March 15, 2012

Ruth Barcan Marcus, RIP

The flip side of my inability not to notice patterns is that I'm impressed by individuals who don't fit the patterns. Here's part of an obituary from the NYT of the lady with four children who was a heavyweight in mid-20th Century logic, going head to head with famous philosophers like Quine and Carnap. (All this stuff is way over my head, by the way.) 
Ruth Barcan Marcus, Philosopher-Logician, Dies at 90 
By MARGALIT FOX 
Ruth Barcan Marcus, a philosopher esteemed for her advances in logic, a traditionally male-dominated subset of a traditionally male-dominated field, died on Feb. 19 at her home in New Haven. She was 90. 
Her death was announced by Yale University, from which she retired in 1992 as the Reuben Post Halleck professor of philosophy. 
Because of its affinities with mathematics and the hard sciences — disciplines historically unwelcoming to women — logic had long been one of philosophy’s most swaggering strains. For a woman of Professor Marcus’s generation to elbow her way into the field, then dominated by titans like Willard Van Orman Quine, Rudolf Carnap and Kurt Gödel, was almost unheard of. 
“The rest of philosophy became less male dominated, less macho, more quickly than logic,” Stephen Neale, distinguished professor of philosophy at the City University of New York Graduate Center, said in a telephone interview. “She was working in a field which was really run by these giants.” 
Professor Marcus was hailed by colleagues for her work in quantified modal logic. The field was born of the marriage of two existing systems, classical quantified logic and modal logic — a marriage she helped bring about.

From an email:
It took a while for the NYT to write this up. There was actually a bit of an organized effort on the part of philosophers to get them to publish this. In contrast, Richard Rorty's (who wasn't half the philosopher Marcus was) obit was written within a weekend. 



80 comments:

Anonymous said...

I saw the campaign. Philosophers continue to be frustrated that no one knows or cares what they do--yet plenty of people (the type of people who write for the NYT) will reference someone like Derrida, who has nothing to do with philosophy in the Anglosphere.


And just so we're all clear, Marcus is *not* famous for being a woman. That kind of thing doesn't fly in analytic philosophy. She was legitimately important to the field.

Steve Sailer said...

Yeah, it's like the great statistician David Blackwell, a black guy who was born about the same time and made his mark in the pre-affirmative action world.

Steve Sailer said...

By the way, my correspondent takes issue with the examples used in the NYT obituary:

The example they quote Neale using is pretty awful:

"Necessarily, all humans are mortal." (wide scope)
"All humans are necessarily mortal." (narrow scope)

This is bad because the sentences don't differ in truth-value (they're both false, unless you restrict the range of worlds you quantify over with "necessarily).

A much better example would be:

"Necessarily, all bachelors are unmarried." (wide scope; true)
"All bachelors are necessarily unmarried." (narrow scope; false)

The first sentence is true because for any possible world w, all the bachelors in w at any given time will be unmarried. The second sentence is false, because for any given bachelor in this world, he isn't unmarried in all possible worlds.

Anonymous said...

Steve,

Could you check back in with your correspondent to elicit more comment on Rorty's allegedly unfavorable comparison to Marcus?

To the best of my knowledge, Rorty is much more highly regarded as a philosopher than Marcus.

Anonymous said...

I probably shouldn't say she's not famous "for" being a woman. That is certainly part of her identity and many people have remarked on its importance (for her, the field, women going into philosophy, etc.)


However, she is not famous *because* she's a woman.



Neale knows what he's talking about, so who knows what happened: http://leiterreports.typepad.com/blog/2012/03/marcus-obituary-in-the-ny-times.html


"In the spirit of Gladwell, who likes to give portentous names to his aperçus, I will call this the Igon Value Problem: when a writer’s education on a topic consists in interviewing an expert, he is apt to offer generalizations that are banal, obtuse or flat wrong."


Who was going to catch Gladwell? The editors of the New Yorker?

tommy said...

Philosophers continue to be frustrated that no one knows or cares what they do--yet plenty of people (the type of people who write for the NYT) will reference someone like Derrida, who has nothing to do with philosophy in the Anglosphere.

May this true thinker rest in peace.

Modal logic may not ever be the Average Joe's cup of tea, but contributions in this area, like contributions to mathematics, have irrevocable importance. Long after the silliness of Derrida is forgotten by the most foolish non-philosophers in humanities departments, the work of this lady will live still.

Steve Sailer said...

Richard Rorty in the Atlantic in 1999:

"These philosophers can agree with the social constructionists that notions like "the homosexual" and "the Negro" and "the female" are best seen not as inevitable classifications of human beings but rather as inventions that have done more harm than good. But they are not sure that "X is a social construction" adds much to "talking about X is not inevitable, and there are probably better ways of talking.""

Hey, wait a minute ... "the female" is an invention that has done more harm than good rather than an inevitable classification of human beings?

tommy said...


To the best of my knowledge, Rorty is much more highly regarded as a philosopher than Marcus.


Rorty is better known to be sure. Whether he is more highly regarded is difficult to say. The work of Marcus is not nearly as controversial as that of Rorty and for good reason. Marcus had to prove things by being a logician. Rorty merely had to philosophize.

Hey, wait a minute ... "the female" is an invention that has done more harm than good rather than an inevitable classification of human beings?

Dare I say it, the philosophy of Rorty has done more harm than good.

From Wikipedia on Rorty:

"In Contingency, irony, and solidarity, Rorty attempts to disarm those who criticize his writings by arguing that their philosophical criticisms are made using axioms that are explicitly rejected within Rorty's own philosophy. For instance, Rorty defines allegations of irrationality as affirmations of vernacular "otherness", and so -- Rorty claims -- accusations of irrationality can be expected during any argument and must simply be brushed aside."

If this isn't the mark of an obscurantist, I don't know what is.

Anonymous said...

Steve, seeing as you're all about the 'nice white ladies,' you might be interested to know Charlize Theron has just adopted an African-American baby. He's named Jackson.

http://www.usmagazine.com/celebrity-moms/news/charlize-theron-adopts-baby-boy-jackson-2012143#ixzz1p8XY2v7Z

TH said...

