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Friday, January 26, 2018

Fascinating Reflection on Transexuality

My friend Anne Eaton directed me to this fascinating but in some ways deeply puzzling essay by Andrea Long Chu, who is (I take it) a graduate student in Comparative Literature at NYU. It's a lengthy investigation of the fraught, and too little discussed, relationship between identity and desire in the experience of trans women, specifically. Probably, Chu right restricts her discussion to that case: the one she knows from the inside. But I strongly suspect that her reflections have something much broader to teach us about gender, and our experience of it. Certainly, as someone who is genderqueer, it rang a lot of bells with me.

Published: The Logical Strength of Compositional Principles

This paper investigates a set of issues connected with the so-called conservativeness argument against deflationism. Although I do not defend that argument, I think the discussion of it has raised some interesting questions about whether what I call compositional principles, such as "A conjunction is true iff its conjuncts are true", have substantial content or are in some sense logically trivial. The paper presents a series of results that purport to show that the compositional principles for a first-order language, taken together, have substantial logical strength, amounting to a kind of abstract consistency statement.
Find it on Project Euclid, or download the pre-publication version here.

The paper is a kind of companion to "Disquotationalism and the Compositional Principles" (PDF) and is basically the philosophical side of the paper "Consistency and the Theory of Truth" (here).

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

The Inadequacy of Sexual Consent?

Earlier today, I fell down one of those Internet rabbit holes reading reflections about the Aziz Ansari story. (I confess to having previously had no idea who he was.) In truth, I jumped in myself, once I realized what was really at stake here, since it's something in which I've been increasingly interested myself over the last couple years. The best piece I read was by Amanda Alcantara, on The Lily. Here's the crucial bit:
[This] story...pushes us beyond the parameters of what we've been saying about consent: That "no means no", or to seek an active "yes". This form of teaching consent focuses on feelings of power during intimacy. It's a response to a request—"will they let me have sex with them?"—rather than seeing sex as something mutual. The question should be, "Do they want to have sex with me?" That is essentially where this conversation lies. Is consenting about "wanting" or about "letting"?
That's almost right, I think. But the real lesson, which seems to run just under the surface of a lot of these discussions, concerns the limitations of the notion of consent. In fact, this is not a new idea. See this piece by Rebecca Traister in The Cut, for example. But perhaps it's an idea who time has come.

Saturday, January 6, 2018

Lacuna in "Is Frege's Definition of the Ancestral Adequate?"

Ran Lanzet has pointed out a significant lacuna in the proof of the main result in my paper "Is Frege's Definition of the Ancestral Adequate?" This has been repaired in the 'pre-publication' version of the paper, which can be downloaded here. See p.21 of that document.

I had certainly thought of the missing case, and seem to recall that at some point I'd introduced a 'simplifying assumption' that allowed me to ignore it. But that assumption is not mentioned in the published version of the paper, and it isn't nearly as easy as I'd supposed to see that it's permissible (which is perhaps why I removed it, but without fixing the affected part of the proof).

Sunday, December 3, 2017

Have Fun With René, Jerry

I did not know Jerry Fodor at all, personally. But when you spend as much time with someone's work as I did with his, you feel like you did know him.

When I got to MIT in 1987, Jerry had already left, a year before. But his influence was still ubiquitous. There were a lot of older graduate students who were still working with him, and many of those a year before me clearly seemed like they wished they were.

Saturday, November 25, 2017

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Statement Concerning Allegations By Heidi Howkins Lockwood

Last week, Heidi Howkins Lockwood publicly accused me of groping her after a colloquium at Yale in October 2007.

I categorically and unequivocally deny having groped Lockwood on that occasion or on any other.

Lockwood asserts that I was so drunk that night that I would have been unable to find my way to my hotel, apparently implying that this is why I had "no recollection" of groping her. Both claims are false. I have vivid memories of the entire evening. When I deny groping Lockwood, it is not because I do not remember doing so; it is because I positively remember not doing so.

When Lockwood confronted me with these allegations (almost six and a half years later), I did apologize to her, but not because I thought I might have done what she alleged. She was clearly distraught, and it is possible to apologize for the role you played in causing someone to be upset, even if you know that you did not do anything wrong. This is something that decent people do. My apology was intended in that spirit, as an expression of sympathy, not an admission of guilt.

Let me emphasize that I am not accusing Lockwood of lying. Nonetheless, she is mistaken. I did not grope her on that occasion or any other.