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How To Get A Job Outside Academia With a Ph.D. in Philosophy

Submitted by Richard Zach on Wed, 04/03/2013 - 9:27am

We train professional philosophers. Sadly, there aren't enough philosophy jobs to go around, and it's hard to pursue a career in philosophy if you can't move to wherever you find a job.  Fortunately, philosophers have transferable skills that are in high demand. Prospective employers just don't associate these skills with "Ph.D. in philosophy".  The challenge is to overcome this.
Mike Steiner wrote a fine dissertation on an anti-realist theory of natural kinds under Marc Ereshefsky's supervision. He won national scholarships. He had good chances at finding an academic job. But he couldn't leave Calgary for family reasons. Now he's working in Oil and Gas (!) and is very happy.  He has some advice for you if you're in a similar position.

Logic in the Philosophy Undergraduate Curriculum

Submitted by Richard Zach on Thu, 02/21/2013 - 12:33pm

The ASL Committee in Logic Education organized a thought-provoking session this morning at the APA Central Division in New Orleans.  There were four presentations and a lively discussion.  What are your thoughts?

Andy Arana started things off with observations about salient differences between what we do in intro logic classes vs. what, e.g., mathematics departments do in "discrete mathematics" classes. Discrete math classes, he points out, serve disciplinary ends in mathematics: students learn concepts and techniques that they then go on to use all the time in advanced math courses (e.g., functions and relations, induction).  By comparison, logic courses do not serve the same disciplinary ends.  Sure, we use arguments all the time in philosophy and sometimes it comes in handy to know that you have to watch the order of your quantifiers or that affirming the consequent is invalid.  But much of what we do in introductory formal logic courses does not get used outside of more advanced formal logic courses.  Our courses are also very often enrolled by non-majors who satisfy a quantitative reasoning requirement. This raises the important question: why do we teach intro logic the way we do? What concepts and methods do majors and non-majors acquire in our logic courses, and do we teach them the right way for them to get these?

Danielle Macbeth gave an interesting pitch for her particular way of teaching intro logic: as a a history course, reading Aristotle, Kant, Wittgenstein, Frege. She made the provocative claim that formal logic has failed to solve philosophical problems (certainly to the extent that, say, Russell, thought it would). To make logic again of value to a philosophical education, she argued, we should focus on the philosophical advances  through a study of its history and specifically of the clarification of the nature of denotation, predication, and the quantifiers. This is, I thought, an interesting persepective: unfortunately it probably can replace intro logic courses only at elite liberal arts colleges where a class with 20 students is "large". But wonderful idea for a more advanced course for majors!

Audrey Yap spoke about stereotype threat in the logic classroom.  This is by now a well-worn topic in math and other STEM fields, especially as concerns gender.  If students see themselves as belonging to a group that is stereotypically bad at something, they will perform worse.  As math and logic are male-dominated and are stereotyped as male (logic even more so than math, perhaps), this is a big issue in the logic classroom, especially when many students take logic in lieu of a mathematics course to fulfil a requirement. What I didn't know about is that another important factor is that even if role models are available, unless succeeding in the field like them is seen as attainable, they hurt rather than help. Math and logic to an extent are like that: if students think you have to be a genius to "get" logic rather than just hard work, it will hurt rather than hinder.  Role models are only helpful if students see them as possible futures.  The message it took from this is that we should emphasize that logic takes hard work, and possibly present role models (female, of colour) who are successful perhaps not as "genius" logicians but through hard work in something our students aspire to but for which logic was an important preparation.

Susan Vineberg brought it back to Andy's point that we should at least keep in mind, if not actually incorporate into our classroom practice, the application of the methods logic courses train students in.  She also compared logical reasoning to mathematical reasoning: in philosophy, like in mathematics, thinking about extreme and near extreme cases is a good strategy to find counterexamples. Other strategies that are useful: partitioning a problem space into cases, considering uniqueness after proving existence, generalizing a result, and self-reference. (E.g., suppose X is real means: X is mind-independent.  Now take X = minds.)

