It’s that time again when the weekend papers are full of their lists of books of the year. I have to say that so many recommendations sound frankly quite unappealing — surely, there’s a lot of literary virtue-signalling going on! — but that still leaves me wanting to read more than I will ever have time to get round to. But one book (perhaps not exactly a philosophy book but certainly of philosophical interest) which has been warmly recommended a number of times is Sarah Bakewell’s At the Existentialist Café: Freedom, Being and Apricot Cocktails. I loved Bakewell’s book on Montaigne, How to Live. So, overcoming my analytical prejudices, I’ve just bought her new new book on Sartre and company as a holiday read. I’ll let you know what I think!
But what about logic books this year (or come to that, books on philosophical logic, philosophy of maths, or other topics broadly related to logic matters)? I have bought a number of older books in the last twelve months, but my haul of recent publications in logic, even broadly construed, seems to have been very modest. I’ve mentioned here two collections of essays, the Cambridge Companion to Medieval Logic, edited by Catarina Dutilh Novaes and Stephen Read (not quite what I’d hoped for) and Kurt Gödel, Philosopher-Scientist, edited by Gabriella Crocco and Eva-Maria Engelen (a very mixed bag, and pretty disappointing). But I balked at the price of another collection, Gödel’s Disjunction, edited by Leon Horsten and Philip Welch, as the papers again looked likely to be a pretty mixed bag: so I can’t comment on that. The only logic monograph I bought was the significantly expanded second edition of Alex Oliver and Tim Smiley’s Plural Logic. Otherwise, my purchases seem to have been more skewed towards pure mathematics — the most accessible and fun read being Barry Mazur and William Stein’s Prime Numbers and the Riemann Hypothesis.
So I’m not really in a position to recommend a logic (etc.) Book of the Year. All suggestions about what I’ve been missing out on will therefore be very welcome!
Update. I guess I should have mentioned the second edition of Hartry Field’s Science Without Numbers as of interest for its new fifty-page preface. But with this post now having already been read well over 800 times and with a dearth of new suggestions offered, perhaps my impression that 2016 hasn’t been a rich year for new books on logic/philosophy of maths is right!
Some wonderful sunny days. Flights to Pisa and hotels in Florence both have enough spaces in December to risk last minute bookings when you’ve seen the weather forecast — but that’s not our way: so this has been sheer good luck. So we took advantage of the blue skies to “do” the Roman site at Fiesole — which perhaps in itself isn’t very exciting, but which does have a very attractively presented small archeological museum which is certainly worth the bus-trip up from Florence.
However, it’s not been all galleries, churches and sites. A certain amount of rather terrific food and drink has been consumed (for mid-culture sustenance, there is Eataly: and after a tough day we can recommend again Olio e Convivium, and Il Santo Bevitore, and a new discovery Il Desco). None will break the bank. And it is a tad depressing that a place as rich and cosmopolitan as Cambridge hasn’t anywhere to touch them.
But no, I shouldn’t say that’s “depressing” even in jest. What’s depressing is the evolving ghastly political news from America. And the continuing profoundly damaging mess that Brexit looks certain to be, thoughts of which are bound to nag away as you wander the side streets of old Europe.
Back to Florence for five days. Lovely in the winter sun. Does it perhaps seems a little busier with groups of Chinese tourists than this time last year? But of course there are still nothing like the dire crowds of summer. One high point has been seeing the restructured Botticelli rooms in the Uffizi which were opened in mid October. The improvement on the familiar Room 10-14 is simply stunning. The old large square room has been partially divided, to make more wall space. So now the Birth of Venus and Primavera are both beautifully isolated and quite wonderfully well lit too. They can never have looked better.
Here though is a painting from the Uffizi that we’d never noticed before, the Madonna of the Well (c. 1510). Not Raphael as you might think at a first glance, but by one Francesco Cristofano Guidicis, known as Franciabigio. Lovely though.
I have just heard that CUP are definitely going to offer me a contract for a shiny new edition of my Introduction to Formal Logic.
If the press had never mentioned the idea, I would have probably never taken a hard look at the book again (since I’m no longer teaching from it, and haven’t done for six years) and so I would not have fretted about it. But once the seed was sown of the idea of a new edition, I of course found myself re-reading the book with a critical eye. Not very happy with what I found! And so then, of course, I did indeed want to try to do a better job. Hence I’m very relieved and pleased that I will get the chance.
Update. I posted a couple of chapters, just 22 pages, hot off the laptop, from a bit later in the draft second edition of my Intro to Formal Logic about the material conditional. I’m now a little unhappy with them, and CUP are unhappy about me posting too much from the book here. So I have now removed the chapters. Comments from early downloaders still most welcome.
Thanks to Sara Uckelman for the pointer to this. Any other recommendations for similar or even better resources?
There’s no getting away from it. You know perfectly well you can’t try to optimize a book — that way madness lies (or at least, never finishing). You know perfectly well you have to satisfice. But that is oh so unsatisfying. When I had to finish books for work reasons, I gritted my teeth and let stuff go. Now I’m retired, it’s more difficult not to keep on keeping on editing and (hopefully) improving. I need a contract settled for the second edition of IFL to concentrate the mind. But CUP’s wheels are grinding slowly (fingers crossed that that isn’t a bad sign), and so are mine.
Updated: link to draft chapters removed.
A second, paperback, edition of Plural Logic by Alex Oliver and Timothy Smiley is now out from OUP. As the cover says, it is ‘Revised and Enlarged’ – in fact it is almost fifty pages longer, with some new sections and a whole new chapter on Higher-Level Plural Logic. So you should certainly make sure that your library gets a copy.
I did read and comment on a version of the original edition pre-publication. But that was not at a good time for me, and I remember much less detail than I should: so I really want now to re-read the book. One reasons is that, in reworking my Introduction to Formal Logic, I want to excise unnecessary set talk, e.g. when giving the semantics of QL. So I want to remind myself how Oliver and Smiley handle this. And there is also a tenuous potential connection too between thinking about plurals and another interest, my on-the-back-burner introductory discussion of category theory. For I need to think through how far we can get in elementary category theory by conceiving of categories plurally rather than as set-like, thereby avoiding certain problems of ‘size’ hitting us too soon.
Congratulations to sometime Cambridge student Emily Riehl, now at Johns Hopkins. Her very illuminating lecture notes, aimed at beginners in category theory (albeit mathematically perhaps rather sophisticated beginners) have become a book, Category Theory in Context, published in a new series of ‘Modern Math Originals’ by Dover Books. This is available now in the US, and at the end of the year in the UK.
There has been a link to Emily Riehl’s evolving notes on the category theory page here for a couple of years, and the publishers have kindly allowed her to continue to host a free PDF copy of the book. So you can take a look already if you don’t know her work — but at this low price, it will be really nice to have a paper copy (and of course, tell your library).
Raphael, La belle jardinière, 1507
So, as it happened, we left for Paris on the day of the Presidential Election, and woke up in our hotel to the grim news the next morning. At least, being away from home, with so much else to distract us, we haven’t been glued to the television, internet, and newspapers as we might have been. But the result is, assuredly, a catastrophe.
Depressed by all that, we have found ourselves repeatedly seeking out balm for the soul, especially in the Louvre and the Musée d’Orsay. Here’s just one painting that I find particularly affecting. (Almost no one stops to look at it as the crowds push past into the adjoining room with the Mona Lisa — yet wouldn’t you rather live with the Raphael, if you could?)
Paris has been rainy and cold — thank heavens for the wonderful Metro! — but still as beautiful as ever.