Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Talk@UGent: Model-theoretic constructions without actual infinity (M. Czarnecki)

At 5 p.m. on January 7, Marek Czarnecki (Warsaw University) will give a talk at the Centre for Logic and Philosophy of Science (room 2.30). If you're around, feel free to drop by.

We base on the notion of FM-representability introduced by M. Mostowski as an explication of representability without actual infinity.  By Mostowski’s FM-representability theorem and Shoenfield’s Limit Lemma FM-representable notions  are  exactly  those  which  uniformly  computable  limits  of  computable notions  i.e.   which  are  constructible  in  finitistic  sense  (by  true  constructions, not constructions relative to some uncomputable oracle).
We introduce the notion of concrete models - FM-representable models - and consider the feasibility of classical model-theoretic constructions in concrete models framework.  The aim is to identify the finitistic content of model theory - the part that has a computational meaning.
More philosophically - studying concrete models provides with a better understanding of mathematical structures that are cognitively accessible and can be algorithmically learned.  They can also be used for representing epistemologically feasible approximated representations of reality and cognitively accessible semantics.

Monday, December 9, 2013

Gender, logic events, public transport

As is well known, the Munich Center for Mathematical Philosophy organizes a summer school on mathematical philosophy for female students. I deeply admire the work and organizational skills of the members of MCMP. Organizing a logic event for female students turned out to be somewhat controversial - so I just wanted to briefly comment on standard reactions I've encountered (I'll use some examples I've seen/heard).

On one hand, some people think that the implicature is that women are somehow worse in logic and therefore need extra tutoring. I don't think this criticism is viable. Logic needs to be promoted more among women not because they are worse in logic, but rather because there are not enough women in logic, despite them being perfectly capable of doing the research (I recall a logician saying that nowadays being a logician is like being in a barrel full of dicks. Wording aside, the person who made this comment did have a point.) There are also good methodological reasons to exclude males from the participation in the summer school - their presence tends to have detrimental impact on the performance of female students (see the summary here, or the relevant section of this survey paper).

On the other hand, some argue that when you organize a workshop, you have the right to select participants so that you think it's fun to hang out with them. I'll quote anonymously:
I just think that any logic related event is just fun. I like to learn it in any circumstances. It is like partying, I like to go out with my boyfriends and girlfriends, and I like ladies nights.

Now, I  don't think this is a viable strategy either. (I have already written about closed workshops, but I'll elaborate on this one.) Of course, you are more than welcome to hang out and have fun with anyone you prefer to have fun with, in your spare time and at your own expense. If you organize a scientific workshop, you are paid salary with public money to spend a bunch of public money to organize a scientific event - and therefore, your goals should be aligned with the academic goals of the institution you work for.

Now, this doesn't mean the sole criterion for participation should be research performance. For instance, excluding some jerks from the participation in a conference just because you know them to be jerks is rather okay, because their presence would hurt the academic quality of the conference (for instance, younger researchers could be afraid to disagree or to vote their concerns, or could be caused to give up on a line of research not because of good arguments they heard but because of hurtful comments by some (in?)competent asshole).

Yet, deciding on a ladies' night just because it sounds fun and you want to hang out with girls would be too much. Because then you would be excluding participants clearly for personal reasons that have nothing to do with the spirit of academia. If the summer school for female students was organized for this reason, I think it would be a pretty bad motivation.

But I don't think this is the reason. Rather, the ultimate goal is not for anyone to have fun at a ladies' night (albeit, this probably will be a nice side-effect), but to improve the situation in the field gender-wise, and it seems to me that at this point organizing this summer school will contribute to this academically desirable goal.

This doesn't mean that the ultimate ideal is to have separate logic events for women. I can't stop thinking that organizing such events is a bit like having separate train compartments for women only  in places where they don't feel safe or comfortable travelling with men. To some extent, this improves on the existing situation and is needed, but on the other hand, the very need of such compartments is a sign of  deeper problems that have to be handled.

Another observation that some people make is that the most of the instructors at the summer school are male. [Thanks Nicole for correcting me about the current list of speakers. It's 4 women, 3 men.] But [even if there were more men than women], I don't think that this is an objection. The very problem to be handled is how dominated by males logic is, and so it is no surprise that NOW there are more male instructors (as long as the ratio of women instructors at least corresponds to the ratio of women researchers in the field - which it clearly is in this case is something I didn't check for this event). And there is nothing wrong with male instructors trying to change the situation (and the ratio) by teaching at this summer school.

Monday, December 2, 2013

Applications of Logic in Philosophy and Foundations of Mathematics XIX

Traditionally, Janusz Czelakowski, Tomasz Połacik and Marcin Selinger will organize another in this wonderful series of conferences in Szklarska Poręba, a small town in Polish mountains (which is slightly annoying to get to, but quite beautiful once you're there). It will take place May 5-9, 2014. The information isn't on the conference website but I guess it will be there soon(er or later). If you feel like hanging out with Polish logicians in a place like that, talking about the foundations of mathematics and other geeky things, I highly recommend going.

Sunday, December 1, 2013

TiL XIV reminder

This is just a reminder that the submission deadline for Trends in Logic XIV (The road less travelled. Off-stream applications of formal methods), January 6, is approaching.

More details about the conference:

Please observe that there will be TWO Trends in Logic conferences next year, the other one being Trends in Logic XIII (Gentzen's and Jaśkowski's heritage; 80 years of natural deduction and sequent calculi).  More details about TiL XIII can be found here: