[FOM] math/phil culture

Kenny Easwaran easwaran at berkeley.edu
Mon May 5 15:16:34 EDT 2008

> THESIS. Major Mathematical Philosophy and Major Philosophical
> Mathematics represent the only current hope for any kind of
> intellectual reconciliation between Core Mathematicians and Core
> Philosophers. Yet Mathematical Philosophy and Philosophical
> Mathematics are both shunned by both the Core Mathematicians and the
> Core Philosophers.

It may be true that philosophical mathematics is shunned by core
mathematicians.  However, I don't think it's true that mathematical
philosophy is shunned by core philosophers.  There are certainly some
core philosophers that shun mathematical philosophy, but people like
Hartry Field and Timothy Williamson are considered very important
philosophers by almost everyone in the philosophical community,
despite the fact that much of their major work is mathematical.  (But
perhaps Harvey Friedman means something more mathematical by
"Mathematical Philosophy"?)

> I am now expecting a deep freeze where Major Mathematical Philosophy
> and Major Philosophical Mathematics is going to become professional
> extinct - in the sense that no longer can one gain a permanent
> academic position on the basis of even Major Mathematical Philosophy
> and Major Philosophical Mathematics.

Again, while this may be true in mathematics, I think it is not true
in philosophy.  Just this year, new PhD's in philosophy whose work is
to some extent mathematical got tenure track jobs at Wisconsin,
Berkeley, Wash U, UNC, USC, UConn, NYU, and Michigan, and probably
other places as well.  This year may have been a particularly good one
for people working in formal areas, and it's true that only one or two
of those people really focus on logic, but at any rate, it does
suggest a situation that is somewhat healthier for logic in philosophy
departments than in mathematics departments, where anecdotal
information suggests that there are only a few departments that will
hire logicians.  However, I can't venture to say whether any of these
people "generally produce intellectually major results about
intellectually major issues", so I don't really know how much of this
list is relevant to Harvey Friedman's points.

Kenny Easwaran

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