I know little about philosophy, and I had never heard about Marcus before, which I suspect is true for most readers. In contrast, Rorty was a public intellectual whose ideas were known far beyond the confines of philosophy departments. So it's hardly suprising that the NYT would rather run an obit on Rorty than Marcus.

The idea that logic is or was a macho field sounds strange. Was Kurt Gödel a macho man? Male-dominated is not the same as macho.

Anonymous said...

The idea that logic is or was a macho field sounds strange. Was Kurt Gödel a macho man? Male-dominated is not the same as macho.

Then you've never been in a male-dominated intellectual field.

There is an intellectual machismo.

bjdubbs said...

Interesting priority dispute between Marcus and Saul Kripke, generally believed to be the most important living philosopher. Marcus is a genuine heavyweight, not a token.

http://linguafranca.mirror.theinfo.org/Archive/whose.html

BrokenSymmetry said...

There is no heavy-weight intellectual field that isn't male dominated. I'm a molecular biologist and women are equally represented in the field, nevertheless the heavy-hitters are predominantly male.

Anonymous said...

"The idea that logic is or was a macho field sounds strange. Was Kurt Gödel a macho man? Male-dominated is not the same as macho."

What is strange about it? Whenever men are without the company of women, they start acting like hormonal teens. And since women don't like macho men yet have same talents as men, any field where they are under-represented is unwelcoming to them, and is therefore filled with macho men.

I recall Steve's arguments to the same effect in some thread last year.
otoh gender studies et al are filled with strong independent women that men are irrationally intimidated of, and where they can't be macho.

"And just so we're all clear, Marcus is *not* famous for being a woman."

Well, she will become one. Much like how Curie is more famous than Maxwell. Or maybe the feminists find logic too patriarchal to accept its practitioner in their cannon.

FredR said...

I know Rorty said some silly things, and he wasn't really the same kind of philosopher as Marcus, but I still learned a great deal from reading his books. Even if you just reduce him to a popularizer of more esoteric or abstruse philosophers (heidegger, sellars, quine, etc.) he still had a pretty worthwhile career.

David said...

>Hey, wait a minute ... "the female" is an invention that has done more harm than good rather than an inevitable classification of human beings?<

Rorty's effusion is a weasel way of denying a priori every concept he didn't think of, on the basis that someone thought of it. For Rorty "construct" = it went through someone's brain = necessarily invalid. After all, since truth is in the noumenal world only (Kant), anything we say and think must be bullshit, and Rorty must be a mensch for pointing this out. The constructs that you are pleased to style "true" "false" "female" "male" "1" "2" "3" "4" etc. be damned!

His type is a penny per dozen in philosophy post-1800 and turns the name of philosophy to mud.

Harry Baldwin said...

Because of its affinities with mathematics and the hard sciences — disciplines historically unwelcoming to women — . . .

Constructions like that sweep a lot under the rug. White men were unwelcoming, doncha know, and they're still unwelcoming. Just look around for African Americans with PhD's in molecular biology, if you need proof.

Anonymous said...

The philosopher who has done more than any other to influence my thinking is also a woman: Ruth Millikan.

Anonymous said...

Because of its affinities with mathematics and the hard sciences — disciplines historically unwelcoming to women...

This is BS. It's the other way around - women are historically unwelcoming to these disciplines. As in, completely uninterested, often aggressively so. Any male interested in these fields quickly learns not to mention this fact in front of women.

Joseph A. said...

"Because of its affinities with mathematics and the hard sciences — disciplines historically unwelcoming to women — logic had long been one of philosophy’s most swaggering strains."

Mr. Sailer, don't you get tired of it after awhile?

No Name said...

Alternative Headline:

Unknown Female who rose to top of Male Dominated Profession that no one cares about -now dead at 90.

Anonymous said...

Re: Rorty and Marcus.



Rorty was not even in the philosophy department at Stanford. It's not controversial to say that Marcus was a more esteemed philosopher (in this country).

SFG said...

"The idea that logic is or was a macho field sounds strange. Was Kurt Gödel a macho man? Male-dominated is not the same as macho.

Then you've never been in a male-dominated intellectual field.

There is an intellectual machismo."

Absolutely. I have quite a few friends at MIT. They brag about never sleeping, jockey for status in obscure programming competitions and so on. Just because they don't do it physically doesn't mean they aren't interested in the old male sport of proving you're better than the other guy.

Won't get them laid, but the rest of society benefits. ;)

You can also see macho in nerd competitions like World of Warcraft, where they form teams to blow each other away and get the most kills, etc.

The amusing thing is watching the influx of women into nerd culture and watching them do traditionally feminine things with the tropes of science fiction and fantasy--making costumes, writing fan fiction about the characters' relationships, knitting geek-themed scarves, etc. I once saw a series of paintings of hamsters and cats dressed as the various Doctors from Dr. Who.

It's probably actually good for the geeks, who can finally get laid, but I wonder if the increased rate of Asperger's offsets any technical advances society gets from having more nerds around. Steve, I'd really love to hear your take on this?

SF said...

As far as I can tell, not related to Ruth Marcus, opinion journalist and wife of FTC chairman Jon Leibowitz. Or is this a sort of Jewish dynasty? There is nothing in Ruth B Marcus' wiki about marriage or children.

Durendal said...

Barcan was probably a more powerful and rigorous thinker than Rorty, but no one outside of philosophy departments knows anything about modal logic or who Kripke and Quine are.

Rorty received an early obit because he was more popular and lent Anglo legitimacy to the continent by patronizing the obscurantist chic of French poststructuralism. He was also influential among famous political "pragmatists" (read: progressive liberals) like John Rawls and Ronald Dworkin, so his influence stretched across several disciplines.

gwern said...

> In contrast, Richard Rorty's (who wasn't half the philosopher Marcus was) obit was written within a weekend.

Probably because Rorty was a 'public intellectual' and also a non-technical sort of philosopher - gave lectures (his Tanner lecture has been in my queue for a while) and wrote books on all sorts of topics like politics and did a bit of popularizing. So he was generally known (for a philosopher) and widely understood.

A little like Daniel Dennett, who I expect will also have an obit within days of his death.

candid_observer said...

