just like ours, and perceived as such by its inhabitants, a substance other than H2O – XYZ, say – could have these characteristics instead. For speakers on this Twin Earth, ‘water’ would mean ‘XYZ’, while we should truthfully deny that there is any water on their planet. The conclusion is that ‘meanings just ain’t in the head’.

Hilary Whitehall Putnam was born in Chicago in 1926. After studies at the University of Pennsylvania and Harvard University, he received his PhD in 1951 from the University of California, Los Angeles, with Hans Reichenbach and Rudolf Carnap as his supervisors. In 1965, after a long residence at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), he moved to Harvard where, in 1976, he was appointed as Walter Beverly Pearson Professor of Mathematical Logic. Today, he is Cogan University Professor Emeritus at Harvard University.

Putnam is a past President of the American Philosophical Association (Eastern Division), the Philosophy of Science Association and the Association for Symbolic Logic. He is a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and a Corresponding Fellow of the British Academy (the UK’s national academy for the humanities and social sciences) and the French Académie de Sciences Morales et Politiques. He is married to Ruth Anna Putnam.

The prize for visual arts goes to Marlene Dumas. The prizes for Music and Mathematics will be annoucned on March 21.

PhD Fellowships in Mathematical Philosophy in Munich

From Hannes Leitgeb’s new Center for Mathematical Philosophy at the LMU Munich:

Four doctoral fellowships are being advertised at the Munich Center for
Mathematical Philosophy (MCMP). The MCMP, which is devoted to
applications of logical and mathematical methods in philosophy, has
recently been established at the Ludwig-Maximilians-University Munich
(LMU) based on generous support by the Alexander von Humboldt
Foundation. Directed by Professor Hannes Leitgeb, the Center hosts a
vibrant research community of university faculty, postdoctoral fellows,
doctoral fellows, and visiting fellows.

Details here .

LogBlog Move

LogBlog moved last year. I’ve tried to make it noticeable as little as possible–the RSS feed has been redirected for a while. So even if your feed reader is set to www.ucalgary.ca/~rzach/logblog/atom.xml you stil get the new posts.  But you should really change it!  (to http://www.ucalgary.ca/rzach/rss.xml)

And now I’ve also put in redirects from all the old pages, so no more finding an old LogBlog post and landing on a version where you can’t comment.  If you do find one, please let me know!