Keith Douglas' Web Page

About me Find out who I am and what I do.
My resumé A copy of my resumé and other documentation about my education and work experience for employers and the curious.
Reviews, theses, articles, presentations A collection of papers from my work, categorized and annotated.
Current research projects What I am currently working on, including some non-research material.
Interesting people People professionally "connected" to me in some way.
Interesting organizations Organizations I am "connected" to. (Some rather loosely.)
Intellectual/professional influences Influences on my work, including an organization chart. Here you can also buy many good books on philosophy and other subjects via amazon.com. I have included brief reviews of hundreds of books.
Professional resources Research sources, amazon.com associates programs, etc.
What is the philosophy of computing? A brief introduction to my primary professional interest.
My intellectual heroes A partial list of important people. Limited to the dead.
My educational philosophy As a sometime teacher I've developed one. Includes book resources.

Book Influences - Philosophy: Collections

Title
Author
Purchase / Enjoy Cover
Comment
Canadian Philosophers Copp A volume commemorating an aniversary of the Canadian Journal of Philosophy. Includes a wide range of papers of uniform fairly high quality. Included are works in mereology, philosophy of neuroscience, history of philosophy and others.
In the Agora: The Public Face of Canadian Philosophy Irvine and Russell (eds.) This pleasant little volume contains articles, popular press pieces and specially solicited work by Canadian philosophers. Included are such well known figures as Paul and Patricia Churchland, David Gauthier, Will Kymlicka and Charles Taylor. The brief size of many of the pieces allows for a large number of them to be included: 94 on 12 different subjects. These 12 subjects range from "Science and the Environment" to "The Changing University".
Masses of Formal Philosophy Hendricks and Symons (eds.) A collection of 18 interviews with some philosophers about why they are into "formal" ("exact", in Bunge's pioneering terminology) philosophy. It is interesting to see how many of them are also into interdisciplinarity. (Exact methods are of course a useful tool in that respect as well.)
Modalities: Philosophical Essays Barcan Marcus An edited collection (by the author herself) of papers on various philosophical topics including logic, metaphysics, ethics and the history of philosophy. These show that having an exact turn of mind can be useful in many areas of philosophy and not logic and such narrowly. All are introduced and "remembered", as well as cross-referenced. Would be good as an introduction to exact ("formal") philosophy for students, except for its price.
Philosophic Fragments Di Giovanni  

A collection of student papers for which I was one of the editorial board members.

Peanuts Philosophers Schulz Small size and very little content make for one really brief collection. Nevertheless there are a few mild amusements in this work.
Problems and Projects Goodman Goodman's colletion includes papers in philosophy of art, philosophy of science, semantics, metaphilosophy, metaphysics and other branches of philosophy. Includes helpful introductions to each section and updated references and recommended reading.
Putting Philosophy to Work: Inquiry and Its Place in Culture Haack A slim collection of short papers on epistemology, philosophy of science, philosophy of law, philosophy of literature, history of philosophy and other subjects. As usual, Haack is clear and makes many sensible, often overlooked, distinctions. As is also usual, I think she oversells the "common sense" nature of science and the bit about lack of scientific method.
Reason, Truth and History Putnam This is a famous series of interrelated papers first given as lectures by one of the most important of contemporary philosophers. In it are discussions of realism, reference, the mind-body problem, the nature of rationality, ethics, and other topics in passing. I do have substantial disagreement in one area (the question of scientific realism) which I understand has now been repudiated by Putnam anyhow, and one area of large agreement - the metaethical issues discussed. I too find it useful to distinguish objective vs. subjectivist relativisms here. (In a weak sense I also agree that there is something to the idea that there is objective relativism in scientific epistemology, as well.) Amongst the most famous discussions, however, are some of the "twin earth" thought experiments. It occurred to me while thinking through these once (prior to reading this collection): how do we know that thought experiments do not go astray due to the ex falso quodlibet sequitur principle? (Putnam's Twin Earth is nomologically impossible.) This is related to the question of inconsistent reasoning, a topic addressed by some work in paraconsistent logic. I thus have recommended this question to my friend and former classmate, Audrey Yap. I do not know if she's done anything with it.
The Chomsky Reader Chomsky, edited by Peck A collection of papers, talk transcripts and book exerpts from someone who has been called the most important intellectual alive. However, this collection is primarily Chomsky's political writings. For his other interests (linguistics, philosophy of mind, etc.) one has to go elsewhere for a more substantive collection. That said, this has papers on many major areas of world conflict and despite being 20+ years old is still, sadly, very relevant. We see many of the same sorts of imperial arrogance and the same smears of those who would question it repeated, alas. Peck's introduction is worth reading for pointing out what (unfortunately) often has to be pointed out about Chomsky's own viewpoints on the actual political or economic merits of some of the US's victims and the importance that this is usually extremely irrelevant.
The Philosophical Computer: Exploratory Essays in Philosophical Computer Modelling Grim, Mar and St. Denis (with the Group for Logic and Formal Semantics) This volume was first published in 1998, and is so no longer state of the art (especially the bundled CD-ROM!) but still illustrates three areas where philosophical investigation can be profitably mediated by computing. These areas are semantics and the theory of truth, epistemology (belief dynamics) and political philosophy (via game theory). The latter, despite my usual skepticism of game theory, is the most interesting (chaotic liar sentences are nifty, but I am not sure what the lesson is) where as showing that the spatialized prisoner's dilemna is (recursively) undecidable is an important finding. As the authors point out, rightly so in my view, the "absolute" character of this finding depends on Church's thesis, which makes it just refutable enough to be "challenging".
The Philosophy of Information Floridi

