Hesperus is Bosphorus

A group blog by philosophers in and from Turkey

Archive for the ‘philosophy of language’ Category

İlhan İnan at Bilkent

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“Is the Speed of Light Knowable A priori?”

İlhan İnan (Boğaziçi University)

i%cc%87lhan-i%cc%87nan-poster-01Abstract:  Given the current “definition” of the concept of meter a simple argument appears to show that some scientists could come to know the answer to the question “how many meters does light travel in a vacuum in one second?” without having to do any observations or calculations. It would then seem that their knowledge of the speed of light would have some unusual epistemic properties such as being certain, infallible and indubitable, and perhaps also analytic. What is more shocking is that we may also be able to conclude that these scientists know the speed of light a priori. This appears to be a new version of the puzzle about how long the “standard meter bar” is, which Wittgenstein discusses in his Philosophical Investigations, later taken up by Saul Kripke in Naming and Necessity yielding the puzzling conclusion that certain contingent truths are knowable a priori. In this talk I discuss how the new version of the puzzle differs from the old one, why Nathan Salmon’s and Keith Donnellan’s “solutions” to the old puzzle are really not solutions, how the current literature on mental files can be employed to approach the puzzle. I then argue the notion of apriority employed in the argument requires further elaboration so that we may conclude, following Nenad Miscevic, that “interesting a priori knowledge cannot be gotten for cheap.”

Date: Wednesday 7 December, 2016

Time: 1100-1230

Place: G160

Written by Sandrine Berges

December 1, 2016 at 12:51 pm

Metaphysics & Language Symposium at METU (Nov. 19, 2015)

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METU Metaphysics & Language symposium

Schedule below the fold: Read the rest of this entry »

Written by István Aranyosi

November 9, 2015 at 9:34 am

Professor Kenneth Westphal has joined the Bogazici University Philosophy Department.

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Professor Kenneth Westphal, the internationally renowned Kant and Hegel Scholar, has joined the Bogazici philosophy department as a full-time member.

Ken Wesphal is the author or editor of 8 books, including, as author:

(1)  Kant’s Transcendental Proof of Realism (Oxford University Press)

(2) Hegel’s Epistemology: A Philosophical Introduction to the Phenomenology of Spirit (Hackett)

(3) Hegel’s Epistemological Realism: A Study of the Aim and Method of Hegel’s Phenomenology of Spirit (Springer)

(4) Hegel, Hume und die Identitat wahrnehmbarer Dinge (Klostermann)

And as editor:

(1) The Blackwell Guide to Hegel’s Phenomenology of Spirit (Blackwell)

(2) Realism, Science, and Pragmatism (Routledge)

He has also published more than a 100 papers and articles.  Ken will be a valuable addition to the philosophy community in Turkey, and we welcome him to the department and to Turkey.

Conference at Boğaziçi: Curiosity – Epistemics, Semantics, Ethics (7-8/03/2014)

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There will be a conference at Boğaziçi University on Friday and Saturday, March 7th and 8th on the Philosophy of Curiosity: Epistemics, Semantics, Ethics.

Written by Lucas Thorpe

February 28, 2014 at 1:28 pm

Talk at Koc – Peter Hagoort (Radboud): “On Speaking Terms with the Social Brain” 23.12.2013

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Peter Hagoort (Radboud) will give a talk at Koc University on Monday December 23rd from 5-7pm. on:

“On Speaking Terms with the Social Brain”

Details can be found here.

ABSTRACT: Despite a large amount of genetic overlap between humans and other primates, the expansion of the human brain is both substantial and remarkable. Two interrelated evolutionary developments might have provided the selectional pressures that resulted in our enlarged brains. One is the increased complexity of the social organization in human tribes. The other is the emergence of an intricate and open-ended communication system: language. I will discuss recent evidence from brain imaging that provides insights into the psychological and neurobiological infrastructure for our social behaviour and for human communication. I will show that social conformity in humans is regulated by dopamine in the reward system. I will also show that inferences about the intentions behind the exchange of linguistic utterances depend on the Theory of Mind network in the brain. Moreover, the brain measures indicate substantial individual differences, explaining why not all humans are equally equipped with social and communicative skills.