Suffice it to say, the writeup of Barcan-Marcus was rather overinflated.

What's remarkable about Marcus' contributions is not what she figured out, which frankly was pretty obvious, albeit also rather contrary to the prevailing Positivistic spirit of her times. What was remarkable was rather what she left on the table for Saul Kripke to figure out -- namely a semantical model for various versions of quantified modal logic.

candid_observer said...

Perhaps a useful analogy whereby one might compare Marcus' contributions to modal logic vs. those of Saul Kripke is that between, say, Erasmus Darwin and Charles Darwin.

Erasmus had an idea of evolution (as did others), but it was only Charles who made that idea compelling by the aggregation of argument and depiction of mechanisms in virtue of which it became a genuinely scientific discovery.

Deckin said...

Ah, 'philosophy talk' breaks out in the heart of the Steveosphere. Nice.

Rorty, while well known, could hardly be said to be doing anything close to Analytic Philosophy from, say, 1979 on (post Philosophy and the Mirror of Nature). In face, the story I heard is that when he went from Virginia to Stanford, the philosophy department at Stanford (real philosophers, Perry, Barwise, et al) refused to allow him in their department and he thus took a chair in either Comp Lit or Humanities or some such.

What's even weirder, is that Rorty started out in Ancient Philosophy at Princeton, and while there, became what's known in the field as an 'eliminative materialist'. That is, he viewed the entire psychological vocabulary we use ('beliefs', 'desires', etc.--known as 'folk psychology') as hopelessly false in describing what's going on with people's mental lives. In fact, he's one of the founders of the view (later taken up by Paul and Patricia Churchland) that neuroscience would eventually replace all such retrograde nonsense as thinking anyone 'falls in love' with neurological terminology. 'Love', 'believe', thought Rorty, would be destined for the asheep in which reside 'phlogiston' 'demonic possession', etc.

This view is still largely lampooned in philosophy and neuroscience, but it looks like Rorty went way off into the other deep end with all of his 'solidarity' mumbo jumbo--essentially warmed over John Dewey. And, on the personal side, he was a massive snob. He was exactly what you'd expect a patrician intellectual to be like--completely dismissive of anyone whom he felt wasn't of the proper philosophical pedigree. Solidarity, apparently was only attractive at an arm's length.

candid_observer said...

Another quick comment.

The major reason Marcus' contributions weren't taken very seriously when she first presented them (apart from the fact that they weren't in the spirit of the times) was because she had no semantical model supporting her modal predicate calculus.

Again, this breakthrough was left to the 19 year old Saul Kripke to discover.

And after Kripke's breakthrough, modal logic could no longer be dismissed out of hand.

Anonymous said...

It was quite telling that when Yale originally did the obit for her on their site, they said she was a pioneer in "quantitative modal logic." I.e., the humanities geeks at Yale, smart as they were, didn't have the shadow of a clue about first-order modal logic, a second-semester freshman class.

Two Cultures anyone?

Geoff Matthews said...

And, if I understand Democrats properly, if she wasn't in favor of free contraception, then she wasn't a real woman.

Anonymous said...

Read a certain way, the New York Times is tacitly admitting that women tend to be illogical.

(ba-dum-bum)

Anonymous said...

"Just because they don't do it physically doesn't mean they aren't interested in the old male sport of proving you're better than the other guy."

Doesn't that defeat the whole purpose?
Women engage in status-mongering in their social spheres without violence, something that has been recently changing(take that, patriarchy!), a recent example being that of a 10 year old girl that died after a fist-fight with another girl over a boy.

One could try to make the case that like violence, philosophy and intellectual pursuits are masculine fields by the sheer force of numbers if not temperament, feminist hand-wringing notwithstanding, and thus any exaggerated display should be termed macho.

Or to put it another way, men can only be not macho if they duke it out in female-dominated fields. Or if violence becomes women-dominated.

And it is often remarked how women can't stop their petty squabbles over status, and as whiskey would say, feminism's purpose was to put women's status over beta males so that they don't have to deal with their ickiness.
Thus anything that might show women in a negative light relative to men is frowned upon. If that is not bragging rights, then what is?

Would it be different if they were individually capable of being the best instead of having to resort to averages? Of course it would, if their self-serving propaganda is any indication.

Wikipedia states it as:

"Characteristics include domineering, fierceness, bravado, etc., in ways that are showily and histrionically tough."

True of the butt-kicking grrrl-power babes who bad-mouth and lash out physically at any incorrect male that we regularly get a dose of these days?


"You can also see macho in nerd competitions like World of Warcraft, where they form teams to blow each other away and get the most kills, etc."

Counter Strike Girls League

"The amusing thing is watching the influx of women into nerd culture and watching them do traditionally feminine things"

until it turns female-dominated and they have to fight for status in it?

Reg Cæsar said...

Wikipedia says zilch about her background, but one of her categories is "American Jews".

Cæsar's Theory of Twofer Accomplishment says that if someone breaks a stereotype in one of her categories, she will reinforce it in the others. Mrs Marcus is evidence.

I haven't gotten too far with this theory as it originated in the study of composers, classical and popular. While there are many, many good female composers, the sample size of great ones is too small to glean any patterns from.

Poe's Law said...

Meanwhile, in the L.A. Times (2nd paragraph)

regular reader said...

Rorty's background was "Social Gospel" Protestantism, and his mother was German, I would guess of 48er stock.

I see he was born the same day as my mother, also German, and in the same city. And he died on my birthday. Creepy...

AmericanGoy said...

"Because of its affinities with mathematics and the hard sciences — disciplines historically unwelcoming to women".

Aaaaaaaaaaaargh!

Mathematics and the hard sciences — disciplines that most women CHOOSE not to pursue.

Had to get that political correctness in there, Miss Fox, didn't yah?

Jim said...

Referring to people like Goedel, Quine and Carnap as "macho" and "swaggering" shows just how bizaare is the world view of journalists.

Mr. Anon said...

The article leaves the impression that most contemporary academic philosophers - at least those on the hard "logic" side, rather than those on the squishy side of things, like Rorty - are nothing but glorified grammarians.