In the ensuing discussion, a lot of other topics came up, including, of course, the perennial question of textbooks (Andy pointed out that while, e.g., basically everyone teaches topology from Munkres, everyone basically hates every logic textbook to some degree and they continue to proliferate). Andy also stressed the importance of logic courses for philosophy departments as their highest enrolment classes and hence a crucial part in the administrative justification of the existence of philosophy programs at many schools (and the threat to it would/will pose if logic instructions moves online). This reminded me of a study I've read, possible an Australian education MA thesis from 10 years ago or so, that investigated the effect philosophy (or humanities?) courses had on the improvement of critical thinking skills in undergraduates -- and which, IIRC, showed that only formal logic courses actually did.  Please tell me if you know what I'm thinking of, Google is no help! Found it! Claudia Álvarez, "Does philosophy improve critical thinking," MA thesis, University of Melbourne, 2007

Turing Centenary Lectures

Submitted by Richard Zach on Mon, 01/21/2013 - 7:49pm

All six of last year's lectures we had at Calgary's Turing Year series are now available for you to watch on Thanks again to PIMS for videotaping, editing, and hosting them!  The full list:

John R. Ferris: Alan Turing and Enigma

Central to Alan Turing's posthumous reputation is his work with British codebreaking during the Second World War. This relationship is not well understood, largely because it stands on the intersection of two technical fields, mathematics and cryptology, the second of which also has been shrouded by secrecy. This lecture will assess this relationship from an historical cryptological perspective. It treats the mathematization and mechanization of cryptology between 1920-50 as international phenomena. It assesses Turing's role in one important phase of this process, British work at Bletchley Park in developing cryptanalytical machines for use against Enigma in 1940-41. It focuses on also his interest in and work with cryptographic machines between 1942-46, and concludes that work with them served as a seed bed for the development of his thinking about computers.

Przemys?aw Prusinkiewic: Alan Turing and the Patterns of Life

In 1952, Turing published his only paper spanning chemistry and biology: "The chemical basis of morphogenesis". In it, he proposed a hypothetical mechanism for the emergence of complex patterns in chemical reactions, called reaction-diffusion. He also predicted the use of computational models as a tool for understanding patterning. Sixty years later, reaction-diffusion is a key concept in the study of patterns and forms in nature. In particular, it provides a link between molecular genetics and developmental biology. The presentation will review the concept of reaction-diffusion, the tumultuous path towards its acceptance, and its current place in biology.

Chris Waters: Alan Turing, the Politics of Sexual Science, and the Making of a Gay Icon

In the 1940s Alan Turing’s homosexuality was an open secret amongst his co-workers at Bletchley Park. In 1952 the secret became widely known when Turing was arrested on charges of “gross indecency” under the same 1885 law that had led to the imprisonment of Oscar Wilde over half a century earlier. Opting for chemical “treatment” of his “condition” rather than imprisonment, Turing was one of many well-known casualties of a heightened drive against homosexuality in a postwar Britain that drew the line between the normal and the deviant more sharply than ever before. In his talk, Chris Waters will discuss Turing’s sexual proclivities and their meanings in the context of his times, focusing in particular on his arrest and subsequent fate in the context of the sexual politics of the first half of the 1950s. In addition, he will discuss the shaping of Turing’s posthumous reputation, beginning with the attempts made by the Gay Liberation Front in the 1970s to render Turing the gay icon he has become today.

Michael R. Williams: Turing's Real Machines

While Turing is best known for his abstract concept of a "Turing Machine," he did design (but not build) several other machines - particularly ones involved with code breaking and early computers. While Turing was a fine mathematician, he could not be trusted to actually try and construct the machines he designed - he would almost always break some delicate piece of equipment if he tried to do anything practical. The early code-breaking machines (known as "bombes" - the Polish word for bomb, because of their loud ticking noise) were not designed by Turing but he had a hand in several later machines known as "Robinsons" and eventually the Colossus machines. After the War he worked on an electronic computer design for the National Physical Laboratory - an innovative design unlike the other computing machines being considered at the time. He left the NPL before the machine was operational but made other contributions to early computers such as those being constructed at Manchester University. This talk will describe some of his ideas behind these machines.

