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.