Does anyone give a damn about philosophers or what they do anymore? A more irrelevant profession I can scarcely imagine. There is a whole sub-field of philosophy dealing with the philosophy of science. I don't know of a single scientist who cares about them or their musings in the least.

They may as well be disputing how many angels can dance on a pinhead.

Anonymous said...

Well, she will become one. Much like how Curie is more famous than Maxwell. Or maybe the feminists find logic too patriarchal to accept its practitioner in their cannon.

The real travesty is that Marie Curie is more famous than Ernest Rutherford who was a contemporary, and who has been called the " The father of nuclear physics " and the " Newton of atomic physics ". Not only did she win more Nobel Prizes ( 2 to 1 ) but his prize was in the wrong field, chemistry. I believe I once read that Rutherford was a rare person who won a Nobel before his most important work. According to Charles Murray in Human Accomplishment, Rutherford scored an 88 on the physics scorecard, third behind only Newton and Einstein and ahead of Galileo with an 83. BTW, P. Curie scored a 47 and M. Curie a 41, that means their scores need to be summed in order to match him, and yet outside of physics, and his birthplace of New Zealand he is virtually unknown amongst the intelligenstia much less the general public. Regarding Maxwell, he seems to have been ignored primarily because he was so far ahead of his contempories and he died young at the age of 48. Maxwell is as important as Newton and Einstein, but he just slipped through the cracks of fame, whereas a lesser scientist of his generation W. Thompson, aka Lord Kelvin was far more famous.

Anonymous said...

"Does anyone give a damn about philosophers or what they do anymore? A more irrelevant profession I can scarcely imagine. There is a whole sub-field of philosophy dealing with the philosophy of science. I don't know of a single scientist who cares about them or their musings in the least."

Logic is hard for some people.

Here is a ball. Perhaps you would like to bounce it.

Lucius said...

Symbolic logic is damn hard.

I'm not sure it amounts to so much more than bouncing a ball though.

Frege banished the psychologistic taint from mathematics (supposedly) forever. The Principia Mathematica finally proves 2+2=4, and the heavens rejoice.

Finally we'll get that universal language of science Hobbes was angling for.

Except logicians can't agree on a single notation. Or two. Or--crimey, what are Warsaw and Vienna arguing about classes?

After a few decades, Russell-Whitehead is passe supposedly. Ayers explodes and diminishes (no, the other one). Carnap promises to explain to scientists whatever it is scientists are doing that needs his help. Scientists=crickets.

But further developments ensue. Modal logic and, er, trees!

All those charming old Dover reprint primers-- Langer, Tarski, Suppe, promise symbolic logic will do so much to 'clarify' our thoughts on just, well-- anything.

Suppe, bless him, even uses the cast of "Emma" for an early example or two.

I can't blame Ayn Rand and the Catholics for turning up their noses. I see precious little evidence symbolic logic helps with anything but doing metamath.

Maybe logic is for mathematicians who don't cut it (physics for economists?).

Rorty was a philosophaster; but the Anglo-Analytic philosophers don't have an inch to stand on in casting stones at French Deconstructionists and other frauds.

If you're not doing hard science (call it "science" then), it's either some metagrammar which, quite possibly, holds little or no water as real philology, or else twerping around with "logic" so high only a dog can hear it.

Spinoza could be an atheistic, determinist, inscrutable bitch just abusing the modus operandi of Euclid.

Also, most Analytics look pretty Leftist to me. How is modal logic helping them decipher op-eds?

Anonymous said...

Steve seems to be real, really, REALLY reluctant to hear this, but the fact is that eminent Jewish philosophers are fairly unusual.

Anonymous said...

"Maybe logic is for mathematicians who don't cut it"

Harder math is easier math?

Sounds like someone needs a logic lesson.

Anonymous said...

Eminent Jewish philosophers are "fairly unusual"? WRONG! Go to Wikipedia, enter "Jewish philosophers". Many top philosophers are/were Jewish, e.g., Kripke, Putnam, Ayer, Nozick, etc., and Wittgenstein had Jewish ancestry. The faculties of the top philosophy departments in the U.S. are chock full of Jews.

Lucius said...

Are mathematicians waiting for logicians/academic philosophers' tablescraps, or the other way around?

Doesn't Stanford already have a math department? So who goes into Philosophy there?

Mr. Anon said...

"Anonymous said...

Logic is hard for some people.

Here is a ball. Perhaps you would like to bounce it."

The useful, practical rules of logic were codified by mathematicians and natural philosophers (i.e., scientists) of yore. These modern philosophers add nothing of value. What of any practical value has been figured out by Marcus, or any of the others mentioned in this thread? The entire philosophy department of every university in the land could vanish overnight and scarcely anyone would notice.

If you like indulging in masturbatory intellectual exercises, hey, knock yourself out. But don't delude yourself that it is of any greater import than working the Daily Jumble or sudoku puzzle in the newspaper.

Matko said...

If you like indulging in masturbatory intellectual exercises, hey, knock yourself out. But don't delude yourself that it is of any greater import than working the Daily Jumble or sudoku puzzle in the newspaper.

Kinda like you're doing it now, talking about a subject you know nothing about?

Matko said...

http://opinionator.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/01/25/philosophy-whats-the-use/

Anonymous said...

"Are mathematicians waiting for logicians/academic philosophers' tablescraps, or the other way around?"

No. That disjunction is false because both its disjuncts are false.

Hey, that was neat! Logic!

"Doesn't Stanford already have a math department? So who goes into Philosophy there?"

If the math department exists without any philosophy, that is 1. news to the math department and 2. an indication that the math department is entirely irrelevant.

Look, philosophy is difficult. So is physics, i.e., natural philosophy. No one expects everyone to get it. It is quite strange to see someone proudly waving his ignorance around, though. Anti-science and anti-intellectual people deserve all the aspersions they get.

"The useful, practical rules of logic were codified by mathematicians and natural philosophers (i.e., scientists) of yore."

Yeah, you know absolutely nothing about logic. You probably think it stopped with Aristotle.

(E.g.: Kripke semantics is, what, 50 years old? "Of yore"?)

Again, non-classical logic is hard. Here's a ball, etc.

"The entire philosophy department of every university in the land could vanish overnight and scarcely anyone would notice."

