Annual Logic Lecture

Every year in the Spring term, the UConn Logic Group hosts a Scholar of Consequence. The Scholar delivers the Annual Logic Lecture, which is open to the public, and over the course of a few days engages in various working sessions with the members of the Group.


2016/2017: Manfred Krifka, Professor of General Linguistics at the Humboldt University of Berlin, and Director of the Center for General Linguistics.

Conditional Assertions in Commitment Space Semantics

Time: 31 Mar, 2017, 2:00pm-3:30pm

Location: Oak Hall 102

Abstract: There are two fundamentally different ways to understand conditional clauses: as assertions of conditional propositions (it is asserted that if p, then q), or as conditional assertions of propositions (if p, then it q is asserted). The first approach is prominent in linguistic semantics (Stalnaker, Lewis, Kratzer, von Fintel), and sophisticated theories have been developed to represent their meaning compositionally. But there are compelling arguments for the second (e.g., Dudman, Barker, Edgington; also Stalnaker, 2009), like the constraints for embedding conditionals under negation and disjunction, or the existence of non-assertive conditionals. In this talk I will propose an analysis of conditionals within dynamic semantics (cf. Heim, Veltman, Kaufmann, Starr for such approaches), in particular within the framework of Commitment Space Semantics (Cohen & Krifka 2014, Krifka 2015). CSS has a notion of common ground (called commitment space) that does not only assume a body of shared information, but also has a projective component indicating the various ways how the common ground may develop in the future. An indicative conditional does not affect the currently shared information in the narrow sense, but also its future development; the assertion of the conditional if p then q changes a commitment space so that whenever p holds in future developments, q is asserted. I will show that this modelling of conditionals predicts that conditionals cannot be negated or disjoined in a straightforward way, and that it allows for non-assertive conditionals, like conditional questions. I will also discuss counterfactual conditionals and argue that their “fake” past tense (Iatridou) can be understood as the process of going back to a hypothetical past information state in which the protasis p could still be consistently assumed.


2015/2016: Timothy Williamson, University of Oxford.

What if the impossible happened?

Time: 24 Mar, 2016, 4:00pm-6:00pm

Location: Class of 1947 room (Babbidge Library)

Abstract: If 5+7 had turned out to be 13, everyone would have danced in the streets with joy.” That conditional is true according to standard theories of conditionals, simply because it is impossible for 5 + 7 to turn out to be 13. Many philosophers regard such consequences as obviously wrong. I will explain why significant issues are at stake in this dispute, how our judgments about such matters may be misled by fallible heuristics, and why the standard view may be right after all.


2014/2015: Stephen G. Simpson, Pennsylvanie State University.

Potential versus actual infinity: insights from reverse mathematics

Time: 3 Apr, 2:30pm-4:30pm

Location: Class of 1947 room (Babbidge Library)

Abstract: (PDF version with references) In the philosophy of mathematics, there is a crucial distinction between potential infinity and actual infinity. This distinction gives rise to four contrasting viewpoints: ultrafinitism, finitism, predicativism, and infinitism. I am convinced that of these four, finitism is the most objective. This conviction heightens the importance of Hilbert’s program of finitistic reductionism. Some relevant formal systems are PRA, WKL0, IR, ATR0, and ZFC. Foundational research over several decades has revealed that large parts of contemporary mathematics, including the applicable parts, can be formalized in systems such as WKL0 which are finitistically reducible. This seems to provide a possible outline for an objective justification of much of contemporary mathematics.


2013/2014: Chris Barker, New York University.

The Logic of Scope

Time: 28 Mar, 1:30pm-3:30pm

Location: Class of 1947 room (Babbidge Library)

Abstract: Scope-taking is one of the most dramatic, as well as one of the most characteristic, phenomena in natural language. In scope-taking, a deeply embedded constituent controls (take scope over) the interpretation of surrounding material. For instance, when we gloss the sentence “Mary called everyone yesterday” as `for every person x, Mary called x yesterday’, we are claiming that the embedded direct object “everyone” controls the interpretation of the entire surrounding sentence.

50 years ago, Lambek provided a substructural logic called NL for reasoning about ordinary function-argument combination (`merge’) in natural language. He analyzed argument\function combination and function/argument combination as the left and right adjoints of string concatenation. In Linear Logic terms, his merge is a (noncommutative) multiplicative conjunction (tensor).

