Tuesday, March 29, 2005

Statistically Improbable Phrases

Zed drew my attention to a feature on Amazon that lists "statistically improbable phrases" (SIPS) that occur in certain books. I have organized some selected SIPS that feature in works we have read in the workshop into haikus. See if you can identify which books the SIPS haikus belong to.

1. same landmark, same ship
feline tissue, china bits
old ontology

2. invented the zip
relevant sheep, tense judgment
immune to error

3. introduce their terms
purely auditory world
descriptions, cat slice

Monday, March 28, 2005

Naming and Necessity Link

Jay has posted the first lecture of Naming and Necessity to the workshop e-reserve site.

We'll see everyone on Thursday.

Friday, March 11, 2005

Final Chapter of Sameness and Substance

Last night we (David F., Jay E., Nat H., David H., Nate Z., Tom L., Chris F., Will S.) had a spirited discussion of the final chapter of Wiggins's Sameness and Substance. The main threads of conversation were the following:

(1) David F. demanded an account of how Wiggins's argument against Q-memory was supposed to go. Tom L. and David H. favored an interpretation of Wiggins that involved the purported inability of Q-memory to be mistaken. Valiant efforts to push this interpretation through eventually failed, though David F. said that there was "something to" this criticism. Nat H. and Jay E. demurred.

(2) A second possible line of criticism that was considered involved the idea that the Q-memory advocate might not be entitled to certain kinds of theoretical and practical inferences: One might, observing rain falling outside, find oneself wanting one's raincoat. If one only has a Q-memory of someone hanging someone's raincoat on some peg, one cannot directly use the content of that Q-memory in an inference that concludes (for example) with going to get one's own coat, or knowing where to look for it if one wanted it. This was meant as one way of fleshing out the idea that Q-memory doesn't appropriately capture the epistemological role that memory plays in our lives--that it cannot place knowledge of the past in relation to our understanding of our lives as a whole. But this line of criticism was not fleshed out in detail.

(3) Two additional comments that were made about the definition of Q-memory.

First, David F. wanted to strike the word "accurate" from Parfit's definition. Wiggins makes heavy weather of the presence of "accurate" in the definition. We couldn't determine why Wiggins cared about it so much, and it didn't help that most of his discussion of its significance was taken up with a speculative psychological explanation of why Parfit included "accurate" in his definition. ("Mere verbiage" according to Jay E.)

Second, Nat H. pointed out that there could be memories that did not seem to be memories. For example, one could have a recurring, vivid image of (e.g.) falling off a swingset that one is convinced is merely imaginary, but which counts as a memory because it is caused by an actual experience in the right way. So, Nat H. asked why Parfit needed the "seem to be memories" condition in his definition of Q-memory (condition (1)).

This is not a complete report of conversations that took place last night. Comments from other workshop attendees should help fill this summary out.

Monday, March 07, 2005

Mind Workshop Website

This is meant as a place to continue discussions started in the Philosophy of Mind Workshop at the University of Chicago.

Previous Readings in the Workshop

2002: Peter Geach, Mental Acts
2003: Gareth Evans, Varieties of Reference
2003: Jonathan Bennett, Rationality
2003-2004: Various articles on animal thought by Donald Davidson, Susan Hurley, and Jose Luis Bermudez
2004: P.F. Strawson, Individuals
2004-2005: David Wiggins, Sameness and Substance

We will begin reading Saul Kripke's Naming and Necessity in the spring.