Nicole Wyatt: Turing and Intelligent Machines

Turing's interest in the possibility of machine intelligence is probably most familiar in the form of the 'Turing Test', a version of which has been instantiated since 1991 as the Loebner Prize in Artificial Intelligence. To this date the Loebner Gold Medal has not been won. But should any future winner of the prize count themselves as having created a computer that thinks? Turing's 1950 Mind paper 'Computing Machinery and Intelligence', gives a sustained defence of the claim that a machine able to pass the test, which Turing called the Imitation Game, would indeed qualify as thinking. This lecture will explain the Turing Test as well as Turing's more general views concerning the prospects for artificial intelligence and examine both the criticisms of the test and Turing's rebuttals.

Richard Zach: Alan Turing and the Decision Problem

Many scientific questions are considered solved to the best possible degree when we have a method for computing a solution. This is especially true in mathematics and those areas of science in which phenomena can be described mathematically: one only has to think of the methods of symbolic algebra in order to solve equations, or laws of physics which allow one to calculate unknown quantities from known measurements. The crowning achievement of mathematics would thus be a systematic way to compute the solution to any mathematical problem. The hope that this was possible was perhaps first articulated by the 18th century mathematician-philosopher G. W. Leibniz. Advances in the foundations of mathematics in the early 20th century made it possible in the 1920s to first formulate the question of whether there is such a systematic way to find a solution to every mathematical problem. This became known as the decision problem, and it was considered a major open problem in the 1920s and 1930s. Alan Turing solved it in his first, groundbreaking paper "On computable numbers" (1936). In order to show that there cannot be a systematic computational procedure that solves every mathematical question, Turing had to provide a convincing analysis of what a computational procedure is. His abstract, mathematical model of computability is that of a Turing Machine. He showed that no Turing machine, and hence no computational procedure at all, could solve the Entscheidungsproblem.

Alan Turing Centenary Videos on Mathtube

Submitted by Richard Zach on Mon, 04/16/2012 - 7:12pm

The first half of our Alan Turing Centenary lecture series is over, and we've got all three of our talks up on  You can skip the first one, it's pretty boring, but Mike Williams on early computers and John Ferris on Turing and WWII codebreaking are well worth your time!

Alan Turing Year in Calgary

Submitted by Richard Zach on Thu, 03/15/2012 - 10:00am

It's Alan Turing's centenary, and we've been celebrating it at the University of Calgary with a series of lectures.  This term, we've had a talk on the decision problem, one (by Mike Williams) on Turing and early electronic comupters, and one coming up on March 27, by John Ferris, on Alan Turing and codebreaking in WWII.  Yesterday, we screened the biopic Breaking the Code, with Derek Jacobi as Alan Turing (which you can watch on YouTube in its entirety!). The Pacific Institute for the Mathematical Sciences is paying to have the lectures videotaped and the'll be appearing on as they become available.  The lecture by my distinguised colleague in the Computer Science department, Mike Williams, was just posted a couple of days ago.  Mike is a former President of the IEEE Computer Society, editor in chief of the Annals of the History of Computing, and head curator for the Computer History Museum.  So he knows his history of computing machinery, and gave us a wonderful talk about Turing's role in the development of early digital computers.  (There's also a lecture by me on the 1936 paper, but that's much less interesting.) Thanks to generous funding from the Faculty of Science, we also have nice posters, like the one below, advertising our last talk for the Winter term, by my distinguished colleague in the History Department, John R. Ferris. 

Senior Position in Logic and Philosophy of Science at Calgary!

Submitted by Richard Zach on Wed, 03/14/2012 - 10:04am

Been waiting a while for this to become official, which it now is: we're hiring. In case you don't know, the CRC program is Canada's effort to attract outstanding foreigntalent to Canada. So there is no preference for Canadians, you get atop-up to your salary, and the teaching load is 1-1. 

