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David Sosa, Chair 2210 Speedway, WAG 316, Stop C3500, Austin, TX 78712 • 512-471-4857

Josh Dever

Associate Professor PhD, University of California, Berkeley

Contact

Biography

Professor Dever works primarily in the philosophy of language and philosophical logic, with interests in the application of these fields to problems throughout core areas of philosophy. His publications include work on the principle of compositionality in formal semantics and its philosophical consequences ("Compositionality", a chapter in the Oxford Handbook of the Philosophy of Language", "Compositionality as Methodology", Linguistics and Philosophy; "Modal Fictionalism and Compositionality", Philosophical Studies) and work on the consequences of direct reference theories ("Complex Demonstratives", Linguistics and Philosophy; "Believing in Words", Synthese). His recent interests include the semantics, logic, and philosophical applications of conditionals, and foundational issues in the nature of semantic values.

Interests

Logic, philosophy of language

PHL 313Q • Logic And Scientific Reasoning

42910-42930 • Fall 2014
Meets MWF 330pm-430pm CAL 100
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This course is an introduction to the use of formal logical techniques in the analysis of arguments and texts, with an eye to the applicability of such formal techniques in the humanities, social sciences, and natural sciences. We will study formal propositional logic as a tool for extracting information from definite-information premises; modal logic as a tool for modeling reasoning situations involving multiple agents or information sources; probability and probabilistic decision theory as tools for reasoning under uncertainty; and game theory as a tool for making theoretical and practical decisions in multi-agent situations.

PHL 391 • Much Ado About Nothing

43190 • Fall 2014
Meets W 1230pm-330pm WAG 312
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Graduate Standing and consent of graduate advisor or instructor required.

Course Description

"Much Ado About Nothing"

One might have thought that negation was a simple matter: it's an operation that inverts truth values, changing the true to the false and the false to the true. But concerns about negation are surprisingly widespread across philosophy. We will start with some concerns localized in the philosophy of logic, thinking about issues that come up in the treatment of negation in some non-classical logics such as intuitionistic logic and multi-valued logic. These concerns will lead us to think about a mysterious totalizing aspect of negation: negations encompass all of the ways of making a sentence false, even if we are incapable of sketching the boundaries of these ways. We'll consider the ramifications for this totalization for the role of negation in the semantic paradoxes and for thinking about the (note: negated) notion of infinity. This will lead us to think a bit about positive and negative speech acts, metalinguistic negation, and some related questions about the role of negation in natural language semantics. From here, we'll wander into metaphysical territory, by thinking a bit about negative facts and problems of non-existence. Time permitting, we may also think some about negation-dual pairs of permission and obligation in normativity, apophatic theology, and maybe even whether the Nothing noths.

Grading Policy:

Final grade will be based on a combination of seminar participation and a final research paper.

PHL 313Q • Logic And Scientific Reasoning

43005-43010 • Fall 2013
Meets TTH 1100am-1230pm WAG 101
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Prerequisite: Admission to the Plan II Honors Program

Description:

This course is an introduction to the use of formal logical techniques in the analysis of arguments and texts, with an eye to the applicability of such formal techniques in the humanities, social sciences, and natural sciences. We will study formal propositional logic as a tool for extracting information from definite information premises; modal logic as a tool for modelling reasoning situations involving multiple agents or information sources; probability and probabilistic decision theory as tools for reasoning under uncertainty; and game theory as a tool for making theoretical and practical decisions in multi-agent situations.

Texts/Readings:

An Introduction to Non-Classical Logic, Graham Priest

An Introduction to Decision Theory, Martin Peterson

Assignments:

Your grade in the course will be based on the following:

1. Short Problem Sets: There will be eight short problem sets assigned over the course of the semester. Each will consist of two or three problems designed to test your understanding of the current material. 5% each (for a total of 40%)

2. Long Problem Sets: There will be two longer problem sets over the course of the semester. These longer problem sets consist of substantially more difficult problems that ask you to take the concepts and techniques developed in class and apply and extend them in novel ways to a variety of logical puzzles. You should expect the long problem sets to require a significant commitment of time and mental energy.  12% each (for a total of 24%)

3. Exams: There will be two in-class exams. These exams will cover the same sort of material as is covered in the short problem sets. The exams are open-book and open-note. 16% (for a total of 32%)

4. Class Participation: Primarily, attendance of and participation in the weekly discussion section. 4%

There is no final exam for this course. Late work will not be accepted. All work should be done individually.