And so could the theoretical physics department of every university. Again, philistinism isn't something to be PROUD of, you dope.

"If you like indulging in masturbatory intellectual exercises, hey, knock yourself out."

Like posting endless stupid comments on a blog that demonstrate, over and over, in case we didn't have this hammered into us well enough, that you're shamefully stupid?

"But don't delude yourself that it is of any greater import than working the Daily Jumble or sudoku puzzle in the newspaper."

Yeah, what did Turing ever do for anyone, anyway?

I think perhaps, in all fairness, since you don't think mathematical logic is useful, you should probably stop using your computer. Y'know, to be fair.

Of course, anyone who thinks the value of an intellectual field is solely based on what grubby material goods that field can produce (like your computer! but you didn't know that, because you are clueless) is no better than those silly Pakleds in Star Trek - whose greatest praise of Geordi is that "he builds things: things that make us go."

Please, please go.

Mr. Anon said...

"Matko said...
Kinda like you're doing it now, talking about a subject you know nothing about?"

So what have they done that is of any tangible value? Name something. Just because something is obscure, does not mean it is necessarily deep and meaningful. It could just be obscure bulls**t.

Anonymous said...

"So what have they done that is of any tangible value?"

Science. All of it. Thales. Read about him.

Computers. Turing. Read about him.

FFS, why are you doing this? Is this a joke?

"Just because something is obscure, does not mean it is necessarily deep and meaningful."

Who's arguing otherwise? I'd call you on the Straw Man Fallacy, but, of course, that's logic, and thus philosophy, and thus BAD BAD BAD WRONG WRONG. So I guess we can't ARGUE with each other, because you can always cop out with your fingers-in-the-ears mantra against philosophy.

This is fun, Gorgias!

"It could just be obscure bulls**t."

Yeah, you know nothing at all about analytic philosophy. You read, third-hand, about some continental (I'm guessing Derrida) and you immediately assumed that all philosophy was like that.

Well, you're in a state of supreme ignorance. Why keep yourself there? Why, in fact, announce to Steve's entire community that you're an idiot?

Is cracking a book and finding out you were wrong just that damn hard?

Mr. Anon said...

"Anonymous said...

""So what have they done that is of any tangible value?""

Science. All of it. Thales. Read about him."

Yeah, I said, philosophers of yore. Thales was "of yore". Or do you maintain he held a chair at MIT?

"Computers. Turing. Read about him."

Turing - mathematician. Atanasoff - physicist. Von Neumann - mathematician. Plus a cast of many other physicists and electrical engineers. Your belief that philosophers invented computers is fallacious. Repeating it doesn't make it more right.

By the way - is shouting down people as stupid your idea of an argument, you being a philosopher and all?

Anonymous said...

Mr. Anon

Right, Turing was a mathematician. He was also a logician. Computer science, both theoretical and applied, would be nothing without mathematical logic. Mathematical logic was invented by philosophers (and mathematicians), most importantly Frege.

So your statement:

"The useful, practical rules of logic were codified by mathematicians and natural philosophers (i.e., scientists) of yore."

is dead wrong. You think that all the important developments in logic happened in "yore"? The predicate calculus was invented in the late nineteenth century. The Godel-Church-Turing results were derived in the 1930's. Are you aware of any of this?

candid_observer said...

It's worthwhile to read the link above as to the "priority dispute" between Barcan-Marcus and Kripke.

What the article doesn't really get is just how much revisionist history is taking place in the effort to put Barcan-Marcus' contributions in the forefront of the New Theory of Reference.

No one regarded Barcan-Marcus' contributions as being seminal in real time, though they were certainly fully aware of them -- except, of course, for Barcan-Marcus herself. That theory was termed at the time the "Kripke-Donnellan" theory -- which certainly shared the credit beyond Kripke.

Of course, the gender card got played heavily including by Barcan-Marcus herself, in order to explain how it is she wasn't considered a major player in this theory. And the gender card has about everything to do with why her obituary turned up in the New York Times.

Anonymous said...

As far as practical achievements developed by philosophers:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Quine–McCluskey_algorithm

Lucius said...

"Anonymous"'s whimsical evocation of disjunction notwithstanding (are mathematical logicians even allowed to evoke the "Strawman" btw? fallacies sound so-shudders!- *informal*), my serious point is: Anglo-Analytic philosophy's "Realism for the Math, Nominalism for Everything Else" metaphysic (damn right you're doing metaphysics when you're doing math: the question is, do mathematicians do good metaphysics?) is highly questionable, and looks to a lot of intelligent observers who (poor retards!) aren't contemplating suicide because they didn't finish an undergraduate degree in math as though it's a dry, dead end. How many more ways do you need to systematize number sets? Oh computers, yes yes. Send your credentials to the early Wittgenstein and buy a clue. You're not a philosopher.

I don't particularly mind being lumped in with "Mr. Anon", but since Stanford tenure allows "Anonymous" total impunity, perhaps he could affix himself some sort of handle so we know next time whether he's beaming in from the Flying Island or the Chamber of Commerce.

Lucius said...

And speaking of whimsy: thus far the two most noteworthy policy prescriptions from certified capital-G Geniuses of Mathematical Logic are:

1. Preemptively nuke the Soviet Union;

2. Intervene on behalf of Naomi Campbell's imperiled virtue.

A professor of philosophy once opined to me that in his view Aristotelio-Scholastic logic was harder to learn than SL.

I wonder if there isn't an Aspie prejudice at work here-- ok, of course there is!

See, if somebody complains that formal ontology can't do anything important, a logician will reply: "but it allows us to automate information. And: deal with entities, like numbers or--er, sets of numbers.

"Also: formal ontology is dead, we've moved on to something else. You're a very ignorant person so why don't you go away and do something frivolous like make love to a woman; I'm waiting for a very important phone call from Steve Jobs, who is now a very formal entity and a friend I can talk to, like Ted Kaczynski did with his rocks until mean people moved them so he had to kill people."

Mr. Anon said...

Anonymous said...

Mr. Anon

Right, Turing was a mathematician. He was also a logician. Computer science, both theoretical and applied, would be nothing without mathematical logic. Mathematical logic was invented by philosophers (and mathematicians), most importantly Frege."

