Presentation at Reading, Jan. 2013

Presentation at Reading, Jan. 2013

2010年12月20日 星期一

Important Graduate Conferences CFP Due Dates

Oxford: Mid Aug.

MindGrad: Early Sep.

USC/UCLA: Late Oct.

Pitts/CMU: Late Dec.

Austin: Early Jan.

Harvard/MIT: Early Jan.

NYU/Columbia: Mid Jan.

Princeton/Rutgers: Mid Jan.

CUNY: Late Jan.

I hope I can do at least one or two of them during the Ph.D.; it's very hard, I know.

2010年12月17日 星期五

Spring 2011 Schedule: Kant, Consciousness, and Aesthetics (and Much More)

So I finally finished the difficult semester for philosophy of language. Next semester will be even busier, given that so many courses I want to sit in on. But let me start with the official three.

There is one on Kant's First Critique. This time I really want to focus more on the text itself; in the past I relied on secondary literature too much. And there will be Jesse Prinz's "Aesthetic Psychology"; this might be the most challenging one for me, since I have never touched on aesthetics in the past. And there will be David Rosenthal's "The Function of Consciousness." Philosophy of mind, Ich comme!

I might want to sit in on some undergrad classes at NYU, but I suspect that I won't be able to do so. As for seminars, two "must go" are Ned Block's one on perception and Christopher Peacocke's one on self-consciousness. Again, even if I restrict myself to this two, it is already too much indeed. But this is New York. And there will be Ernest Sosa's epistemology. Some other possibilities include one on Plato's Republic and one on Hume's Treatise. I will do my best. Since I suspect I will move to somewhere else to write the dissertation, I need to maximize what I can learn here.

By the way, I just submitted 10 graduate applications and 5 conference proposals; I expect all of them will be turned down, though. Philosophy, so competitive!

And now I have to work on the review of Chalmers's new book. It's way too big!

2010年12月12日 星期日

Graduate Application, Round II

That's what I have been doing for this entire semester, or at least some time slices of it. Actually there is nothing really worthy recording. Just to write down some random thoughts.

I was going to apply for 20+ places again, but later I decided to go for only 10. The main reason is that I am pretty sure about what I want to study in the following years, and that's a very narrow topic, at least in the U.S. to my observation. So there is no good philosophical reason for me to insist on staying in this country. To be sure, there are still some places I would like to go; that's why I still apply. But now they are very few (i.e., 10 or so). If shut out, I will go to the U.K. or Australia. No hesitation now.

And if shut out, staying in NYC for a M.A. thesis is not a bad idea as well. I want to write about proprioception, and there is at least one professor around who can help me with this. That said. I still try my best in applying. It is just that I am not as obsessed as I was last year.

A lot to say, as usual, but since no one cares, I shall keep my non-philosophical posts minimal.

2010年11月19日 星期五

Time and the Unity of Consciousness

It is not that I have anything interesting to say about these tough stuffs; it is a conference again, and at Harvard again. One thing NYC is so great academically is that places such as Harvard, MIT, Rutgers, and Princeton are all within reach. Of course it is not as if I can incorporate most resources from them. Philosophy is very different from parties; it takes a lot of time, and showing up in many events does not mean one learns much. That said, I still think it is good to reach these resources, especially in my first year.

So I will meet Sean Kelly and Susanna Siegel again, and I look forward to meeting Adam Pautz, Fiona Macpherson, Ian Phillips, Geoffrey Lee (again), L. A. Paul, Berit Brogaard, among others. Again, philosophy is not like fasion shows; to talk to philosophers one admires does not mean that one learns much, especially at a one-day conference. But still I will try my best to learn. So far the most important message from this semester is that I still have a very long way to go. Philosophy is so damn hard.

In addition to this exciting event and other ones, I am finishing two term papers entitled "On Believing That" and "Meaning, Communication, and Minimal Propositions." As I wrote in the previous reminder, I do not believe one seminar can turn anyone into an expert or anything like that in an area. They are just term papers; no matter how hard I work, they look just amateur.