Tier I Canada Research Chair in Logic and the Philosophy of Science

The Department of Philosophy at the University of Calgary invites applications and nominations for a Tier I Canada Research Chair in Logic and the Philosophy of Science. The Canada Research Chairs program has been established by the Government of Canada to enable Canadian universities to foster excellence in research and teaching. Further information on the program is available on the CRC website at

We are seeking an established scholar and a leader in any area of logic or the philosophy of science. The successful candidate will have an outstanding record of research, teaching and graduate supervision, and an innovative research program. The appointment, at the rank of Associate Professor or Professor, is expected to start on July 1, 2013.

Specific inquiries about this position may be directed to:

Ali Kazmi, Head
Department of Philosophy
University of Calgary

All Chairs are subject to review and final approval by the CRC Secretariat. Applications including a CV, a writing sample, a teaching dossier, and a description of a 7 year research plan, and names and contact information of three referees may be sent to:

Merlette Schnell, Manager
Department of Philosophy
University of Calgary
2500 University Drive NW
Calgary, Alberta T2N 1N4

Applications will be accepted until the position is filled. Review of the applications will begin on July 9, 2012.

Ruth Barcan Marcus, 1921-2012

Submitted by Richard Zach on Wed, 03/14/2012 - 9:49am

Ruth Barcan Marcus died February 19. She was a towering figure in philosophical logic in the latter half of the 20th century.  She initiated the study of quantified modal logic in her 1946 JSL paper, "A functional calculus of first order based on strict implication".  Facing strong opposition from Quine, who thought quantified modal logic was incoherent, her work was only taken up years later.  It is now recognized as the seminal contribution that it was.


Tim Williamson's excellent laudatio on the occasion of the award of the Lauener Prize for Outstanding Oevre to Barcan Marcus is here.

Postdoc in Logic or Philosophy of Science

Submitted by Richard Zach on Mon, 02/06/2012 - 11:11pm

We got a 1-year job for you!

The Department of Philosophy at the University of Calgary invites applications for a one-year postdoctoral fellowship starting on September 1, 2012. The area of specialization is logic or the philosophy of science. The fellow will be expected to have a well-defined research project, teach up to one course each term, and participate in the research activities of the Department. All requirements for the PhD must have been completed by the starting date and no earlier than September 2007. The stipend is $50,000 Canadian per year.

Specific inquiries about this position may be directed to:

Ali Kazmi, Head
Department of Philosophy, University of Calgary

Complete dossiers, including a cv, at least three letters of reference, a recent
sample of writing, and a detailed research proposal may be sent to:

Merlette Schnell, Manager
Department of Philosophy, University of Calgary, 2500 University Drive NW
Calgary, Alberta T2N 1N4 CANADA

Applications will be accepted until the position is filled. Review of the applications will begin on March 22, 2012.

Illustrated Ways of Paradox Complete with 1960's Ads

Submitted by Richard Zach on Sat, 01/07/2012 - 7:54pm

The title essay of Quine's The Ways of Paradox was originally published in the Scientific American 206 (April 1962). Retrodigitized back issues of the Scientific American are now available (for free, it seems) on the website of Nature.  You can now read Quine's classic essay in its full original glory, complete with neat illustrations such as this one of the Barber Paradox:

Also cool: vintage ads for nerdy things like scientific instruments, computers, and jobs at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory from the 1960's.

Plenty more where that came from, e.g., Tarski's article "Truth and Proof", Nagel and Newman on "Gödel's Proof", Davis and Hersh on "Hilbert's 10th Problem", Paul Cohen and Hersh on "Non-Cantorian Set Theory", and John Hopcroft on "Turing Machines".

Ernst Specker, 1920-2011

Submitted by Richard Zach on Sat, 12/17/2011 - 10:12am

Ernst Specker died on December 10, in Zurich.  He is most well-known for his work on Quine's New Foundations and the Kochen-Specker Theorem in quantum mechanics. He made significant contributions to many other areas of logic, as well as algebra, topology, and combinatorics.

Specker's MacTutor biography.