About the Professor:

Josh Dever received his Ph.D. in philosophy from the University of California at Berkeley in 1998. He works primarily in the philosophy of language and the philosophy of logic, and is the author of Complex Demonstratives, Compositionality as Methodology, Binding Into Character, and other works. His recent interests include the semantics, logic, and philosophical applications of conditionals, and foundational issues in the nature of semantic values. When he's not doing philosophy, he's usually reading English Renaissance drama or watching movies without plots.

PHL 383 • Semantics-Formal Epistemology

43203 • Fall 2013
Meets TH 1230pm-330pm WAG 312
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Prerequisites

Graduate standing and consent of Graduate Advisor or instructor required.

Course Description

This seminar explores the consequences of the following thought: if the best formal model for natural language semantics is as a tool for altering conversational contexts, and if conversational contexts are best modeled as bodies of mutually shared information, then formal models of language will become entangled with formal models of belief and knowledge revision. We will thus investigate various tools from formal epistemology -- we will consider primarily qualitative tools such as AGM belief revision models, but will also look at quantitative methods such as Bayesianism and Dempster-Shafer theory -- and then consider a range of natural language phenomena whose semantics might require the tools from formal epistemology, such as modals and conditionals. Along the way we will consider some puzzles from formal epistemology, such as the Sleeping Beauty paradox, and think about whether these puzzles have implications for natural language semantics, and we will consider whether puzzles in natural language semantics, such as relativism-like behaviour of epistemic modals, can teach us anything about the best ways to model rational belief updating.

Grading

Class grading will be based primarily on a final substantial research paper, and secondarily on seminar participation (including possible presentations). 

This course satisfies the M&E requirement

PHL 344K • Intermediate Symbolic Logic

42752-42754 • Spring 2013
Meets MWF 100pm-200pm WAG 302
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This course examines the interaction between formal logic and the foundations of mathematics. We will take as our centerpiece a careful examination of some of the important results of set theory, including the paradoxes of naive set the- ory and the reformulation of set theory using the Zermelo-Frankel axioms, the development of the theory of infinite cardinals and ordinals in set theory, the formal details of the iterative conception of sets, and the basic methods of prov- ing independence results in set theory. We will couple this investigation with an examination of various results in the metatheory of first order logic that bear on the foundations of math, such as the completeness and compactness theorems, the Lo ̈wenheim-Skolem theorems, and the Go ̈del incompleteness theorems. 

PHL 391 • Philosophy Of Set Theory

42758 • Fall 2012
Meets W 330pm-630pm WAG 312
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Prerequisites

Graduate Standing and Consent of Graduate Advisor or instructor required.

 

Course Description

This seminar is an overview of major philosophical and mathematical issues in set theory. We will cover the core mathematical results in set theory, including the standard ZFC axiomatization, the development of the theory of ordinals and cardinals, the metamathematics of simple relative consistency results, and the use of inner models in proving the consistency of the axiom of choice and the generalized continuum hypothesis with ZFC. At the same time, we will trace important philosophical issues in set theory. These may include, but are not limited to, reactions to the paradoxes of naive set theory (including the use of non-clasdical logics to avoid those paradoxes), the development of alternative conceptions of the set-theoretic universe such as the "limitation of size" model and the "iterative hierarchy" model, the dispute between predicative and non-predicative mathematics, the nature of non-foundational sets, the metaphysics of sets and the Lewisian mereology-plus-megethology conception, and the role and status of large cardinal hypotheses. We will inter alia pay some attention to the historical development of views on set theory and its place in math, logic, and philosophy.

 

Grading

Grading will be based on class participation and a substantial final paper

 

Texts

Our two central texts will be Michael Potter's Set Theory and Its Philosophy and

Ken Kunen's Set Theory: An Introduction to Independence Proofs

 

PHL 391 • Perspectivality

42740 • Spring 2012
Meets TH 500pm-800pm WAG 316
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Graduate Standing and Consent of Graduate Advisor or Instructor required.