2010年10月24日 星期日


David Chalmers, a highly systematic philosopher, recently compiled his works concerning consciousness into a huge book. By huge here I mean around 600 pages. It can be roughly divided into the problems, the science, the metaphysics, the concepts, the contents, and the unity of consciousness. It is hard to imagine that in this era a single philosopher can manage to cover all these grounds, especially given that he also has big theories in semantics and metaphysics.

I am lucky enough to have a chance to write a review for this "monsterpiece" (Bill Lycan uses this term to describe Making It Explicit), though the journal is far from first-rate. But it is good enough for me at this stage. My tentative plan is to situate the book into larger contexts: the first will be the relations between mind, language, and metaphysics, and the second will be the debate between empiricists and rationalists.

Chalmers has developed a sophisticated version of two-dimensional semantics since more than a decade ago, and he systematically applies it to his views on consciousness and metaphysics. This is extraordinary. He sometimes postulates a third kind of content, for example the Edenic content in perception. This is related to his commitment of "semantic pluralism."

I think it is even more interesting if we place Chalmers into the empiricist-rationalist debate. This debate has lasted for several centuries, so it is impossible to do justice to all aspects of it when talking about it, but roughly, we can say that typical rationalists defend innateness in mind, analyticity in language, necessity in metaphysics, and apriority in epistemology. Empiricists tend to deny one or more of them. Representatives for this debate in the twentieth century are Quine (empiricist) and Kripke (rationalist). In the long run, it seems that it is Kripke who wins the game: in particular, his revival of modality animates tons of projects in later analytic philosophy. Contemporary rationalists, including Brandom, Peacocke, and many others, have successfully and fruitfully developed their projects based on modality. Now I propose that Chalmers is one among them. He is often classified as a philosopher of mind specializing in consciousness, but I think this conception of his projects is far too narrow. I think a correct conception of his projects is to view him as a rationalist, who theorizes about modality and related notions, with an emphasis on issues concerning consciousness.

Do I believe in rationalism broadly construed? I don't know. This question is too big for someone like me to answer. All I can say is that to understand more about the empiricist-rationalist debate will be my main life project. In the past few years, I was educated in the empiricist tradition: I started with Quine, and spent some time on Davidson, and ended up writing a long thesis on McDowell. For now, I am still a minimal empiricist. However, in the course of this education, I have been thinking about whether we can really do without necessity and apriority, or even analyticity. Now I am in the East Coast, and here is definitely rationalistic, at least by my own judgment (and contemporary empiricism is pretty weak anyway; Davidson attempts to kill empiricism in his dismantling of scheme-content dualism, and though McDowell insists on empiricism, he is too often to be dismissed by the main stream analytic philosophy). I treasure this environment, since it forces me to take rationalists more seriously: in the past, I did not dismiss them (I am not that arrogant), but I simply did not have a chance to study them more. Now I am able to do that. The first step is to study Chalmers more, and I do so by forcing myself with a deadline: a deadline for the review.

2010年10月17日 星期日

The Self and Spatial Perception

They are not necessarily (in the epistemic sense) related, but they are the themes of the two conferences interesting me most in this semester. The former is the topic of the 62nd Northwest Philosophy Conference, with Galen Strawson and Richard Moran as keynote speakers. I presented a paper on self-identification and somatoparaphrenia there, and now it is also accepted as a poster by the Pacific APA 2011. I defend a minimal version of "immunity to error through misidentification" in that paper, but now I am not sure I like it. As for the keynote addresses, they are far too difficult and abstract for me to summarize here.

I look forward even more to the Harvard conference on spatial perception. Philosophers I would like to meet there including Michael Tye, Brad Thompson, Robin Jeshion, Sean Kelly, and Susanna Siegel, among others. This topic is not very available in my current intellectual niche, so I am really excited about it. I will post the afterthought later, since the conference is on Halloween!

2010年9月18日 星期六


Don't think that you can become an expert of something through one or two seminars.

Don't be hurried; philosophy just can't be.

2010年9月14日 星期二

Desperate, So Far

I cease to attend Kripke's Frege and Pryor's Lambda seminar, as expected. I will keep Longuenesse's Third Critique; it is even better than I expected. And Mind&Language is fantastic as well, especially they have a preparation seminar for students.

