Thursday, December 11, 2008

Mind Workshop Alumni

The Mind Workshop started in the fall of 2002. Some of our members have managed to graduate in those six years. Here's an incomplete list:

Zed Adams, New School for Social Research
Chris Ferro, Tulane
Ben McMyler, Texas A&M
Joe Schear, Oxford

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

From the Workshop Archives: Making It Explicit

The cover of MIE in the form of various philosophical classics, inspired by John Haugeland's Critique of Pure Reason cover of MIE (of which the upper left corner in the above mosaic is a poor approximation).

Chapter 1, §§I-V

Chapter 1, §VI & Chapter 2, §§I-III

Chapter 2, §§IV-V

Chapter 2, §§V-VI & Chapter 3, §§I-II

Chapter 3, §§III-IV

Chapter 4, §§I-II

Friday, September 05, 2008

Frege Hair Color Center

The philosophy of mind workshop is still on summer vacation. Walking through Westwood with Ben C., a UCLA philosophy grad student friend of the workshop, we passed the Frege Hair Color Center:

Ben said that the Color Center was founded by a Kaplan student who found the name "Frege" aesthetically appealing. The mind workshop originally documented this spot three years ago.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

The World's Smallest Tractatus

The title of this post, the miniaturized Tractatus itself, and the photos are from Mind Workshop member emeritus and NYC correspondent Zed Adams.

Zed also made tiny editions of Cavell's World Viewed and McDowell's review of Bernard Williams's Ethics and the Limits of Philosophy.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

THE History of Western Philosophy?

Designer Paul Sahre redesigned the cover of Bertrand Russell's A History of Western Philosophy for Touchstone Press in 2002.

Last year he realized that he designed a typo onto the cover.

It's fitting that the mistake concerns a definite description.

The typo could have been worse .

(Thanks to Wyeth for the tip.)

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Metaphysics Mix Tape!

Muxtape is "sort[ing] out a problem with the RIAA", so this will be just be a metaphysics-themed list of songs, with no Muxtape link. But it adheres to the convention of being limited to twelve songs. The list touches on themes of universals, objects, change, time, personal identity, numbers, possibility, necessity, and free will.

Track List:

1. Universal - Blur
2. Object - The Cure
3. Something - The Beatles
4. Nothing's Changed - The Zombies
5. Cause = Time - Broken Social Scene
6. Back in Time - Prefuse 73
7. Half A Person - The Smiths
8. Time And Place - Lee Moses
9. Numbers - Kraftwerk
10. Possibilities - Papas Fritas
11. It Ain't Necessarily So - Mary Lou Williams
12. Free Will and Testament - Robert Wyatt

**UPDATE 8/20/08**

Workshop participant Nate Z. put together an ontology-themed muxtape, which overlaps the metaphysics mix in some places but has a very different overall aesthetic feel. The track list is reproduced here for your enjoyment:

01) The Shaggs - Philosophy of the World
02) Pantera - Clash With Reality
03) Faith No More - Epic
04) Buddy Miles - Them Changes
05) New York Dolls - Human Being
06) Talking Heads - Once in a Lifetime
07) Hüsker Dü - Actual Condition
08) Prototypes - Exister
09) Blur - The Universal
10) Kermit the Frog - It's Not Easy Being Green
11) The Cure - Object
12) Boards of Canada - From Once Source All Things Depend

Friday, August 15, 2008

Epistemology Muxtape!

Here's another philosophy muxtape, this time epistemology-themed, featuring doubt, memory, perception, intuition, testimony, evidence, ignorance, knowledge how, self-knowledge, and contextualism.

Listen to the epistemology muxtape

Track list:

1. Stereolab - Doubt
2. Air - Remember
3. Field Music - Can You See Anything?
4. Orange Juice - Intuition Told Me (Part Two)
5. Steinski - It's Time To Testify (Mc5 Mix)
6. The Magnetic Fields - I Don't Believe You
7. Talking Heads - Puzzlin' Evidence (2005 Remastered LP Version )
8. Doobie Brothers - What A Fool Believes
9. Willie Mabon - I Don't Know
10. Touch - You Don't Know How to
11. Paul Simon - I Know What I Know (Remastered Album Version)
12. De La Soul - Stakes is high

Past philosophy muxtapes:

Philosophy of Mind
Philosophy of Language

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Philosophy of Language Muxtape!