Written by Lucas Thorpe

December 16, 2013 at 2:25 pm

Philosophy Talk at Bogaizci: Indrek Reiland (USC) on “Rules of Use” [10/06/2013]

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Indrek Reiland (USC) will give a talk at Bogazici on Monday 10/06/2013, from 5-7pm in TB130. Everyone welcome.
“Rules of Use”

ABSTRACT: Throughout the 20th century it was a common idea in philosophy of language that for an expression to be meaningful is for it to be governed by a rule of use. For example, it was mentioned by Peter Strawson, David Kaplan, John Perry, and Scott Soames. However, nobody went past very general remarks in discussing it. Even worse, it came to be widely seen as inconsistent with “truth-conditional semantics” and subject to the so-called Frege-Geach problem. This led other philosophers to view the idea as vague and mystical, too radical and obviously problematic, and think of it as ultimately not really worth our time because of there being clear and tractable formal substitutes like characters. For example, here’s Jason Stanley’s summary assessment of it in his survey article “Philosophy of Language in the Twentieth Century” (my emphasis):

“Whereas the notion of a rule of use is vague and mystical, Kaplan’s notion of the character of an expression is not only clear, but set theoretically explicable in terms of fundamental semantic notions. (Stanley 2008)”

My aim in this paper is to take this idea and first make it precise and demystify it. I then want to show that it’s consistent with “truth-conditional semantics” and thus not radical and that it’s not subject to the Frege-Geach problem and thus not obviously problematic. Finally, I will argue that it is very much worth our time because it can explainwhy doing descriptive semantics in terms of characters works in the first place, and because it enables us to provide a semantics for expressions which we can’t give one in terms of characters.

Written by Lucas Thorpe

June 9, 2013 at 6:53 pm

Talk at Bogazici: Juhani Yli-Vakkuri (Oxford and CSMN/University of Oslo) on “Propositions and Compositionality” (22/02/2012)

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Juhani Yli-Vakkuri (Oxford and CSMN/University of Oslo)

“Propositions and Compositionality”

Friday, 22/02/2012, TB130 5-7pm

ABSTRACT: In his classic paper 1980 paper, “Index, Context, and Content”, David Lewis argued that the existence of “shifty phenomena” like tense rules out semantic theories for natural languages which are both compositional and treat propositions (relative to contexts) as the semantic values of sentences. Since Jeff King’s 2003 paper “Tense, Modality, and Semantic Values“, Lewis’s argument  has been widely thought to admit of a fairly easy reply: it has been thought that Lewis’s mistake was to treat shifty constructions as sentence operators rather than quantifiers, and that once this mistake is corrected, we can have both proposionality (i.e., propositions as the semantic values of sentences) and compositionality. I argue that the shifty constructions discussed by Lewis preclude the combination of composionality and propositionality independently of whether they are treated as sentence operators or quantifiers. In fact, Lewis’s critics, who argue for the treatment of certain kinds of shiftiness as quantification, are really playing into the hands of his arguments. The inconsistency between propositionality and compositionality arises even more clearly on a quantificational treatment, from consideration of the relation between free and bound variables. The phenomenon of variable-binding itself is sufficient to rule out the combination of compositionality and propositionality.

Information about upcoming events at Bogazici can be found here.

Written by Lucas Thorpe

January 30, 2013 at 2:17 pm

God, Mind, and Logical Space (forthcoming at Palgrave Macmillan)

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My second book manuscript, titled God, Mind, and Logical Space, is now accepted for publication and enters  the production stage. It will come out this year with Palgrave Macmillan, as part of the new series, Palgrave Frontiers in Philosophy of Religion. As with my other book (The Peripheral Mind, Oxford University Press forthcoming), the cover will feature work by Alex Robciuc.