Still, I am even more desperate about applications. First about the letters. Last year I really thought my letters were going to help me, but that was a big mistake. Now I even suspect that they hurt my applications. But what can I do? For one thing, I have no way to confirm my hypothesis, and secondly, even if we assume it is correct, how can I repair the situation? Before this round I only have one complete semester or less, and that will not help me too much as far as the letters are concerned.

And I am worried about the sample as well. My best try is to use the term paper for "Linguistic Pragmatism" (Devitt), but the time is just not enough. Worse still, recently I am reading Insensitive Semantics by Cappelen and Lepore, and try to meet some of their challenges. They are tough. These days I finally came up with some ideas, with a tentative title "Context Sensitivity and Indirect Discourse." Unfortunately, when I randomly browse the latest PPR I found there is an article "Context Sensitivity and Indirect Reports," and the author is also arguing against C&L at exactly the same point. What an unhappy coincidence for me.

The only thing I can be happy about is that I thereby avoid a possible plagiarism accusation.

2010年8月28日 星期六

Fall 2010 Schedule: Language, language, and Language

So finally I pick the following three:

The Nature of Semantic Content, Nathan Salmon
Linguistic Pragmatism, Michael Devitt
Modal Logic, Melvin Fitting and Richard Mendelsohn

I am determined to force myself into philosophy of language this whole term. These days I started to read/re-read some materials, and still find them hard. Philosophy of language always makes me like a novice, no matter when I come back to it. This time, however, I will be more strict to myself.

I might want to sit in Kripke's Frege seminar, and I will definitely attend the Mind & Language seminar at NYU by Ted Sider and David Chalmers. Also, I will attend the Cognitive Science Symposium led by David Rosenthal. Maybe too much, but I really want them all.

There are two I will go for the first week, but probably the first week only. They are Beatrice Longuenesse's Kant (Third Critique), and Jim Pryor's Lambda seminar, co-taught with Chris Barker ( The former is only remotely related to my interests, and the latter is too advanced. Another one I really want to attend is Akeel Bilgrami's seminar on self-knowledge. Time just doesn't allow me to do so.

And at the beginning of Oct., I will present a paper at the 62nd Northwest Philosophy Conference, with "The Self" as the annual theme ( I am not sure whether I can be accepted by more conferences, but we will see.

2010年8月3日 星期二

Hard-Core Philosophy of Language

I need it, but I am also afraid of it. In this coming semester, I might take Professor Nathan Salmon's "Topics in the Nature of Semantic Content" and Professor Michael Devitt's "Linguistic Pragmatism." The former will concentrate on the various puzzles about substitution and belief ascription made popular by Frege, Putnam, Church, Kripke, Soames, and Salmon himself. The latter will concentrate on another strand in philosophical studies in language, namely the Grice-Austin tradition. These two can give me quite balanced education, I believe.

But I am afraid of philosophy of language, narrowly construed. To be sure, it was philosophy of language that led me to academic philosophy in the first place (another urge was provided by Kant's first Critique). However, whenever it goes to certain level of complexity, I get lost. I hope this only shows I have not wrought hard enough, but I am not sure. I am interested in those puzzles, but I am quite content with the solutions provided by the transparent/opaque readings distinction. I guess this is out of my naivete. This coming semester is crucial to me, since I want to know how far I can go, and I need guidance.

And I also need it anyway. My primary interest has always been philosophy of mind, and after these years I have come to believe that deep ideas concerning philosophy of mind have to come from either philosophy of language or natural sciences. I might be wrong. But assuming its truth, then I have no choice. I am too old to start doing serious sciences, so all there left is philosophy of language. I don't know how much I will need, but I know what I understand is so far from the goal. Without deep understandings and commitments in certain issues in philosophy of language (or sciences), it is practically impossible to have deep thoughts in philosophy of mind, or so I believe.

I will try hard. I am not very young, so I do not have much time running away from the truth. I need to be more sophisticated in philosophy of language. And I need to be quick.

I still need to register another seminar for the status of full-time student. Professor Kripke's one on Frege would be suitable for my purpose, but I don't know.