Names, indexicals, sense, what is said, truth, tense, unarticulated constituents...from a logical point of view.

The philosophy of language muxtape

Track list:

1. Biz Markie - My Name Is...
2. De La Soul - Me Myself and I (radio version)
3. Missing Persons - Words
4. ESG - You Make No Sense
5. The Cure - Speak My Language
6. Sleater-Kinney - Things You Say
7. Led Zeppelin - Communication Breakdown
8. Johnny Cash - What is Truth
9. The Germs - Lexicon Devil
10. MC5 - future/now
11. Irma Thomas - It's Raining
12. Robert Mitchum - From A Logical Point Of View

Related posts:

The Philosophy of Mind Muxtape

**UPDATE 8/14/08: In response to Aidan's suggestion, I added Led Zeppelin's "Communication Breakdown".**

Friday, August 08, 2008

Philosophy of Mind Muxtape!

Zed, emeritus member and friend of the Mind Workshop, has put together a philosophy of mind muxtape. It touches on some fundamental philosophical issues--privacy, idealism, Johnson's attempted refutation of Bishop Berkeley, mind-body interaction, skepticism about other minds, physicalism, and automata.

Listen to the Philosophy of Mind Muxtape

Track listing:

1. The Chiffons - Nobody Knows What's Goin' On (In My Mind But Me)
2. Beach Boys - In My Room
3. Nas - The World Is Yours
4. James Brown - Soul Power [Re-Edit] [Mono Version]
5. A Tribe Called Quest - Can I Kick It? (Extended Boilerhouse Mix)
6. Pete Rock & C.L. Smooth - I Get Physical
7. Death Cab For Cutie - Soul Meets Body (Album Version)
8. Frank Sinatra - Body And Soul
9. Peter Frampton - Do You Feel Like We Do
10. Pixies - Where Is My Mind?
11. The Creation - How Does It Feel to Feel [US Single Version]
12. Kraftwerk - The Robots

(This is the first in a series--language, metaphysics, and epistemology muxtapes will appear soon.)

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Painted Leaves, Desperate Smiles and Radical Contextualism

Charles Travis's attack on compositional, truth conditional semantics is built around a bunch of lively thought experiments, including cats dipped in puce dye ("Meaning's Role in Truth"), a guy named Sid who grunts when punched in the solar plexus (Unshadowed Thought), and a question about whether wearing a tie made of freshly cooked linguine would count as part of business attire (Ibid.). But one of Travis's examples has received more attention in the literature than any other. It involves one of his recurring characters, Pia, and the leaves of a Japanese maple tree. I'll quote part of the frequently cited passage:

A story. Pia’s Japanese maple is full of russet leaves. Believing that green is the color of leaves, she paints them. Returning, she reports, “That’s better. The leaves are green now”. She speaks truth. A botanist friend then phones, seeking green leaves for a study of green-leaf chemistry. “The leaves (on my tree) are green”, Pia says. “You can have those”. But now Pia speaks falsehood. ("Pragmatics")

There's a lot to say about what happens in that short paragraph, and a lot has been said about it. One thing to say about the example is that Pia's motivation for painting the leaves is odd. Who would want to paint leaves to make the world conform with the belief that leaves are green? In an unpublished paper that takes up the question of the painted leaves (which he has since modified in very interesting ways), Jason Bridges says of Pia's action and utterance, "When I imagine someone doing and saying this, I can’t help but envision her with a fixed, desperate smile".

Jason may be right about the oddity of Pia's actions as described in Travis's example. But leaves get painted for all sorts of reasons, not all of them strange. Stuck to the side of houses, they get painted inadvertently (more here and here); they get painted intentionally as a way of indicating that they are to be removed; and simply because it looks interesting.

