Archive for January, 2008

Determining translation

January 27, 2008

It is customary, in introductory logic courses, to treat logic as some sort of language in which we can express, more clearly, statements of ordinary language. Accordingly, students will be asked to translate ordinary language into logic and vice versa, which only becomes interesting in the context of quantifier ambiguities. Philosophers, always in need for yet more examples to give as exercises to inquisitive students, need look no further than the movie “Zero Effect”. Mid-way through the movie you will come across a particularly puzzling passage (to use no earlier than the mid-term, but preferably in the final):

“When you go looking for something specific, your chances of finding it are very bad. Of all things in the world, you’re only looking for one of them. When you go looking for anything at all, your chances of finding it are very good. Because of all the things in the world, you’re sure to find some of them.”

Sample solutions welcome! Extra points: translate the statements in such a way, as to make the argument valid. Avoid free variables.

Wonders of the World

January 12, 2008

After not even five years since the American invasion, already there is snow in Baghdad. Peace, democracy and happiness will certainly follow. It really all just is a matter of time.

To be investigated:

January 5, 2008

Philosophy prides itself to be concerned with arguments: finding valid (and preferably sound) arguments, and exposing and rejecting fallacious ones. Ideally a philosopher will form opinions on the basis of good arguments only.

Few are naive enough, of course, to believe that the most successful persuasion happens by rational arguments alone. But maybe we can expect philosophers to be more aware of fallacies and less prone to buying into mere rhetoric? Political debate and advertising could make for two interesting test cases here. Takers?

A modernist revival?

January 2, 2008

It is this time of the year. Of the many changes of minds reported, this article is among the most uplifting. For it reports not a mere change of opinion about a specific hypothesis or personal attitude. No, it gives hope that the days of thoroughgoing cultural relativism are coming to an end. That postmodernist thinking is loosening its grip on the Western intellectual. But most importantly, it does so from a very non-scientistic perspective. It does so from a perspective that acknowledges and values the lessons relativism can teach us. Which makes it much more powerful as a response than many of the relativism-is-false-because-science-is-the-truth accounts presented by so many others.