Possibly the Best xkcd Ever

Submitted by Richard Zach on Sat, 11/26/2011 - 4:02pm

Proof of Zermelo's well-ordering theorem given the Axiom of Choice: 1: Take S to be any set. 2: When I reach step three, if S hasn't managed to find a well-ordering relation for itself, I'll feed it into this wood chipper. 3: Hey, look, S is well-ordered.

Follow link for the mouseover text!

New Linguistics Entries in SEP

Submitted by Richard Zach on Sat, 11/26/2011 - 3:59pm

Two interesting new entries in the Stanford Encyclopedia:

CfP: Mind, Language and Cognition: Historical Perspectives.

Submitted by Richard Zach on Tue, 11/15/2011 - 4:15pm

The first annual conference of the Society for the Study of the History of Analytical Philosophy will be held at McMaster University, Hamilton (Canada) 24-26 May 2012.

Invited Speakers

Michael Friedman (Stanford University)
Paolo Mancosu (University of California, Berkeley)
Thomas Uebel (University of Manchester)

Canadian Student Presenters Travel Bursaries

SSHAP will be offering up to 10 travel bursaries to Canadian student presenters. The bursaries will cover transportation to as well as accommodation and subsistence in Hamilton. Bursaries will be awarded on the basis of need and scientific merit.

Call for Papers

SSHAP invites submissions for its 2012 annual conference. Paper submissions in all areas of the history of analytic philosophy are welcome. A selection of papers from the conference will be published in a special volume of the Journal for the History of Analytical Philosophy.

SUBMISSION DEADLINE: November 30th, 2011.

Submission Instructions

Authors are requested to submit their papers electronically according to the following guidelines:

1) Papers should be prepared for blind refereeing, 2) put into PDF file format, and 3) sent as an email attachment to the address given below -- where 4) the subject line of the submission email should include the key-phrase "SSHAP submission", and 5) the body text of the email message should constitute a cover page for the submission by including i) return email address, ii) author's name, iii) affiliation, iv) paper title, and v) short abstract.

Time allowed for presentation is 60 minutes (including discussion). We recommend that paper be no longer than 4000 words.

Electronic submissions should be sent to:

For more information, please visit our website

The Problem of Induction

Submitted by Richard Zach on Sun, 11/13/2011 - 10:54am

Postdoc in Proof Theory in Vienna

Submitted by Richard Zach on Sun, 11/13/2011 - 10:45am

The Vienna University of Technology is looking to recruit one Postdoctoral Research Assistant to work on the FWF-funded project "Nonclassical Proofs: theory, applications and tools", under the direction of Agata Ciabattoni.

The work will take place within the Institute of Computer Languages (Theory and Logic group) of the Vienna University of Technology. The post is for an appointment of up to 24 months and is available from January 2012.

Applicants should have (or shortly expect to receive) a PhD in Mathematics, Computer Science or a closely related field, a strong background in structural proof theory, nonclassical logics, and, preferably, knowledge of universal algebra or complexity theory. Ability to work independently but also with academic colleagues and PhD students, flexibility and teamwork, are all important qualifications for this position.

Further particulars, including details of how to apply, are available from: Potential applicants are also welcome to send informal inquiries to Agata Ciabattoni ( The closing date for applications is Thursday, December 1st 2011.

Four Experimental Studies on Vagueness

Submitted by Richard Zach on Sat, 11/12/2011 - 2:32pm

Phil Serchuk's paper (with Ian Hargreaves and me) describing some experimental philosophy of logic he did when he was writing his undergrad thesis with me back in '05 is now out in Mind and Language.  It's a response to a 1999 paper by Tim Williamson together with psychologists Bonini, Osherson, and Viale, and we also have something to say about Brian Weatherson's "True, Truer, Truest" paper.

