March 15, 2023, 4-6 PM (note special time) in 234 Moses

Ivano Caponigro (UCSD)

Logic and Grammar: Richard Montague’s Turn towards Natural Language

In the early 60s, Richard Montague (1930-1971) still believed that: “[The] systematic exploration of the English language, indeed of what might be called the ‘logic of ordinary English’, […] would be either extremely laborious or impossible. In any case, the authors of the present book would not find it rewarding.” Just a few years later, he radically changed his mind: “There is philosophic interest in attempting to analyze ordinary English” and “I reject the contention that an important theoretical difference exists between formal and natural languages.” At the very same time—not by chance—Montague changed his beliefs in what should be the adequate framework for philosophy: from “set theory with individuals and the possible addition of empirical predicates” to higher-order “intensional logic.” These changes coincide with the beginning of Montague’s seminal work on natural language semantics that culminated with the last three papers he published before his sudden and violent death. In this talk, I examine these changes with the goal of understanding what motivated them and what light these motivations may shed on Montague’s subsequent work on natural language. This investigation is presented as part of a broader ongoing project of an intellectual and personal biography of Montague.

March 22, 2023, 4-6 PM (note special time) in 470 Stephens

Theodore Porter (UCLA)

Unacknowledged Sites of Science Gain Dignity as Data

Joint Meeting with the Office for History of Science and Technology

In recent years, social and historical studies of science and technology have come to understand their subject more inclusively. The efforts and understandings of people who worked largely outside European traditions or who had little formal education in science are more and more featured in historical accounts of science, for example. I take up here a related topic, the respect and even reverence conferred these days on data work. Histories of statistics and of data encourage an appreciation of the significance of these more humble forms of scientific labor. It is not easy to fix the boundaries of science.

April 12, 2023, 4-6 PM (note special time) in 234 Moses

Paul Skokowski (Stanford)

Superpositions and beliefs about superpositions

It seems that in our world experiments have determinate outcomes. However there are interpretations of quantum mechanics, known as no-collapse theories, where the same kinds of experiments instead result in superpositional states – states composed of different outcomes, rather than a single determinate outcome. What, in such a world, would an observer’s beliefs about these superpositional results be like? In this talk I’ll challenge some claims about how to evaluate the mental states of observers in a no-collapse world, and in so doing consider the plausibility of no-collapse theories.