In order to extend Lambek’s logic to scope-taking, we need to residuate not on concatenation, but on the part-whole relation. The adjoints then are subpart\whole and whole/subpart. This characterizes a syntactic relationship not of left or right adjacency, but of being-surrounded-by, and of surrounding—exactly what is needed for characterizing scope-taking.

I will present a substructural logic called NL_lambda in which the relationship between the merge mode and the scope-taking mode is characterized by a single structural inference rule. Reporting on joint work with Chung-chieh Shan, I will show that the logic is sound and complete with respect to the usual class of relational models. I will also show that the logic is conservative with respect to Lambek’s original logic. That is, a sequent in the language of NL is a theorem in NL_lambda iff it is a theorem in NL. In addition, I will show that NL_lambda is decidable.

Illustrative applications of the logic to natural language phenomena will include not only ordinary scope-taking and scope ambiguity, but more exotic phenomena such the parasitic scope analysis for words such as “same” and “different”.


2012/2013: Stewart Shapiro, Ohio State University.

The classical continuum without points

Time: 14 Mar, 4pm-5:30pm

Location: Manchester 227

Abstract: We develop a point-free construction of the classical one-dimensional continuum, with an interval structure based on mereology and either a weak set theory or logic of plural quantification. In some respects this realizes ideas going back to Aristotle, although, unlike Aristotle, we make free use of contemporary actual infinity. Also, in contrast to intuitionistic analysis, Bishop’s constructive analysis, and smooth infinitesimal analysis, we follow classical analysis in allowing partitioning of our “gunky line” into mutually exclusive and exhaustive disjoint parts, thereby demonstrating the independence of “indecomposability” from a non-punctiform conception. It is surprising that such simple axioms as ours already imply the Archimedean property and the interval analogue of Dedekind completeness (least-upper-bound principle), and that they determine an isomorphism with the Dedekind-Cantor structure of R as a complete, separable, ordered field. We also present some simple topological models of our system, establishing consistency relative to classical analysis. Finally, after describing how to nominalize our theory, we close with comparisons with earlier efforts related to our own.

Relativism about logic: saying what we mean; meaning what we say

Time: 15 Mar, 2pm-4pm

Location: Class of 1947 room (Babbidge Library

Abstract: I have recently been arguing for a sort of pluralism or relativism concerning logic. The purpose of this paper is to explore the ramifications of this view concerning the meanings of logical terminology. It is a twist on the old question of whether there is a substantial disagreement between, say, classicists and intuitionists, or whether they are merely talking past each other, as they attach different meanings to the crucial logical terminology. I’d like to argue for the view that the very question of whether the meanings are the same or different is itself a context sensitive matter. It depends on what aspects of the situation are salient.


2011/2012: Jeremy Avigad, Carnegie Mellon University.

Understanding, formal verification, and the philosophy of mathematics

Time: 2 Mar, 2pm-4pm

Location: Class of 1947 room (Babbidge Library)

Abstract: The philosophy of mathematics has long been focused on determining the methods that are appropriate for justifying claims of mathematical knowledge, and the metaphysical considerations that render them so. But, as of late, many philosopher’s have called attention to the fact that a much broader range of normative judgements arise in ordinary mathematical practice; for example, questions can be interesting, theorems important, proofs explanatory, concepts powerful, and so on. The associated values are often loosely classified as aspects of “mathematical understanding”.

Meanwhile, In a branch of computer science known as “formal verification,” the practice of interactive theorem proving has given rise to software tools and systems designed to support the development of complex formal axiomatic proofs. Such efforts require one to develop models of mathematical language and inference that are more robust than the the simple foundational models of the last century.

In this talk, I will explore some of the insights that emerge from this work, and some of the ways that these insights can inform, and be informed by, philosophical theories of mathematical understanding.

Associated papers:


2010/2011: Angelika Kratzer, University of Massachusetts.

Epistemic modals: embedded, modified, and plain.


2009/2010: Michael Glanzberg, University of California at Davis.

Semantics, truth, and truth in a model.


2008/2009: Greg Restall, University of Melbourne.

Normative inferentialist modal logic: from pragmatics to two-dimensional semantics.