No, mathematical logic was invented by mathemeticians. You are wrongfully claiming their accomplishments for your own field.

"So your statement:

""The useful, practical rules of logic were codified by mathematicians and natural philosophers (i.e., scientists) of yore.""

is dead wrong. You think that all the important developments in logic happened in "yore"? The predicate calculus was invented in the late nineteenth century. The Godel-Church-Turing results were derived in the 1930's. Are you aware of any of this?"

None-the-less, I am willing to bet that John Atansoff never heard of Frege (or probably Turing for that matter), let alone read anything he (they) wrote, and yet was still able to invent the first digital computer.

I keep asking what have academic philosophers - like Ruth Marcus - ever done of any value, and you guys keep saying: but this guy (mathematician) did this, or this guy (ancient natural philosopher) did this. It's as if I stated that there are no great Armenian boxers, and you replied: "but what about Joe Louis?". Yes, he was a great boxer. Not Armenian though. You are answering with non-sequiters.

I am not disputing the contributions of Turing (though is work is probably less important than usually claimed) or Thales, or De Cartes, et cetera. I am disputing the contributions of contemporary philosophy professors, people like Ruth Marcus, people whose work is apparently so world-historically important that you guys can not name one single thing of any consequence that they have done. Not one.

Just because these people occupy impressive offices in ivy-covered buildings doesn't mean that what they do is of deep or lasting value, any more than was the case for the scholastics of the middle-ages or the women's studies professors of today. And despite the subtle intellectual rigor of your disputations - which has included calling me numerous names - I am not persuaded that you have done anything but waste a good deal of your life studying useless piffle.

Matko said...

So what have they done that is of any tangible value? Name something.

You sound like a yob. Who says it necessarily must have tangible value? The base value is the pursuit for answers to a subset of intellectual questions that falls under her domain. Knowledge for the sake of knowledge. Intellectual flowering and nourishment. It's the same thing that drives scientists in their work.

Tell me: Do you have any conception of what philosophy is about? Did you read any specific philosopher?

Matko said...

I am disputing the contributions of contemporary philosophy professors, people like Ruth Marcus, people whose work is apparently so world-historically important that you guys can not name one single thing of any consequence that they have done.

How much analytic philosophy did you read in your life? Tell me book titles, names. There must be some substance behind your pontifications.

BTW, Marcus developed modal predicate logic, so she deservedly is a great name in philosophy.

I am not persuaded that you have done anything but waste a good deal of your life studying useless piffle.

I'm not loosing my sleep over it.

Mr. Anon said...

"Matko said...

You sound like a yob. Who says it necessarily must have tangible value?"

Okay, I'll take that for your answer, and that answer to be "No".

"Knowledge for the sake of knowledge. Intellectual flowering and nourishment. It's the same thing that drives scientists in their work."

Most scientists, however, are at least concerned that their work have some connection to an external reality outside of their heads.

"Tell me: Do you have any conception of what philosophy is about? Did you read any specific philosopher?"

A smattering of some of the ancients and a few 18th/19th century philosophers, but very little of any original source. Most of what I know is stuff presented in text books and monographs (written by your lot). I'm sure you'll say that's insufficient to grasp the subtleties of your sublime field (which refinements apparently include calling people "yobs"). And yet, you probably have an opinion in fields where you have not read any primary sources.

"How much analytic philosophy did you read in your life? Tell me book titles, names. There must be some substance behind your pontifications."

Almost none. Perhaps none. Neither have I read any Marvel Comic Books. I don't think they're important either.

"BTW, Marcus developed modal predicate logic, so she deservedly is a great name in philosophy. "

Well, you let me know how that turns out.

Mr. Anon said...

"Anonymous said...

As far as practical achievements developed by philosophers:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Quine–McCluskey_algorithm"

So Quine had a useful hobby. McCluskey, by the way, was an electrical engineer.

That the best you got?

Anonymous said...

Lucius:
"And speaking of whimsy: thus far the two most noteworthy policy prescriptions from certified capital-G Geniuses of Mathematical Logic are:

1. Preemptively nuke the Soviet Union;

2. Intervene on behalf of Naomi Campbell's imperiled virtue."

I gotta say, that made me lol. But Ayer was far from a "Genius of Mathematical Logic." And what do political opinions have to do with logic anyway?

Anonymous said...

Mr. Anon

"No, mathematical logic was invented by mathemeticians."

jesus christ. Here's a hint: those categories aren't mutually exclusive (they aren't disjoint sets, in other words. i'm sorry, was that too difficult?). Frege, Russell, Church and many others were both. Even Turing was something of a philosopher (see "Computing Machinery and Intelligence" in Mind 1950). Indeed, the Church-Turing thesis is basically a piece of analytic philosophy: analyzing in rigorous, formal terms (Turing computability, recursiveness) an unrigorous, informal concept (effective computability).

"None-the-less, I am willing to bet that John Atansoff never heard of Frege (or probably Turing for that matter), let alone read anything he (they) wrote, and yet was still able to invent the first digital computer."

You said something to the effect that every major development in logic was made before the modern era. I pointed out how blatantly false that statement is. You basically admitted this. Who Atansoff read seems to me to bear little on the issue of the contributions of mathematical logic to computer science, which was, again, invented by philosopher-mathematicians. I think I win this round?

There is substantial overlap between contemporary phil of mind and phil of language, and cognitive science and linguistics. Take a look at a journal like Behavioral and Brain Sciences, and see how often the philosophical literature is cited in the articles; indeed, see how many articles are written by philosophers themselves.

Modal logic, which Marcus played a large role in, has many applications in computer science. Get cracking:
www.imsc.res.in/~jam/notes.ps.gz

Finally, even if modern philosophy had never contributed anything to the "hard" sciences, so what? When i go to the gym, I get on the treadmill and run in place for 15 minutes. I'm not trying to go anywhere. Then I go over to the free weights and lift up heavy things and put them down for another 45 minutes. I'm not lifting things so I can carry them somewhere "useful". I'm doing it to stay in shape. Intellectual exercise has the same value as physical exercise.