Instead of a summary, I thought I offer a little teaser in guise of some quotes on a few of the many topics I discuss. Here they are:

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Talk at Bogazici: Gordon Bearn (Lehigh) on “Feeling Words: An Attitude to Linguistic Life.” 23/10/2012

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Gordon Bearn (Lehigh) will be giving a talk at Bogazici on Tuesday 23/10/2012. The talk will take place from 5-7pm in TB130.

Feeling Words: An Attitude to Linguistic Life.”

ABSTRACT:  Increasingly Wittgenstein is being favored with praise for his attention to the experiential dimension of linguistic life.  Following Rhees, I think Wittgenstein’s attention to experience, much of it appearing in pages devoted to seeing aspects, was drawn from him by his concern with whether something important would be missing if you did not experience the meaning of a word.  Wittgenstein’s answer was:  No, nothing important would be missing from our understanding of language if we were unable to experience the meaning of a word.  In this paper, I show that Wittgenstein’s repression of experience was a constant theme of the Investigations, and I suggest that it was a mistake.  Wittgenstein’s formalism, however rich, and it is rich, prevented him from following his thoughts in the direction they were leading.  He held himself back, but we should not be so careful.  We should risk feeling in the dark for a way to sensual semantics.

Written by Lucas Thorpe

October 20, 2012 at 6:21 pm

Is “to immediately perceive” a split infinitive?

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Stylists and editors really don’t like split infinitives such as “to boldly go”. I’ve been revising a paper on Reid’s account of colour perception and I sometimes use the expression “to immediately perceive”. So, for example, I will talk about “the capacity to immediately perceive” certain qualities.  The editors have suggested that I don’t use “to immediately perceive” as it is a split infinitive.

I’m not sure, however, that “to immediately perceive” is a split infinitive. Here’s my thinking: We talk about immediate perception and indirect perception. I’m not sure that there is such a thing as indirect perception, but in order to deny the fact that there is such a thing as indirect perception, we have to allow the expression “indirect perception” into our language. So I have no problem with the expression. Anyway my worry is that if we think that “to immediately perceive” is a split infinitive, then we should say “to perceive immediately” and “to perceive indirectly”. This would suggest, however, that “perceiving p immediately” and “perceiving p indirectly” are two ways of doing the same thing. And this doesn’t seem right to me. I think these are two quite distinct types of attitudes towards p. So my thought is that there are really two quite distinct verbs here: “to immediately perceive” and “to indirectly perceive”. “Immediately” here is not really functioning as an adverb. We can distinguish between how and what questions. And I think the “immediately” in “to immediately perceive” is part of the answer to a what question, rather than the full answer to a how question? Q: What is he doing? A: He is immediately perceiving a particular quality. As opposed to: Q: How is she perceiving the quality? A: immediately.

So I’d to keep the expression “to immediately perceive”. Any thoughts here? Have I been living abroad for too long and lost my intuitions about what counts as correct English?

Written by Lucas Thorpe

October 15, 2012 at 12:31 pm

Talk at Koc: Michael Tomasello (Leipzig) on ‘Communication Before Language’ 30/10/2012

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Michael Tomasello (Leipzig) will give a talk on ‘Communication Before Language’ at Koc University, Tuesday October 30th 2012, at 4pm in the Sevgi Gönül Auditorium. Details can be found here.

Michael Tomasello is co-director of the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, Germany, and the Wolfgang Köhler Primate Research Center, and the director of the Department of Developmental and Comparative Psychology.  He is a leading researcher of socio-cognitive, communicative, and moral development in young children and great apes. His books include Why We Cooperate (MIT Press, 2009); Origins of Human Communication (MIT Press, 2008); Constructing a Language: A Usage-Based Theory of Language Acquisition (Harvard University Press, 2003). His awards and distinctions include Klaus Jacobs Research Prize in 2011, the Wiley Prize in Psychology in 2011,  the Hegel Prize in 2009, and a Guggenheim Fellowship in 1997.

Written by Lucas Thorpe

October 14, 2012 at 8:17 pm

Logic of plurals reading group at Bogazici.

