Seth Kurtenbach is pursuing his PhD in computer science at the University of Missouri. His current research focuses on the application of formal logic to questions about knowledge and rationality. He has his Master’s degree in philosophy from the University of Missouri, and is growing an epic beard in order to maintain his philosophical powers. You can email Seth at Seth.Kurtenbach@gmail.com or follow him on Twitter: @SJKur.
If you watch the first minute of this video clip you'll see Penn Jillette perform a logic trick. I greatly respect his ability to point out the tricks magicians use to fool people. As a logician, I'd like to follow his lead and point out the trick he has used here. He claims that if you're an agnostic, then you (pretty much) don't believe in God. That is, he claims agnosticism implies atheism.
A month ago, Bangladesh was barely on my radar. I think I may have encountered a few Facebook pictures with the relevant information. You know, human rights violations, Islamists being violent, and irrational. I'm sad to say that I've grown desensitized to the topic. Nothing they do surprises me anymore. There is no tragedy beyond their capabilities. If it is horrific, they have probably done it, and probably to children. But when I saw the call for a global protest about the atheist bloggers, some passion within me lit up. So we protested in Columbia, Missouri, USA, pissed and loud about the human rights violations in Bangladesh.
Forty-three years ago some engineers received an urgent assignment: Square a circle, with nothing but duct tape, a hose, a plastic bag, and some paper. Was it some kind of joke? Maybe it had something to do with engineers cutting corners and breaking the rules of math to achieve pragmatic effects. Very funny, mathematicians, very funny! But that wasn’t it at all. They had to square that circle, or else people would die. They were engineers, so they made it work.
Philosophical writing was the hardest skill I had to develop in undergrad. This is because philosophical writing is really just the product of philosophical thinking, and philosophical thinking is really hard. I was a philosophy major, so I developed my ability gradually, over the course of several semesters. Many non-majors don't have this luxury. They must quickly learn to write philosophically in order to meet the humanities requirement and pass the introductory philosophy course. The end of the semester approaches, so I thought I'd give some pointers on how to write a philosophy paper at the last minute. Maybe this will help some people develop that skill more quickly.
Welcome back. Last time we looked at how logicians decided they wanted to unlock the secrets of mathematicians: Proving Shit. We saw how natural deduction is one of the easier ways logicians model the rigorous deductive reasoning that goes into a mathematical proof, and we played around with it. Natural deduction allows us to prove that a valid argument is valid, but we were left wondering how we could prove that an invalid argument is invalid. After all, half the fun of arguing with someone is pointing out that their reasoning is flawed. The other half is feeling all serious and philosophical.