This is not exactly a collection in the sense that some of the other works referenced on this page are. However, it is difficult to extract a more general topic (other than, perhaps, metaphilosophy) for this long, dense and difficult volume.

Pros:

  • Novel
  • Reasonably clear
  • Unexpectedly popular at least in the philosophy of computing circles (though I cannot really understand why)
  • Tackles wide variety of topics (e.g. realism, the Gettier problem, theories of truth, semantics, epistemic relevance etc.)
  • Particularly interesting, though ultimately unsuccessful, is his attempt to show digital ontology (i.e. the hypothesis that the universe is fundamentally discrete) as otiose or unnecessary. It, alas, lapses into a form of (pseudo-Kantian) verificationism. What if our best physics theories did indeed postulate that the universe was not continuous in the relevant respects? After all, why do we believe that electric charge isn't? What is most valuable about this chapter is the insistence that the position in question ought to be distinguished from that of pancomputationalism.

Cons:

  • Although the book has what one might call "formal unity", it is still unclear how the "information" notions are actually doing any work. I cannot for the life of me see what the scope of the proposed area of research is. If the title and the first chapters defended "Philosophy and Information" as the research program, I would be a little happier.
  • In particular, many of the introductions of computing (and category theory!) terminology strikes one as gratuitous. To be fair, not all of it is: the last few chapters make use of some OOP principles which don't seem so out of place.
  • I'm not sure (as is usual) structuralism works: Floridi claims that his approach needs minimal differences in things (period). Fair enough (and one is reminded of Hao Wang's remark that the theory of identity is epistemically prior to that of almost anything and, of course, Fraggle Rock and Roald Hoffmann ...), and this seems more plausible than structuralism without the structured. Yet ...
  • More crucially, a lot of work is done by one place predicates. We've known for a long time that theories which rely too much on this in certain ways are brittle or worse due to variable polyadicity (recall, e.g., Davidson vs. Kenny on "the logical form of action sentences".)
  • Investigating more properties of the "logic of information" is necessary.
  • Prima facie, the various (Floridi does not acknowledge Bunge's typology of 11 notions (?) of information here) notions of information have little to do with each other. Floridi intends to use many of them, and rightly distinguishes them. Yet it is unclear how they relate (though I understand his A Very Short Introduction does better here) : surely we ought not study the notions togther merely because the word is in common.
The Simpsons and Philosophy: The D'oh! of Homer Irwin

A decent, but not that good collection of papers on the obvious subject. Might be useful to entice undergraduates and to look good on the shelf snuck in between conference procedings.

The XMas Files: The Philosophy of Christmas Law

There's nothing terribly bad about this book - uses the Christmas holiday as an excuse to talk about evidence, theism, lying and other popular philosophical topics. Not that deep when all is said and done, but I have nothing against this sort of popular stuff (other than people getting misled into thinking this is the sort of book philosophers work on all the time). At least it is isn't endless ruminations about useless stuff, like wondering about Russell's teapot in orbit around Jupiter.

Truth and Other Engimas Dummett Dummett is one of the highest regarded self-called "analytic" philosophers. To him this means that philosophy of language is the central subfield of the discipline and that analysis of what he calls "thought" by means of language is the essential activities. Even though I regard these characteristics as dangerous metaphilosophical mistakes, the collection of essays (dated from the 50s to the 70s) by Dummett is nevertheless worth reading for its breadth and interlocking themes. Addressed are (in addition to the nature of philosophical inquiry, alluded to previously) philosophy of language, metaphysics, logic, philosophy of mathematics, as well as historical work on Wittgenstein and especially Frege. The latter is clearly Dummett's strongest influence.

 

Finished with this section? Go back to the list of book subjects here.