Thursday, February 3, 2011

UKZN, epistemology and Logic

This coming Monday I'm starting coursework at UKZN and alongside my Cog.Sci seminar, my supervisor has invited me to attend some lectures on Epistemology

I think the course is based around Paul Boghossian's book Fear of Knowledge - and, to be honest, I'm really looking forward to this course. In the preface of his book Boghossian mentions that he spends, or might seem to spend, a fair amount of time beating up on the work of Richard Rorty.

Now Richard Rorty has been a fairly big influence on me, I was introduced to him way back when I did a third year course on "post-modern" epistemology and was, largely, taken in by his style. I'm sure anyone who has read much of Rorty will know what I mean.

I know that at the time I was also quite impressed with his views of knowledge, and his book Philosophy and the Mirror of nature knocked my naive ideas about the progress of ideas and truth flat on my ass (never mind the fact that my "naive" ideas have turned out to be closer to my older more considered views ...)

I was in awe of the man, and of his ideas, and I devoured everything of his that I could get my hands on (and understand).
But as I've progressed I've come to see some real problems with his positions, both political and epistemological - this article by Susan Haack is a good place to start getting the picture - and so rather than rejecting him outright, I find myself reading him these days in the same way that I read Emerson, as an essayist or even a poet, not as a philosopher trying to get at truth ... somehow I doubt Rorty would have had a problem with that though.

So I'm consciously going into this course with the intention of gathering up all the forces, marshalling all of the arguments, mustering all of the intellectual muscle I can against Rortyism and crushing my younger self.

It's going to be fun.

Related to this, I've been digging through my old notes on Epistemic Modal Logic and trying to supplement my reading online. I've found a couple of useful resources.
The wikipedia page on Epistemic Modal Logic is good for a quick orientation, but is thin on details. For a more comprehensive treatment a good place to go is the SEP's entry on Epistemic Logic and follow up on some of the references there.

Then I've found a really nice resource on "The science of computational logic" which is a course run as part of the EM masters degree in computational logic. Check out the section Course Materials and download the "course manuscript from 2004" - very, very cool stuff. I just wish I had enough time to work through it.

Finally there is some nice looking course material up at Stanford for their CS157 : Computational Logic course. This is probably a good place to start - check out the "readings" for what amounts to an online textbook in CL. There are exercises and exams too. Fun times.