Sunday, May 18, 2008

Sidney Morgenbesser discussing the American Pragmatists

This might be old news to many people, but I just learned that YouTube is now carrying several programs in which Bryan Magee talks with philosophers such as Ayer, Quine, Putnam, and Morgenbesser. Many are familiar with the lore surrounding Magee's discussion with Sidney Morgenbesser. It is an understatement to say that Morgenbesser was not pleased with the program that resulted from his discussion with Magee. In light of this, it might be suggested that one should not draw attention to the program, that doing so is disrespectful. My reason for mentioning the program here is quite the opposite. By all accounts, Morgenbesser possessed a philosophical intelligence that was remarkable in both power and direction, but he published comparatively little. Magee's discussion with Morgenbesser is one of a small number of opportunities that are available to those who wish to learn more about this remarkable philosopher. So, without further ado ...

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Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Thanks, but I can read the paper myself.

You've decided to walk over to the philosophy department at your university to hear a talk by a distinguished visitor. As a faculty member working in cognitive science you are excited by the prospect of interdisciplinary collaboration, and you've heard about some interesting work being done over in the philosophy department. You did a philosophy minor in college, but you've never attended a talk by a professional philosopher. You walk over to the building that houses the philosophy department and then climb the stairs to the room where the talk is being held. The room is packed, and you struggle to find a seat. Finally, the speaker makes his way to the front of the room. He clears his throat, takes a sip of water and then ... wait for it ... wait for it ... starts to read his paper out loud. You wonder why you bothered schlepping over to the other side of campus just to hear some guy read his paper, a paper that you could have read yourself at a more convenient time.

Whenever I mention this tradition to academics in other fields (e.g. computer science, mathematics), they seem amazed that this sort of thing is allowed (as if one could expect most states to have laws against it). Now, I don't think the philosophical community is under any obligation to explain its traditions to colleagues in other fields, but why is reading the paper OK (or even preferable) when it comes to giving a talk in a philosophy department? I think it is easy to appreciate how the practice seems odd, or even suspicious, to colleagues in mathematics or the sciences. What can be said in support of this practice in light of these sorts of reactions?

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Synthese edits two special issues on the foundations of the decision sciences.

Jeff Helzner and Horacio Arló-Costa are editing two special issues of the journal Synthese on the foundations of the decision sciences. The first issue is now completed but some articles are still under review. We will announce soon the date of publication of the first issue.

The idea of these issues is to offer a broad view of recent foundational work in the many branches of the decision sciences, from evolutionary game theory to behavioral decision theory to classical foundational work on axiomatic accounts of decision under uncertainty. The contributors include both philosophers engaged in theoretical or experimental work and decision scientists with an interest in foundations.

Contents of the first issue

L. Bovens and W. Rabinowicz, The puzzle of the hats.

S. Huttegger, B. Skyrms, R. Smead, K. Zollman, Evolutionary dynamics of Lewis signaling games: Signaling vs. partial pooling.

P. Maher, Bayesian probability.

N-E. Sahlin, A. Wallin and J. Persson, Decision science: From Ramsey to Dual Process Theory.

T. Seidenfeld, M.J. Schervish, J.B. Kadane, Coherent choice functions under uncertainty.

I. Levi, Probability logic, logical probability and inductive support.

I. Gilboa, A. Postlewaite and D. Schmeidler, Rationality of belief: Or: Why Savage's axioms are neither necessary nor sufficient for rationality.

D. Samet, S5 knowledge without partitions.

J. Baron, Cognitive biases in moral judgments that affect political behavior.

H. Arló-Costa and J. Helzner, Ambiguity aversion: The explanatory power of indeterminate probabilities.

Contributors to the second issue

S. Hartmann and J. Sprenger, A. Hájek and M. Smithson, J. Joyce, E. McClennen, C. Bicchieri, A. Rustichini, P.J. Hammond, G. Gigerenzer, J. Collins, and W. Spohn.

Saturday, May 3, 2008

Handbook of Analysis and its Foundations

Paul Halmos remarked in his automathography that a good way to learn a lot of mathematics is by reading the first chapters of many mathematics books. Wouldn't it be nice, though, if there was a single book that eliminated the overlapping material such an exercise would entail, included frequent cross-references between topics, and sought to show the connections between various branches of mathematics...and all this between the covers of one volume for around a hundred bucks?

Eric Schechter has written such a book, "The Handbook of Analysis and Its Foundations", Academic Press, 1997.

Thursday, May 1, 2008


FotFS VII, the next conference in the Foundations of the Formal Sciences series, will take place at Vrije Universiteit Brussel from October 21-24, 2008. Information about the conference, including the call for papers, can be found at

Note that the submission deadline is July 15.