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Thomas McKay (Syracuse) is going to be visiting Bogazici for a week in early October, and we’re organizing a workshop and a couple of talks around his visit.

In preparation for his visit some of us at Bogazici are organizing a reading group to work through his book Plural Predication. Our first meting will be this Monday (17/09/2012) at 2pm in the Bogazici philosophy department, TB365. At the first meeting we’ll plan a schedule and work through chapters 1 and 2, which are not particularly technical.

If anyone would like to join us (even if you cannot make the first session) feel free to  email me (lthorpe@gmail.com) and I can send a copy of the readings.

Written by Lucas Thorpe

September 15, 2012 at 6:49 pm

Michael T. Ullman (Georgetown) “A Multidisciplinary Investigation of the Neurocognition of First and Second Language”, At Bogazici 17/09/2012

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Michael T. Ullman (Departments of Neuroscience, Linguistics, Psychology and Neurology, Georgetown University) on  “A Multidisciplinary Investigation of the Neurocognition of First and Second Language”

Monday, September 17, 2012, 10:30

Rectorate Conference Hall, Bogazici University. Organised by the Department of Foreign Language Education.

Abstract Increasing evidence suggests that language crucially depends on two long-term memorysystems in the brain, declarative memory and procedural memory. Because the behavioral, anatomical, physiological, molecular and genetic correlates of these two systems are quite well-studied in animals and humans, they lead to specific predictions about language that would not likely be made in the more circumscribed study of language alone. This approachis thus very powerful in being able to generate a wide range of new predictions for language. Iwill first give some background on the two memory systems, and then discuss the manner inwhich language is predicted to depend on them. One of the key concepts is that to some extent the two systems can subserve the same functions (e.g., for navigation, grammar, etc.), and thus they play at least partly redundant roles for these functions. This has a variety of important consequences for normal and disordered language and other cognitive domains. I will then present evidence that basic aspects of language do indeed depend on the two memory systems, though in different ways across different unimpaired and impaired populations. I will discuss normal first and second language, individual and group differences (e.g., sex differences), and our work on disorders, focusing on developmental disorders (e.g., Specific Language Impairment, dyslexia, autism, and Tourette syndrome).

Dr. Ullman is Professor in the Department of Neuroscience, with secondary appointments in the Departments of Linguistics, Psychology and Neurology. He is co-director of the Center for the Brain Basis of Cognition (CBBC), Director of the Brain and Language Lab, and Director of the Georgetown EEG/ERP Laboratory.

Written by Lucas Thorpe

September 12, 2012 at 3:05 pm

The Liar and the Liar Denier – Or “Will the real Liar please stand up and then sit down where she’s told to?”

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Here are some thoughts (by a non-logician) on our recent workshop on semantic paradoxes.

Some Turkish philosophers have strange dreams. Erdinc’s are so weird and wonderful that he cannot even tell us about them. And after our two day workshop on paradoxes with Graham Priest and Stephen Read, Ilhan told us about a strange dream in which he met ‘The True’ who appeared as to him as a small talking metallic sphere. And I think it makes some sense to think of sentences as such spheres. So let’s suppose that sentences are small shiny metallic spheres that (a) can be named and (b) tell us what they mean. And let’s think of three such spheres. One of them is called “The Liar” and the second is called “The Liar-Denier” The third is called “The Liar-Affirmer”. The Liar and The Liar-Denier are twin sisters. The Liar-Affirmer is their younger sister. [Perhaps they’re all daughters of ‘The True’ who Ilhan met in his dream.] Anyway, this is what we know about each sphere:

(1) The Liar says: “What the Liar says is False”.

(2) The Liar-Denier says: “What the Liar says is False”.

