logic workshop

BU Logic Workshop

On May 4th and 5th I'll be hosting a workshop on the philosophy of logic at BU. The purpose of the workshop is to get together some philosophers who care about (very loosely speaking) the metaphysics and epistemology of logic but are approaching it from quite different subfields/background assumptions, and hope something fruitful follows. The workshop is open to all but please email me (michaelamcs AT gmail DOT com) to RSVP.

Funding: Thanks to the Boston University Humanities Center and the Boston University Philosophy Department for generously funding the workshop.

The Workshop will take place in the BU School of Theology building, 745 Commonwealth Ave, Boston, MA 02215, Room B19.


Speakers/Tentative Schedule (Abstracts Below)

Saturday, May 4th

9:30-10 coffee and light breakfast

10:00-11:35: Gillian Russell, 'Social Spheres' (Chair: Jenn McDonald)

11:45-1:20: Jason Turner, 'Functional Logical Pluralism' (Chair: Kelly Gaus)

1:20-2:40 lunch

2:40-4:15: Michaela McSweeney, 'Anti-Exceptionalism and Metaphysics' (Chair: TBD)

4:25-6: Justin Clarke-Doane, 'Metalogical Realism, Objectivity, and Evaluation' (Chair: Aja Watkins)

6:30 Dinner (speakers and chairs)

Sunday, May 5th

9:15-9:30 coffee and light breakfast

9:30-11:05 Sandra Lapointe, 'The True Story of Formality' (Chair: Mallory Webber)

11:15-12:50 Josh Schechter, 'Small Steps and Great Leaps in Thought: The Epistemology of Basic Deductive Rules' (Chair: Xinhe Wu)


Chairs/Commentators at large

Kelly Gaus (MIT)

Aja Watkins (BU)

Mallory Webber (MIT)

Xinhe Wu (MIT)

Jenn McDonald (CUNY)



Russell: 'Social Spheres': This paper uses logic—in particular a model theory adapted from David Lewis’ systems of spheres for counterfactual logics---to think about the social and political phenomena of subordination and subordinative speech.

McSweeney: 'Anti-Exceptionalism and Metaphysics': Anti-exceptionalists think some combination of the following things: logic isn't special, we don't know about it a priori, inquiry into logic is continuous with inquiry into everything else (and typically: specifically with scientific inquiry), and so on. I think anti-exceptionalism is true, but in this talk I'll explore some problems with how to think about the thesis while doing metaphysics. I'll also argue that these problems generalize.

Clarke-Doane: 'Metalogical Realism, Objectivity, and Evaluation': I will discuss Benacerraf's epistemological challenge for metalogical realism. I will argue that it should be understood as the challenge to show that our metalogical beliefs are safe, realistically construed -- i.e., as the challenge to show that we could not have easily had
systematically false ones.  I will explain how metalogical pluralism -- the view that there are a plurality of metaloigcal concepts, all independently satisfied -- can be understood as a response to Benacerraf's challenge.  And I will show that reasoning, and more generally, normative pluralism is peculiarly unsatisfactory.  One upshot of the discussion is a radicalization of Moore's Open Question Argument.  Another is that the concepts of realism and objectivity, which are widely identified, are actually in tension.

Lapointe: 'The True Story of Formality': The distinction between form and matter has shaped the development of logic in a number of ways. However, few conceptions of the distinction are unequivocal, uncontroversial and/or unproblematic. Examining the ways in which the form/matter distinction has been put to work in logic over the course of the last few centuries and how accounts of the nature and role of the distinction changed is bound to be philosophically fruitful: conceptual underdetermination is often the result of unquestioned assumptions that are themselves historical products, and an examination of the way in which doctrines and theories evolve can throw light on those.The main lesson to draw from this paper will be as follows: there is no such thing as a “hylomorphic tradition” in logic, at least not in any sense that would be of genuine historical interest. While there is a sense in which the application of the form/matter has a rich history in and after the Middle Ages –the application of the form/matter distinction to syllogism does not predate the 13 century - this history is neither linear, nor cumulative nor indeed continuous.

Schechter: 'Small Steps and Great Leaps in Thought: The Epistemology of Basic Deductive Rules': We are justified in employing the rule of inference Modus Ponens (or one much like it) as basic in our reasoning. By contrast, we are not justified in employing a rule of inference that permits inferring to some difficult mathematical theorem from the relevant axioms in a single step. Such an inferential step is intuitively “too large” to count as justified. What accounts for this difference? This paper canvasses several possible explanations. It argues that the most promising approach is to appeal to features like usefulness or indispensability to important or required cognitive projects. On the resulting view, whether an inferential step counts as large or small depends on the importance of the relevant rule of inference in our thought.