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 (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 525.

Speakers/Tentative Schedule (Abstracts Below)

Saturday, May 4th

9:30-10 coffee and light breakfast

10:00-11:35: Gillian Russell, 'Social Spheres'

11:45-1:20: Jason Turner, TBD

1:20-2:40 lunch

2:40-4:15: Sandra Lapointe, 'The True Story of Formality'

4:25-6: Justin Clarke-Doane, TBD

6:30 Dinner (speakers and chairs)

Sunday, May 5th

9:15-9:30 coffee and light breakfast

9:30-11:05 Josh Schechter, 'Small Steps and Great Leaps in Thought: The Epistemology of Basic Deductive Rules'

11:15-12:50 Michaela McSweeney, 'Metaphysical (Logical) Mistakes'


Chairs/Commentators at large

Kelly Gaus (MIT)

Aja Watkins (BU)

Mallory Webber (MIT)

Xinhe Wu (MIT)



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.

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.

McSweeney: 'Metaphysical (Logical) Mistakes': I identify some mistakes that I think metaphysicians have made in the way they use and think about logic. I diagnose these mistakes as being symptomatic of a broader tension in contemporary metaphysics: on the one hand we use conceptual and linguistic judgments about the concepts and languages we already have to make metaphysical arguments, and on the other the non-idealist realists among us (should) think that the right way to think about metaphysics is as not bound by accidents about us (such as what concepts and languages we have and use).