2010年7月24日 星期六

McDowell in Person and McDowell in Print

They are very different. In what follows I shall describe three salient discrepencies. The differences are so drastic that even people who are very familiar his works feel surprising.

Let me start with disjunctivism. McDowell makes clear that his disjunctive conception is epistemological, but he seldom says explicitly about his attitudes towards other versions of disjunctivism. He grants that the good case and the bad case can be phenomenally indistinguishable, so presumably he rejects phenomenal disjunctivism. How about the version concerning state? He is not clear about this, but some passages in "Sungular Though and the Extent of Inner Space" can be read as proposing state disjunctivism. Now the most controversial one is the content version. In defending "object-dependent" thought and de re sense, he seems to commit that the good case and the bad case cannot share the same kind of content. However, in discussions he said that they can. I am sure that he said this in Taipei, London, and Canberra. Many people are surprised by this point, including his former students and experts of disjunctivism. I think he is drawing the distinction between constitution and entertain: object-dependent thoughts constitutively depend on acqaintance of relevant objects, but after the constitution, those thoughts can appear in bad cases. Consider the Twin Earth Scenario: the idea of "water" constitutively depends on water substances, but this does not imply that whenever we think about water, there must be water around.

The second is about the idea of the conceptual. McDowell holds that the rational and the conceptual are co-extensive, and this co-extensiveness is entirely stipulative. He is explicit about "conceptual -> rational," but not clear about the other direction. I think the other direction should be a substantial claim (as opposed to stipulative), or the co-extensiveness will be empty, and he does not really need to take issue with non-conceptualists. However, in discussions he insisted that the entire co-extensiveness is stipulative, and this is not a change of mind. I find this hard to be reconciled with many passages in print.

Finally, the relations between the following three distinctions: the space of reasons/the realm of law, second nature/first nature, and world/environment. McDowell writes that mature human beings are in the space of reasons (by being initiated into second nature), so they can have the world in view. This seems to imply that the other side of those distinctions also go hand in hand, i.e. the realm of law, first nature, and environment are the so-called "physical world." But in discussions McDowell refused to identify environment with physical world. I think this move is odd. Do we want our picture to have physical world/environment/ world in McDowell's sense? This three-layer structure seems to be too excessive. I think we can still identify environment with physical world, if we understand the latter as containing affordances, solicitations, and even reasons (though lower animals cannot be responsive to reasons as such).

The general difficulty is this. When we write about McDowell, we need to refer to specific passages. But McDowell in person and in print are so different. Besides, to cite conversations with philosophers is a bad practice. It is not clear to me how not to misinterpret McDowell if we take his works in print at face value. But anyway, it is still fruitful to engage McDowell. I think I learned very much from the discussions in Australia in the past two weeks. Special thanks to Huw Price and David Chalmers for organizing the two conferences.

2010年7月8日 星期四

Some Non-Philosophical Thoughts on the AAP 2010

I am luckily enough to be able to participate this event, along with "Engaging McDowell" and "Themes from McDowell" at U. of Sydney and ANU respectively, before my new semester in NYC. In what follows I record some miscellaneous thoughts that are not really focused or philosophical. I will postpone those concerning McDowell, since there will be more interesting things to say after the two conferences next week.

This is my first AAP experience. I attended the Eastern APA once (2006 at D.C.) and the Pacific APA once (2007 at S.F.). My feelings about conferences are mixed. For the positive side, I like conferences for obvious reasons: exciting thoughts, high-quality intellectual atmospheres, etc.; for the negative, linguistic and cultural differences are especially salient in this kind of circumstance. It is not that I am "bad" in English, I hope: one semester visiting in U.C. Berkeley with an A and an A- in graduate seminars, 96% in GRE's verbal section, and 99.5% in TOEFL, several publications in international journals, to name some "objective" scales. The trouble remains, however. People are just talking too fast everywhere: presentations, Q&As, tea times, banquet, and what have you. I feel mentally exhausted during and after conferences. Besides, to have so many incredibly good graduate students around all at once is killing me.

