Logic & Metaphysics Workshop Fall 2015

Logic & Metaphysics Workshop Fall 2015

The Logic and Metaphysics Workshop for the Fall Semester will start at the end of August. The New York Logic and Philosophy Group will no longer exist as a separate entity, but will be absorbed into the Workshop.

The Workshop will meet this semester on Mondays, 4.15-6-15, usually at the GC, though sometimes meetings may be at other places. The meetings are open to all interested. Please feel free to pass this announcement on.

The Logic & Metaphysics workshop is organized by Graham Priest.

Fall 2015 Talks

August 27 Pelletier, Alberta (abstract below)

August 31 Omori, Kyoto

*September 7 Labor Day

September 14 GC Closed

September 21 Casati, St Andrews (abstract below)

September 28 Goodman, NYU (abstract below)

October 5 Beall, Connecticut (rain check)

*October 12 Columbus Day

October 19 Baxter, Connecticut (abstract below)

October 26 Johnson, GC (abstract below)

November 2 Shapiro, Ohio State (abstract below)

November 9 Dasgupta, Princeton (abstract below)

November 30 Ritchie, CCNY (abstract below)

December 7 McSweeney, Princeton (abstract below)


Michaela McSweeney, Princeton

Monday 7 December, 4.15-6.15

Room C196.06, Graduate Center, CUNY. [In the basement of the Library]

Theoretical Equivalence and Ontological Realism

Abstract: This paper has two distinct, but intimately related, goals. First, I propose a test for the metaphysical inequivalence of two theories. I show that this test occupies an important middle ground among other criteria of equivalence and inequivalence that have been proposed, which, I argue, are either too weak, too strong, or are subject to a serious epistemic problem. Second, I argue that, given certain common assumptions, the test rules out the claim that universalism and nihilism about composition could be equivalent, and that it does so without appeal to any potentially “metaphysically spooky” notions like Lewisian naturalness, fundamentality, or grounding. Hence, it gives us a way to respond to Hirsch’s arguments for quantifier variance that is much more metaphysically neutral than Sider’s response is. I end by briefly discussing how the quantifier variantist who is also a metaphysical realist might respond, and what this suggests about how we should think about the relationship between our metaphysical and our logical commitments.


Kate Ritchie, CCNY

Monday 30 November, 4.15-6.15 

Room C196.06, Graduate Center, CUNY. [In the basement of the Library]

Social Groups and Social Creationism

Abstract: Social groups seem to be things that are created by us. Here I consider whether Social Creationism—the view that social practices, interactions, intentions and beliefs can create objects—holds for any social groups. I examine two categories of social groups—Feature Groups (e.g., racial and gender groups) and Organized Group (e.g., teams and committees). I argue that these categories of social groups have distinct natures and creation conditions. Feature Groups, I argue, are social kinds. Whether they are created depends on one’s view of kinds. Even if they are created, however, it is in a “cheap” and easy way that follows from ascribing properties to already existent individuals. I argue that Organized Groups are structured wholes that are socially created in a robust sense. So, we should be Social Creationists.


Shamik Dasgupta, Princeton

Monday 9 November, 4.15-6.15

Room C196.06, Graduate Center, CUNY. [In the basement of the Library]

How to be a Relationalist

Philosophers and physicists have entertained “relationalist” views about a number of domains. Examples include the view that motion is fundamentally relative (not absolute), that quantities like mass are fundamentally relational (not intrinsic), and others besides. These relationalist views all entail a restricted possibility space: that there is no distinction between worlds agreeing on relative motions, that there is no distinction between worlds agreeing on all mass relations, and so on. This restricted possibility space is often considered a virtue, but some have argued that it is a vice. In particular, it has been argued that an adequate physical theory of observed phenomena requires drawing distinctions between possibilities that the relationalist cannot recognize (Newton’s bucket argument is just one example of this kind of argument). In response, I suggest that the relationalist distinguish between different senses of possibility. Relationalist views do indeed imply a restricted possibility space, but not in the same sense of “possibility” in which the relationalist should couch her physical theorizing. If that is right, then relationalist views can offer adequate physical theories after all. The challenge is to clearly articulate these different senses of “possibility”, and I will make a start at doing so.


Stewart Shapiro, Ohio State

Monday 2 November, 4.15-6.15

Room C196.06, Graduate Center, CUNY. [To access the room, go into the GC library. Go downstairs to the basement. Turn left at the bottom of the stairs. The room is at the far end.]

Epistemic modals in mathematics:  The Goldbach conjecture might be true and it might be false

There is a lot of controversy over the semantics of epistemic modals.  But all (or almost all) accounts have the truth conditions for epistemic modals turn on whether the prejacent is entailed by or ruled out by a body of information.  This gives the wrong truth conditions when the prejacent is from mathematics.


Marilynn Johnson, GC

Monday 26 October, 4.15-6.15

Room C196.06, Graduate Center, CUNY. [To access the room, go into the GC library. Go downstairs to the basement. Turn left at the bottom of the stairs. The room is at the far end.]

