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::: center home >> events >> annual lecture series >> lectures 2004-05

45th annual lectures series, 2004-05

What's Necessary and a posteriori and Flies South for the Winter?
Jerry Fodor, Rutgers University, Philosophy
Friday, 8 October 2004, 3:30 p.m.
Frick Fine Arts Auditorium

Abstract:  The claim that there are many necessary a posteriori truths (including, for example, "water is H2O") is widely accepted by philosophers, these days.  The usual argument for such claims assumes a version of the thesis that thought is prior to language; in particular, that the semantic and modal properties of names and natural kind terms are fixed by the "baptismal intentions" with which they are introduced into a language.  This raises questions that have not received the attention they should: What could be the content of such intentions?  What mental state must a baptizer be in, in order to baptize successfully?  A number of proposals are considered and rejected.  The (tentative) conclusion is that no version of the priority-of-thought thesis will sustain a posteriori necessities of the kinds envisioned.  The suggested moral: The priority thesis is OK; but the treatment of necessity and a prioricity as arising from semantical properties of expressions probably isn't.

Concepts and Results in “Real” Mathematics

Dennis Des Chene, Washington University, Philosophy
Friday, 3 December 2004, 3:30 p.m.
Frick Fine Arts Auditorium

Is Natural Selection a Mechanism?
Roberta Millstein, California State University, Hayward, Philosophy
Friday, 21 January 2005, 3:30 p.m.
2500 Posvar Hall

Abstract: Given the recent philosophical attention on mechanism, the question arises as to whether various phenomena that are commonly called “mechanisms” can be accommodated by this new work.  This presentation, based on a forthcoming paper co-authored by Rob Skipper and Roberta Millstein, explores whether natural selection, a putative evolutionary mechanism, can be characterized by either of the two dominant conceptions of mechanism (that of Stuart Glennan and that of Peter Machamer, Lindley Darden, and Carl Craver).  The results of the analysis of the “new mechanistic philosophy” are that neither of the dominant conceptions of mechanism adequately captures natural selection.  Nevertheless, the new mechanistic philosophy contains the resources for an understanding of natural selection under this rubric.

The Difference Betweeen Time and Space

Craig Callender, University of California, San Diego, Philosophy
Friday, 11 February 2005, 3:30 p.m.
2500 Posvar Hall

Abstract: We distinguish time from space in many ways.  Variation in space, say of color, is not considered genuine change, whereas variation in time, say of location, is considered genuine change.  Why is this?  Answering this question in an empiricist manner leads to an investigation of where and why physics distinguishes time from space.  I want to suggest that time is that dimension of space in which we can tell on balance the strongest and simplest “stories.”  In particular, time is “special” because in many theories it is the dimension singled out by an initial value formulation (ivf) of the theory.  The desire for ivf's explains the most important differences between time and space in physics, and it answers the question of why we distinguish time from space.

Philosophy of Mathematics Meets Philosophy of Science
John Burgess, Princeton University, Philosophy
Friday, 18 March 2005, 3:30 p.m.
2500 Posvar Hall

Galileo’s Roman Agenda
William Shea, University of Padua, History of Science
Friday, 1 April 2005, 3:30 p.m.
2500 Posvar Hall

Abstract:  Galileo traveled to Rome six times between 1587, when he was a young mathematician looking for a job, and 1633 when he was condemned by the tribunal of the Holy Office.  Altogether he spent over 500 days in the Eternal City.  The path to Rome was initially smooth and the reasons why it became difficult will be outlined in this paper. 

Revised 9/28/10 - Copyright 2006