Taken at face value, a programming language is defined by a formal grammar. But, clearly, there is more to it. By themselves, the naked strings of the language do not determine when a program is correct relative to some specification. For this, the constructs of the language must be given some semantic content. Moreover, to be employed to generate physical computations, a programming language must have a physical implementation. How are we to conceptualize this complex package? Ontologically, what kind of (...) thing is it? In this paper, we shall argue that an appropriate conceptualization is furnished by the notion of a technical artifact. (shrink)
We may wonder about the status of logical accounts of the meaning of language. When does a particular proposal count as a theory? How do we judge a theory to be correct? What criteria can we use to decide whether one theory is âbetterâ than another? Implicitly, many accounts attribute a foundational status to set theory, and set-theoretic characterisations of possible worlds in particular. The goal of a semantic theory is then to find a translation of the phenomena of interest (...) into a set-theoretic model. Such theories may be deemed to have âexplanatoryâ or âpredictiveâ power if a mapping can found into expressions of set-theory that have the appropriate behaviour by virtue of the rules of set-theory (for example Montague 1973; Montague1974). This can be contrasted with an approach in which we can help ourselves to ânewâ primitives and ontological categories, and devise logical rules and axioms that capture the appropriate inferential behaviour (as in Turner 1992). In general, this alternative approach can be criticised as being mere âdescriptivismâ, lacking predictive or explanatory power. Here we will seek to defend the axiomatic approach. Any formal account must assume some normative interpretation, but there is a sense in which such theories can provide a more honest characterisation (cf. Dummett 199). In contrast, the set-theoretic approach tends to conflate distinct ontological notions. Mapping a pattern of semantic behaviour into some pre-existing set-theoretic behaviour may lead to certain aspects of that behaviour being overlooked, or ignored (Chierchia & Turner 1988; Bealer 1982). Arguments about the explanatory and predictive power of set-theoretic interpretations can also be questioned (see Benacerraf 1965, for example). We aim to provide alternative notions for evaluating the quality of a formalisation, and the role of formal theory. Ultimately, claims about the methodological and conceptual inadequacies of axiomatic accounts compared to set-theoretic reductions must rely on criteria and assumptions that lie outside the domain of formal semantics as such. (shrink)
The specification and implementation of computational artefacts occurs throughout the discipline of computer science. Consequently, unpacking its nature should constitute one of the core areas of the philosophy of computer science. This paper presents a conceptual analysis of the central role of specification in the discipline.
In A Dentist and a Gentleman the sociologist Tracey Adams retells a familiar professionalization story, this time about elite dental practitioners in nineteenth‐century Ontario who launched a status‐enhancement project to reshape their self‐ and public image into “professional gentlemen” and establish monopoly control over dental practice. Dentists secured legislation in 1868 giving them authority to set entrance requirements, test and license practitioners, and establish a college. In subsequent decades they campaigned against those they called “quacks” who practiced without a license, (...) advertised, charged low fees, maintained dirty offices, misled patients about pain, or brought the gentlemanly status of dentistry into disrepute.Despite early resistance, the project had mostly succeeded by 1918, as dentists skillfully linked their expertise to emerging public health concerns and a professional image subtly reoriented toward an ideal of public service. By 1900 dental rhetoric was warning Canadians of an impending crisis of tooth decay and dental disease that would bring physical deterioration and mass feeblemindedness in its wake. Racial degeneracy, dentists warned, began in the mouth; the advance of civilization produced too much soft food and sugar, too little chewing, and too many high‐strung and overindulgent mothers. Only dentists, as “sentinels at the portal of the alimentary tract” , could stand against this threat to Anglo‐Saxon civilization. Rhetoric like this, combined with doses of guilt heaped on mothers, teachers, school boards, and public health agencies, resulted by 1915 in regular dental inspections of schoolchildren, free dental clinics, and the creation of the army dental corps.Dentistry brought unique twists to this familiar professionalization story. Prior to 1860 dentistry was an especially low‐status craft, associated with uneducated, itinerant tooth‐drawers or craftsmen like blacksmiths and gunsmiths . Professionalizing dentists therefore felt a special imperative to recast themselves as “gentlemen”; this image also reassured the upper‐middle‐class women who were dentists' main clientele. Unexpectedly, as Adams shows in an intriguing analysis, dentists benefited from an invaluable social alliance with physicians, who offered no opposition of the sort they raised against other rival groups of healers to dentists' professional aspirations.The study deals extensively with how gender shapes professions. Dentistry's professionalization, Adams insists, involved the adoption of a new ideal of personal masculinity, as seen in admonitions to dentists to establish firm, courteous, expert authority over their clients and in dentists' efforts to shape the imagined persona of the ideal dental assistant as uniquely female and wifelike. This masculine crafting of the profession notwithstanding, Ontario dentists evinced less overt opposition to women aspirants than did doctors or lawyers. Nevertheless, the proportion of female practitioners was much lower in dentistry than in medicine or law and remains substantially lower today. Adams brings considerable insight to her discussion of these facts and their causes, and she presents useful comparisons among the professions.This study has a few limitations. Perhaps because the author's sources are mainly professional journals, her account mostly mirrors the outlook of the professionalizing elite and her prose occasionally adopts their moralizing and improving tone. Regrettably, the book deals scarcely at all with what dentists actually did. One learns little about how changing scientific and medical ideas affected dentists' work, how dentists utilized anaesthesia and coped with the problem of pain, and what controversies over diagnostics and treatment animated the profession or about dentists' training and income. This is a history of dentistry's professionalization, not of dental medicine per se. But Isis readers impressed by this solid and modest study will hope that a history of dental practice will be Tracey Adams's next project. (shrink)
By the term nominalization I mean any process which transforms a predicate or predicate phrase into a noun or noun phrase, e.g. feminine is transformed into feminity. I call these derivative nouns abstract singular terms. Our aim is to provide a model-theoretic interpretation for a formal language which admits the occurrence of such abstract singular terms.
The term ‘Ohm's law’ traditionally denotes the formula of Georg Simon Ohm relating voltage, current, and resistance in metallic conductors. But to students of sensory physiology and its history, ‘Ohm's law’ also denotes another relationship: the fundamental principle of auditory perception that Ohm announced in 1843. This aspect of Ohm's science has attracted very little attention, partly because his galvanic researches so thoroughly eclipsed it in success and importance, and partly because Ohm's work in physiological acoustics had so little immediate (...) impact on the science of his time. On announcing his hypothesis in 1843, Ohm found himself drawn into a bitter dispute with the physicist August Seebeck, who successfully discredited the hypothesis and forced Ohm to withdraw from the field. (shrink)