The philosopher of language Stefano Predelli, who has a provocative paper that responds on behalf of compositional, truth conditional semantics to the example of the painted leaves, managed to find and get his picture taken next to some actual, vividly painted leaves. (His other pictures are worth seeing as well.)

Searches on Flickr also yielded pictures illustrating another one of Travis's examples, which involves ink that looks black in the bottle but which writes blue (Unshadowed Thought). It turns out that it is hard to tell what color ink will write simply by seeing it in the bottle. Almost all ink in the bottle looks black if the bottle is completely full.

Illustrations of more classic thought experiments surfaced as well, including a barn facade, a mule painted to look like a zebra, and a possible robot cat.

Thursday, July 31, 2008

Demonstrative Thoughts About A City

In Varieties of Reference, Evans says that a subject, sitting in a room in his house, cannot have demonstrative thoughts about the city he lives in:

"Sitting in a room in a house, a subject is not in informational contact with a city; if he believes there is a city around him, this belief cannot be based solely upon what is available to him in perception, nor can he make judgments about the city on that basis (save, perhaps, judgments which hold good of it in virtue of the condition of its parts)" (p.177).

But Evans attaches a footnote to that remark, and says, "The situation is different when we are aloft in some high building and can survey the city beneath us".

Evans thereby furnishes a reason for living or working up high: the ability to entertain demonstrative thoughts about the city you live in. There are thoughts that those in skyscrapers can have that those living close to the surface of the earth cannot.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Conceptual Art and Philosophy

In the late 1960s, conceptual artists produced some artworks inspired by analytic philosophy---typically pieces of text in various media:

Art & Language, Abstract Art No. 7, which is a blown-up review of Quine's Elementary Logic (scroll to the right to view); Bruce Nauman, A Rose Has No Teeth, a statement taken from Part II, § xi of Wittgenstein's Investigations, cast in bronze and nailed to a tree; Joseph Kosuth, Art as Idea as Idea: A blown-up, lithographed definition of the word "meaning".

There is a similar, though more inspired, use of text from John Dewey and Jane Addams currently installed all over the University of Chicago. The work is Instance the Determination by Helen Mirra. Here is some text in the stairway outside the philosophy department, and here is a map showing the locations of all the other pieces of metaphysical graffiti (Jay, via the Dead Milkmen, gets the credit for the pun).

Monday, February 11, 2008

Philosophical Imitations

Stanley Cavell, in "Austin at Criticism", writes:

" would be something of an irony if it turned out that Wittgenstein's manner were easier to imitate than Austin's; in its way, something of a triumph for the implacable professor" (114).

There are two well-known humorous imitations of Wittgenstein's manner, that might be taken to confirm Cavell's irony: Michael Frayn's "Fog-Like Sensations" and Jerry Fodor's Further Meteorological Addenda to PI. And, of course, there is Derek Jarman's Wittgenstein movie.

But Austin's manner has not completely avoided humorous imitation. There is a Beyond the Fringe sketch performed by Alan Bennett and Jonathan Miller in the 1960s that parodies the style of ordinary language philosophy:

(Bennett and Miller engaging in Ordinary Language Philosophy)

A short excerpt:

Bennett: Other people have jobs to do, don't they? Um, what do people do these days... um, well, they...

Miller: Grow lawns, I believe.

Bennett: They do. They drive buses, or they sell ice cream. Or they play games.

Miller: Ah. More important.

Bennett: That's more important. Yes. We also games, you see. But we, as philosophers, we play language games. We play games with language. Language games...When you and I go onto the cricket pitch, we do so secure in the knowledge that a game of cricket's in the offing, isn't it? It's not in progress, it's in the offing. But when we play language games, we do so rather to find out what game it is we're playing!

Miller: Ah, yes.

Philosophy of Mind Workshop Hiatus

This year, I'm only occasionally in Chicago and I haven't been attending the mind workshop. Since posts have slowed down, I am going to start using this spot to start posting links of philosophical interest so the mind workshop blog does not wither away.