I'm sorry the name "yob" hurt your widdle feelings.

Anonymous said...

A professor of philosophy once opined to me that in his view Aristotelio-Scholastic logic was harder to learn than SL.

What is "SL" and why is it less difficult to learn than Aristo-Schol logic?

Matko said...

Okay, I'll take that for your answer, and that answer to be "No".

Silly yob. I presumed that by tangible value you mean keeping you beer cold while you watch NASCAR and skim Penthouse. Be more clear what you mean by tangible value.

Most scientists, however, are at least concerned that their work have some connection to an external reality outside of their heads.

Here you already have two suppositions: an external reality and other minds beside your one. How do you know that both exist? By what we can justify our belief in them? You're doing philosophy while at the same time leaving it to toffs and poofters (philosophy is for poofters like Plato and Wittgenstein!) who don't know how a cold beer tastes like when Ricky Stenhouse passes the finish line. What do they know? A sip of Pabst Blue Ribbon does the job.

A smattering of some of the ancients and a few 18th/19th century philosophers, but very little of any original source. Most of what I know is stuff presented in text books and monographs (written by your lot).

You're a bad liar.

Almost none. Perhaps none. Neither have I read any Marvel Comic Books. I don't think they're important either.

Books with lots of text and no pictures make Mr. Anon a dull boy.

Jim said...

To Lucius -

Regarding your ludicrous comment that mathematical logic is for mathematicians who can't cut it -
these mathematicians who can't cut it include Boole, Cantor, Frege, Peano, Whitehead, Zermelo, Skolem,
Hilbert, Von Neumann, Goedel, Herbrand, Kleene, Church, Tarski,
Gentzen, Cohen, Shelah and many others.

Shortly before Herbrand's untimely death he visited Artin at Hamburg and studied algebraic number theory under him for about two months. During this two month period Herbrand who had never published anything before in algebraic numbeer theory published about

10 papers in this field. On the basis of a two month career in algebraic number theory Herbrand is considered one of the major figures in the twentieth century in that field.

Both Hilbert and Von Neumann made many contributions to areas of mathematics outside of mathematical logic. Cantor is one of the major figures in the classical theory of trigonometrical series.

In addition to his work on mathematical logic Skolem was one of the major number theorists of the twentieth century and pioneered the use of p-adic analysis in number theory.

Tarski discovered an algorithm for solving all problems in the elementary algebra of real numbers.

Another mathematical logician whose name escapes me right now found an algorithm for solving all problems in the elementary theory of addition of integers and another algorithm for solving all problems in the elementary theory of multiplication of integers.

Anonymous said...

Eminent Jewish philosophers are "fairly unusual"? WRONG! Go to Wikipedia, enter "Jewish philosophers". Many top philosophers are/were Jewish, e.g., Kripke, Putnam, Ayer, Nozick, etc.


None of whom were "eminent philosophers".

.. and Wittgenstein had Jewish ancestry

Blacks and Jews both make good use of the one-drop rule.

Mr. Anon said...

"Anonymous said...

I think I win this round?"

No, you don't. What I said stands. Computer technology - in toto - would have been invented and would have advanced without the benefit of any of these people.

"You said something to the effect that every major development in logic was made before the modern era. I pointed out how blatantly false that statement is. You basically admitted this."

For an analytic philosopher - or "Yob" as I will now call you fellahs - you are not very good at parsing sentences. I said that every major development of use to science predated your lot.

Just because you strut around saying how important your intellectual self-abuse is, I am not obligated to agree with you. If anything, having read your posts has only reinforced my inclination that philosophy nowadays is nothing but the petty puffed-up profession of petty, puffed-up egos.

Mr. Anon said...

"Matko said...

Silly yob. I presumed that by tangible value you mean keeping you beer cold while you watch NASCAR and skim Penthouse. Be more clear what you mean by tangible value."

So this is what passes for reasoned argument (ostensibly your stock and trade) among philosophers these days - good to know. Now it is clear that you're just a bunch of snarky d**k-heads. Where did you study philosophy anyway? Watching old episodes of Saturday Night Live.

"You're a bad liar."

No, what I described is exactly the education in philosophy I had. Not much, admittedly. But I, unlike you, was smart enough to figure out that most of it is pretentious bunkum, and that it's not worth wasting a lot of time one. But hey, if you like it, knock yourself out. Wank away, pal.

And while I'm at it, perhaps I'll call you a liar too. I think your lying in saying you know anything about philosophy. Surely there must be more to philosophy than the sophmoric name-calling you've been engaging in, and someone who actually knows something about it would know that.

Matko said...

So this is what passes for reasoned argument (ostensibly your stock and trade) among philosophers these days - good to know. Now it is clear that you're just a bunch of snarky d**k-heads. Where did you study philosophy anyway? Watching old episodes of Saturday Night Live.

Am I supposed to react differently to your behavior? It's obvious you didn't come here to look for answers but to deprecate an academic discipline and its members from the very start.

No, what I described is exactly the education in philosophy I had. Not much, admittedly. But I, unlike you, was smart enough to figure out that most of it is pretentious bunkum, and that it's not worth wasting a lot of time one. But hey, if you like it, knock yourself out. Wank away, pal.

Here's the deal: you aren't specific about philosophy. You haven't given one example of that "it" that is bunkum, whatever that "it" means. I can't read your mind to see what's exactly your problem with philosophy. You're only good at petty insults that make you look philistine and autistic, but this doesn't lead you anywhere.

And while I'm at it, perhaps I'll call you a liar too. I think your lying in saying you know anything about philosophy. Surely there must be more to philosophy than the sophmoric name-calling you've been engaging in, and someone who actually knows something about it would know that.

You, who describes philosophers as "snarky d**k-heads" with "petty puffed-up egos", chides other people for giving you well-deserved retorts? Puh-lease! Remove the wooden beam from you eye.

Mr. Anon said...

"Matko said...

Am I supposed to react differently to your behavior? It's obvious you didn't come here to look for answers but to deprecate an academic discipline and its members from the very start."

I post at this site all the time. I didn't come here to rag on philosophers. I posted on one of the topics, just as I have posted on others. And I only deprecated your "academic discipline" because I have next to no respect for it. "Women's Studies" and "Queer Studies" are likewise "academic disciplines".