Although arguments for and against competing theories of vagueness often appeal to claims about the use of vague predicates by ordinary speakers, such claims are rarely tested. An exception is Bonini et al. (1999), who report empirical results on the use of vague predicates by Italian speakers, and take the results to count in favor of epistemicism. Yet several methodological difficulties mar their experiments; we outline these problems and devise revised experiments that do not show the same results. We then describe three additional empirical studies that investigate further claims in the literature on vagueness: the hypothesis that speakers confuse ‘P’ with ‘definitely P’, the relative persuasiveness of different formulations of the inductive premise of the Sorites, and the interaction of vague predicates with three different forms of negation.

If you don't have access, I will gladly send you an electronic offprint -- just email me. 

Creath on Logical Empiricism in the SEP

Submitted by Richard Zach on Sat, 04/16/2011 - 9:21pm

My "boss" on the Carnap Edition project, Richard Creath, has a new entry on Logical Empiricism for the Stanford Encyclopedia.

E. E. C. Jones in the SEP

Submitted by Richard Zach on Sat, 03/26/2011 - 6:25pm

Everyone should read this new entry in the SEP

Emily Elizabeth Constance Jones (1848–1922), a contemporary of Bertrand Russell and G. E. Moore at Cambridge University, worked primarily in philosophical logic and ethics. Her most significant contribution to the former area is her application of the intension-extension distinction to singular terms, anticipating Frege's related distinction between sense and reference and Russell's pre-“On Denoting” distinction between meaning and denotation. Widely regarded as an authority on philosophical logic by figures as diverse as F. C. S. Schiller and G. F. Stout on the one hand and C. S. Pierce on the other … Russell delivered a paper to the Moral Sciences Club, subsequently published as “Knowledge by Acquaintance and Knowledge by Description”, responding to a critical paper by Jones, delivered to the same society some months earlier. Jones also published in ethics, and was regarded by Henry Sidgwick, her mentor, as one of his prize students. Yet, despite the fact that she published numerous articles, a monograph and several textbooks (some going into multiple editions), and was a very visible member of the English philosophical community from the 1890s until her death in 1922, she is now almost entirely forgotten.

Next time I'm teaching history of analytic philosophy, I'll assign Jones (and Stebbing).  Not sure why I didn't do it this year: I did assign Russell's "Knowledge by acquaintance" after all!

Jones was not the only woman contributing to philosophical logic and related areas at the beginning of the twentieth century: Pierce's student, Christine Ladd-Franklin (1847-1930) made significant contributions to logic and psychology, and the writings of Lady Victoria Welby (1837–1912) on meaning were widely read. … Later figures include the philosopher of science, Dorothy Wrinch (1894–1976), a Girton student who went on to study under Russell, and Susanne Langer (1895–1985), who wrote a dissertation under Alfred North Whitehead at Radcliff in 1926. Wrinch, who published papers in Mind on, among other things, the theory of relativity, later abandoned philosophy for chemistry, teaching for many years at Smith College. Langer, who later achieved prominence in the philosophy of art, published several technical articles on type theory and related topics early in her career (see, for example, Langer 1926, 1927). Possibly the most prominent woman analytic philosopher of the first half of the twentieth century, however, was another Girton student, L. Susan Stebbing (1885–1943), Professor of Philosophy at Bedford College, London, and co-founder of the journal Analysis.

Postdoc in Logic/Philosophy of Science at Calgary

Submitted by Richard Zach on Fri, 03/18/2011 - 2:17pm

The Department of Philosophy at the University of Calgary invites applications for a one-year postdoctoral fellowship starting on September 1, 2011. The area of specialization is logic or the philosophy of science. The fellow will be expected to have a well-defined research project, teach one course in the area of specialization, and participate in the research activities of the Department. All requirements for the PhD must have been completed by the starting date and no earlier than September 2007. The stipend is $50,000 Canadian per year.

Specific inquiries about this position may be directed to:

Ali Kazmi, Head
Department of Philosophy
University of Calgary

Complete dossiers, including a cv, at least three letters of reference, postgraduate transcripts, a recent sample of writing, and a detailed research proposal may be sent to:

Merlette Schnell, Manager
Department of Philosophy
University of Calgary
2500 University Drive NW
Calgary, Alberta T2N 1N4

Applications will be accepted until April 15, 2011 or until the position is filled.