(3) The Liar-Affirmer says: “What the Liar says is True”

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Written by Lucas Thorpe

April 15, 2012 at 2:27 pm

Epistemic Realism and the goal of Epistemology

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I’m teaching a class this Semester on ‘The British Realist Tradition from Reid to Williamson’, and I tell my students that I’m an ‘Epistemic Realist’ and this post is an attempt to work out what I mean by this. Anyway here’s a first, inadequate, stab at explaining what I mean by epistemic realism: “There is such a thing as knowing, and one central goal of epistemology is to understand more clearly what sort of thing it is”.  I think that knowledge is something like a mental natural kind (or perhaps a set of distinct natural kinds) and the task of epistemology is not primarily to get a better understanding of our concept of “knowledge”, but to discover truths about knowledge and to provide a better conceptualization of this aspect of the mental. A central question for an epistemic realist has to do with the relationship between our epistemic language and epistemic facts – and on this I’m sympathetic to Thomas Reid.

Following Reid: (1) I’m a believer in the defeasible authority of common sense. (2) I think that it is not immediately clear what belongs to common sense and what does not. And (3) I take the fact that a certain distinction is found in all natural languages to be a defeasible indication that the distinction is part of common sense. Thus I think that if a distinction is to be found in all languages, this is a good indication that it reflects a real distinction in the world. (I discussed this briefly in a previous post here)

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Written by Lucas Thorpe

March 11, 2012 at 8:51 pm

Wenglish: A Language with No Sentences

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It has been more than a year since I have been working on the idea that truth is in fact a form of reference. I started writing a text last year around this time, intending it to be a journal article, but then it got so long that I am now thinking of turning it into a book. The idea first came up when I was working on one of the chapters of my book on curiosity which just recently came out. I hold that being curious requires one to attempt to refer to something unknown to him/her. This allowed me to deal with the wh-questions easily but I had a serious problem with direct questions, or better yes/no questions. Initially I used Frege’s theory to tackle with it but it was too artificial. I liked the Fregean idea that sentences are in fact referring expressions, but I could not convince myself that true sentences refer to the True (whatever that may be)– and even worse is that false sentences refer to the False. So I started searching for an alternative theory which is what led to this work. I then revised and made substantial additions to my curiosity book, but it was at best scratching the surface. In the past year or so I gave four separate talks on it, originally with the title *TRUTH IS REFERENCE*, in Virginia, Milan, St Andrews, and Bogazici.  The part of the talk that attracted the most amount of attention is where I develop a hypothetical language that I call *Wenglish*. This is a language which is just like English except that it does not have declarative sentences. Well that’s what I say, and though most of my listeners seemed to agree with me someone in the audience in one of my talks objected to it (I think it was in Virginia and it might have been Trenton Merrics, but I have to check this).  Wenglish also does not have a separate truth predicate, but of course it has the notion of *reference*. *Reference* is not a predicate though, because Wenglish does not have any predicates either. Rather it has descriptional functions that do same job.  Anyway I argue that whatever that we can say in English we can say in Wenglish. If this is correct it shows all three things that I wish to show: truth is a form of reference; to say that a sentence is true is to say that it refers; and to say that a sentence is false is to say that it fails to refer. Anyway here is a short passage in Wenglish for you to figure out how it works:

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Written by ilhan inan

March 6, 2012 at 8:57 am

Knowledge is not a Propositional Attitude (at least, not in Turkish)

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I’m writing a paper at the moment arguing that knowledge does not entail belief.  Part of my argument is that knowing is not a propositional attitude, whereas believing is. I think there is a clear ontological distinction between facts and propositions and that what can be known are facts (and perhaps also states of affairs, and  Objects) whereas the objects of belief are propositions. The essential difference between facts and propositions is that facts are not truth apt, whereas propositions are. Amongst philosophers today the claim that knowing is not a propositional attitude is extremely idiosyncratic, however  historically something similar to the position I defend was probably the view of the majority of philosophers. In a later post I’ll give some evidence to back up this historical claim. In this post I want to point out that what I believe to be one of the strongest motivations for the claim that knowing is a propositional attitude is based on a contingent feature of English (and other Indo-European languages).

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Written by Lucas Thorpe

February 18, 2012 at 4:56 pm