Michael Zeleny (larvatus) wrote,
Michael Zeleny

california dreamin’

Royce’s excursion to Europe and the eastern U.S. fixed in his mind a decided hatred of his native state. California’s provinciality, its ruthless economics, its blind and selfish politics—everything, in fact, but its exquisite natural beauty—filled him with loathing. Compared with the cultural centers that Royce had just left, California had little to offer besides stock speculation, wheat ranching, political charades, racial warfare, and agitation. “Foundation for higher growth we sadly lack. Ideals we have none. Philistines we are in soul most thoroughly. And when we do talk, our topics of discussion are so insufferably finite!’ As a place for philosophical thought, it was execrable. “There is no philosophy in California—from Siskiyou to Ft. Yuma, and from the Golden Gate to the Summit of the Sierras, there could not be found brains enough [to] accomplish the formation of a single respectable idea that was not a manifest plagiarism. Hence the atmosphere for the study of metaphysics is bad, and I wish I were out of it.”
—John Clendenning, The Life and Thought of Josiah Royce, Revised and Expanded Edition, Vanderbilt University Press, 1999, p. 74

The word “logic”, fortunately or unfortunately, rings with varied overtones not all of which are in harmony. One ear may be deaf to what excites another, and great care must be taken in claiming that the “logic” of a subject has been found or revised. As one of my undergraduate professors once told me, “When you question a man’s logic you question his taste,” which may explain the contempt of some mathematicians for logical studies. Now that there seems to be a chance for formal logic to have a wider audience, all the more care is required. Easy victories waste too much time in celebration. Formal methods should only be applied when the subject is ready for them, when conceptual clarification is sufficiently advanced. This is not to discourage experimentation—only the party giving. Modal Logic is a good example: colorful axioms have been strung up all over, but few couples are dancing. Maybe Quantum Logic is another example, but at least the mathematics being served at that party is vastly more sophisticated than the Coca-Cola of the modal logicians. Besides, those who study the foundations of quantum physics readily agree that the fight has only just begun.2 [2 A general reference is J. M. Jauch, Foundations of Quantum Mechanics (Addison-Wesley, Reading, Mass. 1968). A related discussion and some interesting new ideas have been initiated in C.H. Randall and D.J. Foulis, “An Approach to Empirical Logic”, in American Mathematical Monthly 77 (1970) pp. 363-374.] Whether, then, the claim of a carry-over for modal logic is going to be justified is to my mind a very moot point and is one of the main motivations for attempting this essay.3 [3 Reservations about modal logic, mingled with some optimism, have been expressed by George Lakoff, “Linguistics and Natural Logic”, in Semantics of Natural Language, ed. by D. Davidson and G. Harman (D. Reidel Publishing Company, Dordrecht, Holland 1972) pp. 545-665. Note especially the final section of Concluding Remarks. The point about presuppositions and three-valued logic does not seem to be entirely well-taken, however, in view of van Fraassen’s well-known analysis in terms of supervaluations. This does not mean that the connections between “natural” and “formal” logic are all that clear.]
—“Background to Formalization”, Dana S. Scott, in Truth, Syntax and Modality, edited by H. Leblanc, Studies in Logic and the Foundations of Mathematics, Volume 68, 1973, pp. 244-273, at p. 245

In what important and often neglected sense are there many worlds? Let it be clear that the question here is not of the possible worlds that many of my contemporaries, especially those living near Disneyland, are busy making and manipulating. We are not speaking in terms of multiple possible alternatives to a single actual world but of multiple actual worlds. How to interpret such terms as “real”, “unreal”, “fictive”, and “possible” is a subsequent question.
—Nelson Goodman, “Words, Works, Worlds”, Erkenntnis, Volume 9 (1975), Number 1, pp. 57-73, at pp. 57-58; reprinted in Ways of Worldmaking, Hackett, 1978, p. 4

Richard Montague was a small, very dapper, compact, cufflink of a character. He was dressed in a neat blue suit, a snowy white shirt, and a matching crimson tie. We had met for drinks in mid-town Manhattan—he, Daniel Gallin, and I. His hands, I noticed, were square, the fingernails manicured and covered with a clear polish. A logician by profession, Montague had a reputation for great technical brilliance. His papers were adroit, carefully written, biting, and completely beyond the intellectual grasp of all but a handful of analytic philosophers.
    For some reason he was ill at ease that afternoon, and looked fitfully around the hotel’s bar, as if he suspected somehow that nothing was going to turn out properly. Beyond the bar, in the lobby of the hotel, there was an absurd canary cage in which a pair of yellowish birds were cheeping nervously, complaining, I am sure, about the price of drinks or room service.
    We talked of taxes and politics and How on Earth do you survive in this place—meaning New York. Then the discussion turned to mathematics and Montague cheered up. He had just commenced his research program into formal grammars and had published a series of papers of truly monstrous technicality. He liked to imagine that he and Chomsky were rivals. “There are,” he said, “two great frauds in the history of twentieth-century science. One of them is Chomsky.”
    I reached for the peanuts.
    “And the other?”
    “Albert Einstein,” Montague said decisively, glad that I had asked.
    —David Berlinski, Black Mischief: Language, Life, Logic, Luck, Mariner Books, Second Edition, 1988, pp. 139-140

Bonus links: Richard Montague’s obituary signed by Montgomery Furth, C.C. Chang, and Alonzo Church; reviews by Sacha Arnold of more or less improper treatments of Richard Montague in literary fiction, Less Than Meets the Eye by David Berlinski and The Mad Man by Samuel R. Delany, and The Semantics of Murder by Aifric Campbell.
Tags: america, california, citationalism, exceptionalism, logic, philosophy

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