Metaphysics of Meaning

Interpretation is a process of recovering meaning through some thing. But where does this meaning come from and on what grounds are we to say some interpretation is justified? I will argue that a principled project of interpretation begins with individuating aspects of objects of interpretation according to the intentions with which they were created. There are five types of intentions that constitute these categories: 1) non-intentional, 2) byproduct-intentional, 3) use-intentional, 4) signaling-intentional, and 5) meaning-intentional. Each metaphysical category corresponds to an interpretive strategy: 1) physico-chemical, 2) remnant, 3) anthropological, 4) code, and 5) Gricean.  I will detail the distinctions between each of these metaphysical categories and interpretive strategies and show why all five are needed for a complete theory of meaning. I will also defend the general idea that interpretation ought to be grounded in recognition of intentions from a number of objections. To conclude, I will demonstrate how these categories can shed light on interpretive challenges in concrete cases from archaeology and art.


Donald Baxter, UConn

Monday 19 October, 4.15-6.15

Room C196.06, Graduate Center, CUNY. [To access the room, go into the GC library. Go downstairs to the basement. Turn left at the bottom of the stairs. The room is at the far end.]

Self-Differing, Aspects, and Leibniz’s Law

Abstract: Ockham rejects Scotus’s formal distinction with these words, “But among creatures the same thing cannot be truly affirmed and truly denied of the same thing.” I contend rather that there are cases in which numerically identical things qualitatively differ. I will say that an individual has “aspects” numerically identical with it and each other that nonetheless qualitatively differ from it and each other. To argue that there are aspects I appeal to the internal conflicts of conscious beings. In feeling conflicts within ourselves we feel some of our aspects. I try to enhance an understanding of the concept of aspect by listing and formalizing some principles for its use. After that I argue that all sorts of individual things have aspects, not just people who are torn.


Jeremy Goodman, NYU

Monday 28 September, 4.15-6.15

Room C196.06, Graduate Center, CUNY. [To access the room, go into the GC library. Go downstairs to the basement. Turn left at the bottom of the stairs. The room is at the far end.]

The Case for Necessitism

Necessitism is the view that it is not contingent what things there are: in symbols, ◻∀x◻∃y(y=x)​. I will begin by surveying existing arguments for necessitism and arguing that none of them are decisive. I will then give two new arguments for necessitism. This first argument appeals to considerations of expressive power: we have to accept necessitism in order to make sense of certain claims involving apparent quantification over ‘mere possibilia’. Unlike previous expressive power challenges, this one cannot be met by claiming that it is necessary what properties there are (or by making an analogous claim in the language of higher-order modal logic). The second argument shows how to derive necessitism from independently motivated non-modal principles about predication and quantification: namely, (i) that lambda abstraction is necessarily truth preserving, and (ii) that quantifiers are adjoints of vacuous lambda abstraction.


Filippo Casati, University of St Andrews

Monday 21 September, 4.15-6.15

Room 8203, Graduate Center, CUNY

Whereof one cannot speak, thereof one must check the logic

Whereof one cannot speak, thereof one must be silent. As Wittgenstein suggests, if there is something that cannot be said, then we should just be silent about it. But, even assuming that Wittgenstein is right, a question remains open: what makes something ineffable? In my talk, I support the idea that, in metaphysics, what can be said and what can not be said is a function of the logic employed. In other words, the expressibility of our metaphysical theories always depends on the logic we work with.

In order to show this, I will present and compare four different philosophers who deal with the problem of ineffability in four different ways. Even though they all start from the same issue (namely, the ineffability of the concept of Totality in metaphysics), they all arrive at different conclusions, because they work with different (accounts of ) logic.

I will start presenting the so-called neo-realist position of Markus Gabriel. Then, I will compare his position with the positions of Adrian Moore and Graham Priest. Finally I will discuss the metaphysical approach presented by Takashi Yagisawa.

Jeff Pelletier, University of Alberta

Thursday 27 August, 4.15-6.15 [Note that this meeting time is a one-off meeting. The regular meetings of the Workshop will start the week after.]

Room 7395, Graduate Center, CUNY.

On Countability


The notion of countability arises in various areas of semantics, but this talk focuses on its appearance in the mass/count arena. The general thought in this area is that count terms are those which allow for counting (thus their name) while mass terms are not suited for counting but rather for measuring. In turn, this general characterization has led semanticists to propose various semantic structures (e.g., semi-lattices, mereologies) to accommodate the mass terms.

But the mass/count linguistic distinction is not a very stable one, and differs from language to language; and it furthermore seems not to be a very robust metaphysical distinction, since it seems that the same area of “reality” can be equivalently described by a mass term and a count term. Finally, it also seems that (many? most? all?) nouns can appear in both mass and count syntactic constructions. This latter point has led to attempts to “measure” just how “count-y” various nouns are, with the result being the notion of a noun’s “countability”.

I will attempt to explain (expose?) how this notion is so theory-laden that it can’t actually be given a clear basis. And as a small coda, I will talk about a corpus-based study of the mass/count distinction that I have been involved with recently.