Description:

 Bert and Ernie are both in the forest. A bear rears threateningly before Bert, while Ernie stands at a distance with a gun. Bert and Ernie have all the same objective information about the world. They both know about the bear, about the tree to Bert's left, about Ernie's gun. Bert and Ernie also have all the same objective desires. Both, in particular, desire that Bert not be eaten by a bear. Yet they do, and ought to do, different things. Bert climbs, and ought to climb, the tree; Ernie shoots, and ought to shoot, the bear. If actions are caused and rationalized by beliefs and desires, this is a puzzle.One solution to the puzzle is to hold that Bert and Ernie, while having all of the same objective information, differ in their perspectival information. Bert and Ernie both know that there is a bear before Bert. But only Bert knows the first-personal fact that there is a bear before *him*. Pursuing this solution entails a commitment to producing a theory of perspectival information. In this seminar, we will examine various models for perspectival content (Fregeanism, centered worlds contents, relativist contents) and various philosophical desiderata for an adequate theory of perspectivality. Issues in language, mind, action, epistemology, perception, and metaphysics will interact in these desiderata.

Grading Policy: 

A final research-level paper

 

Texts: 

Selected Papers

 

 

PHL 344K • Intermediate Symbolic Logic

43075 • Spring 2011
Meets TTH 930am-1100am GAR 0.120
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This course examines the interaction between formal logic and the foundations of mathematics. We will take as our centerpiece a careful examination of some of the important results of set theory, including the paradoxes of naive set the- ory and the reformulation of set theory using the Zermelo-Frankel axioms, the development of the theory of infinite cardinals and ordinals in set theory, the formal details of the iterative conception of sets, and the basic methods of prov- ing independence results in set theory. We will couple this investigation with an examination of various results in the metatheory of first order logic that bear on the foundations of math, such as the completeness and compactness theorems, the Lo ̈wenheim-Skolem theorems, and the Go ̈del incompleteness theorems. 

PHL 380 • Direct Refrnc Wars: Retrospctv

42555 • Fall 2010
Meets TH 330pm-630pm WAG 312
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Prerequisites

Graduate Standing and Consent of Graduate Advisor required.

Course Description

I am a child of the direct reference wars. I saw the best minds of my generation destroyed by propositional attitude contexts, starved for epistemic transparency, dragging themselves through hyperintensionality looking for a Fregean Sinn.

In the wake of Kripke's Naming and Necessity, philosophy of language in the 1980s and 1990s was dominated by the dispute between direct reference theorists and Fregeans on the reference of proper names. An apparently narrow question in the semantics of natural languages expanded into an issue that had ramifications in epistemology, philosophy of mind and action, and metaphysics. In the last decade or so, the direct reference wars have died down in philosophy of language, although offshoots of the conflict have sprung up in related subdisciplines. In this seminar, we will consider the question: what did we learn from the direct reference wars? A variety of putative lessons will be considered -- some will be accepted, some rejected, and some accepted only after substantial modification. Issues will include the connection between propositional attitudes and the explanation of action, the role of the principle of compositionality in formal semantics, the question of whether there is a level of mental experience that is epistemically transparent, the relation between thought and language, the nature of fictional and non-existent objects, and the interaction between semantics and meta-semantics.

Grading

Grading will be based on seminar discussion participation and on a final research paper.

Texts

Salmon, Frege's Puzzle
Soames, Beyond Rigidity
+ various articles

 

PHL 391 • Modal Logic

42593 • Fall 2010
Meets M 1200pm-300pm WAG 312
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Prerequisites:

Graduate Standing and Consent of Graduate Advisor required.

Course Description: A survey of major formal results in modal logic.

Topics include: the modal system K and its extensions; frame definitions of modal systems; frame completeness proofs; bisimulations and ultrafilter extensions; sahlqvist formulas; frame incompleteness; algebraic semantics; and quantified modal logic.

Text:

Blackburn, de Rijke, and Venema: Modal Logic

PHL 384F • First-Year Seminar

43505 • Fall 2009
Meets M 500pm-800pm WAG 210
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Prerequisites

 

This course is restricted to first year graduate students in philosophy

 

 

PHL 344K • Intermediate Symbolic Logic

42440 • Spring 2009
Meets MWF 1200-100pm WAG 302
show description

This course examines the interaction between formal logic and the foundations of mathematics. We will take as our centerpiece a careful examination of some of the important results of set theory, including the paradoxes of naive set the- ory and the reformulation of set theory using the Zermelo-Frankel axioms, the development of the theory of infinite cardinals and ordinals in set theory, the formal details of the iterative conception of sets, and the basic methods of prov- ing independence results in set theory. We will couple this investigation with an examination of various results in the metatheory of first order logic that bear on the foundations of math, such as the completeness and compactness theorems, the Lo ̈wenheim-Skolem theorems, and the Go ̈del incompleteness theorems. 

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