Asking another philosopher

I’ve admired the Ask Philosophers site for a while. The concept seems a brilliant one. And I’ve been much impressed by the quality of many of the responses from philosophers (not least, of course, from the sadly missed Peter Lipton) to the often inchoate questions sent in.

I was therefore genuinely pleased/flattered to get an email out of the blue a couple of days ago, asking if I’d like to join the panel of philosophers who contribute. So I said I’d be more than happy to give it a go (yes, yes, of course I need another excuse to procrastinate). You can see how I’m doing in my first three efforts here. I guess it will take me a while to hit the right note.

Talking of hitting the right note, you’d think, after decades of practice, I’d have nailed the business of giving intro logic lectures. But not so. I gave the last one of my course of 24 today — a quick resume of where we’ve been (including a snappy outline of soundness/completeness for propositional trees), then a quick gesture at other ways of doing elementary logic (natural deduction), and pointers forward motivating second-year topics like modal logic and intuitionism. It was pretty action-packed and lively, though I say so myself, so it was very nice that the lectures finished on a high note and applause. But hacking through some of the stuff in the middle of the course wasn’t so much fun this time around. Teaching someone else’s textbook, you can fill up lectures enthusiastically “doing it better” (by your own lights). Teaching a book that you are in the middle of writing, you can explore to see what works well, and get immensely useful feedback on the drafts. But teaching my own textbook after publication, a book which isn’t yet old enough for me to be wanting to do things very differently, is quite a bit trickier to get right, and this year I didn’t. Oh well, roll on next academic year, and another shot at it!

Meanwhile, I’ve only seminars to give for the rest of this term, and then nothing until October as I’m on leave in the Easter term. Great. But I really must settle on what big project to take on next … Watch this space.

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