"Here's the deal: you aren't specific about philosophy. You haven't given one example of that "it" that is bunkum, whatever that "it" means."

Here's the deal: you have not given an example of what your philosophy is good for. You trot out something some mathemetician did, and say "look here - see how valuable this is". You're conflating your field with some other, useful field. All you've done is make an argument for the value of math departments, not philosophy departments.

"You, who describes philosophers as "snarky d**k-heads" with "petty puffed-up egos", chides other people for giving you well-deserved retorts?"

You started the name calling, idiot. What am I supposed to do? Submit to it? Get stuffed.

Matko said...

I didn't come here to rag on philosophers. And I only deprecated your "academic discipline" because I have next to no respect for it.

Not respecting something means not respecting those who are member of it, silly you. You came here for insults and amusement.

Here's the deal: you have not given an example of what your philosophy is good for.

It's kind of hard to this do since you haven't told me what you conceive as to what philosophy is supposed to be about, demeaning quips notwithstanding.

It's good for me because it gives me tools and prior experiences of those before me to handle subjects I'm personally interested in: philosophy of language, science, metaphysics, etc.; and it ought to be good for for anyone with the same inclinations as mine.

You started the name calling, idiot.

No I didn't. You started the mud slinging. Remember the "no respect for it" part?

Mr. Anon said...

"Matko said...

Not respecting something means not respecting those who are member of it,......"

No, pitying them perhaps. I didn't lack any respect for you until you started to open your ignorant yap.

"It's kind of hard to this do since you haven't told me what you conceive as to what philosophy is supposed to be about, demeaning quips notwithstanding."

Look, nitwit, your philosophy is ostensibly a Ding-an-sich, is it not? Can't you explain what it is, without any external referent supplied by a yob?

"It's good for me because it gives me tools and prior experiences of those before me to handle subjects I'm personally interested in: philosophy of language, science, metaphysics, etc.; and it ought to be good for for anyone with the same inclinations as mine."

Then go off to your corner, and leave the adults alone. Nobody cares about your wankery. And I assure, almost no scientist will ever give a damn about any philosophy of science you may have.

""You started the name calling, idiot.""

"No I didn't. You started the mud slinging. Remember the "no respect for it" part?"

Utter revisionist horses**t. You damn well did start it. As I told you, I am not obliged to respect your little amusement, and I don't. But I didn't start throwing epithets at you, until you started doing so at me (dope, yob, etc.).

Matko said...

No, pitying them perhaps. I didn't lack any respect for you until you started to open your ignorant yap.

Pitying is insulting, sorry.

Look, nitwit, your philosophy is ostensibly a Ding-an-sich, is it not? Can't you explain what it is, without any external referent supplied by a yob?

I know what it is, but you, sirrah, obviously do not. The Ding-an-sich reference is so out of place I don't what am I supposed to say. You're truly are what it means to be at a wrong place at a wrong time.

Look, I'm not such a dick as I might appear, and I'm always eager to spread the good gospel about philosophy, so I'm giving you the following advice: get Modern Philosophy: An Introduction and Survey by Roger Scruton or The Blackwell Companion to Philosophy and start reading.

And I assure, almost no scientist will ever give a damn about any philosophy of science you may have.

Argument from irrelevant authority. I don't care what scientists think about philosophy. They might as well not give a damn.

You damn well did start it.

If you didn't come all red, frustrated, and pretentious, none of this would happen.

Mr. Anon said...

"Matko said...

Pitying is insulting, sorry."

No worries then. I have no pity for you any longer.

"I know what it is, but you, sirrah, obviously do not. The Ding-an-sich reference is so out of place I don't what am I supposed to say."

It's german for "a thing unto itself". Language can mean something specific even when not used by philosophers. You don't own it.

"Look, I'm not such a dick as I might appear, and I'm always eager to spread the good gospel about philosophy, so I'm giving you the following advice: get Modern Philosophy: An Introduction and Survey by Roger Scruton or The Blackwell Companion to Philosophy and start reading."

No, thanks. I've already got a long reading list, and I don't have time to waste.

"I don't care what scientists think about philosophy. They might as well not give a damn."

You don't give a damn what scientists think about the philosophy of science? Well, that says quite alot right there.

"If you didn't come all red, frustrated, and pretentious, none of this would happen."

I reject your characterization of my posts. Then again, you could have just refrained from being an asshat about it all.

Matko said...

No worries then. I have no pity for you any longer.

I don't care either way.

It's german for "a thing unto itself". Language can mean something specific even when not used by philosophers. You don't own it.

Horrible dodge. You put hyphens between the words. It's a distinct phrase used by Kant you used incorrectly and won't admit it. You don't just change your language in the middle of a sentence randomly.

No, thanks. I've already got a long reading list, and I don't have time to waste.

Okay, you don't want to be proven wrong. We all have our prejudices.

You don't give a damn what scientists think about the philosophy of science? Well, that says quite alot right there.

Scientist's aren't authorities on philosophy of science. In a sense, I don't care about their stance.

Mr. Anon said...

"Matko said...

""It's german for "a thing unto itself". Language can mean something specific even when not used by philosophers. You don't own it.""

Horrible dodge. You put hyphens between the words. It's a distinct phrase used by Kant you used incorrectly and won't admit it."

I had assumed that the phrase meant what it said - apparently you philo-yobs have your own proprietary language. Fine. Yak away in it. Leave the rest of us alone.

"Scientist's aren't authorities on philosophy of science. In a sense, I don't care about their stance.."

But they are experts on science. Doesn't it bother you that they don't give a s**t what you think? Can you have a philosophy of plumbing without caring what a pipe is? And of what value are your ruminations, if the plumbers don't even care what you do or think? Christ, you guys are about as relevant as fan-boys or fantasy football league enthusiasts. And your position is that your philosophy is not just an extended wank-a-thon? You guys must be idiots.

By the way, how does your reply "Scientist's aren't authorities on philosophy of science. In a sense, I don't care about their stance.." square with your previous paragraph "Okay, you don't want to be proven wrong. We all have our prejudices."?