So why am I here this time? First, I think I still need to learn to live with this, second, I want to present a paper on McDowell and have his comments in person, and finally, I want to meet some philosophers, and conferences make this easier. This time I met again some ANU fellows, including Alan Hajek, Daniel Stoljar, David Chalmers, Jonathan Shaffer, and Susanna Schellenberg. And I met Howard Robinson, Jessica Brown, Laura Schroeter, and William Lycan for the first time. I also met some wonderful graduate students, including Lachlan Doughney, Lyndal Grant, and Rachael Briggs. I did not get to know terribly many people this time, since I am getting tired of this; I mean, to get to know many people, but have nothing interesting to share with them, is embarrassing. What I really want to do is to lock myself in the room, and get some works done.

Oh, but I will need to engage McDowell first, at least for the following few days!

2010年6月22日 星期二

Frank Jackson, Possible World Semantics, and Perception

Frank Jackson just gave a series of lectures in my hometown. It is entitled "The Mind-World Problem." The titles of each lectures are "Where is the Mind?" "Narrow Content" and "Anti-Individualism." Jackson's nicely written abstract is posted below:

"The Mind-world problem

Lecture 1: Where is the mind?

Lecture 2: Narrow content

Lecture 3: Anti-individualism

The discussion in the lectures will be structured around the following headings:

Should we be internalists or externalists about the mind?

Is mental content narrow or wide?

Should we be individualists or anti-individualists in the philosophy of mind?

Some will hear these three headings as three different wordings of the one underlying issue. One package deal is internalism, narrow content and individualism; the other package deal is externalism, wide content and anti-individualism. However, I think it is important to unpick the packages. Here is how I will do the unpicking.

I. The debate between internalists and externalists is a debate over the location of mental states. Internalists affirm that mental states are internal states, that they are inside us, being almost certainly states of our brains. The externalist position is not so clear cut. Sometimes the view is that asking after the location of a mental state is something of a nonsense question; all one can sensibly ask about is the location of the person in some mental state. Sometimes the view is that mental states are spread out in space in a way that, in some sense, includes what they are about.

II. The debate between those who hold that mental content is narrow and those who hold that mental content is wide is over whether or not the contents of subjects' mental states supervene on how subjects are from the skin in. The supporter of narrow content affirms that the contents of subjects' mental states supervene on how subjects are from the skin in ?no difference in content without an internal difference; the supporter of wide content holds that internally identical subjects can have mental states with different contents.

III. Individualism is the doctrine that the mental state a subject is in is an intrinsic property of the subject. Anti-individualism is the doctrine that the mental state a subject is in is, in large part, a matter of how the subject is related to his or her environment.

I will be arguing in these lectures that internalism is true, that mental content is narrow, and that anti-individualism is true. I know some will wonder if this is a consistent set of claims. How, for example, can one consistently espouse anti-individualism as just explained, at the same time as holding that content is narrow? Good question. All will, I trust, be clear as the lectures proceed."

I am not going to comment on the above remarks; rather I am interested in a side issue. In carrying out the last lecture, Jackson argues for certain views concerning perceptual content. With the proviso that he does not like all the relevant terminologies, he holds that perceptual contents are both propositional and conceptual, since he thinks this is the only tenable version of intentionalism. When I pressed some familiar questions concerning the differences between perceptions and propositional attitudes like beliefs, he insisted that in regarding perceptual contents as propositional, he does not commit to the view that perceptual contents have anything like sentential structures.

Now, given that Jackson champions a version of possible world semantics, it is not difficult to interpret his response. For him, semantic contents are unstructured, so normal objections against propositional views about perception, even successful, are irrelevant to his position. But what does it even mean to say that propositions are unstructured? It has become an official slogan of possible world semantics at least after Stalnaker. I am not in a position to evaluate the situation, to be sure, but my feeling is that to say propositions are not structured is to undermine the whole point of the idea of propositions. To say something is propositional, it seems to me, is to say that something has propositional structures. In another word, I think a more proper way to think about possible world semantics is to say that it is a kind of eliminativism about proposition. It wants to do semantics without the idea of proposition. If so, then Jackson's view should be understood as follows: perceptual contents, as linguistic ones, are sets of possible worlds; they are non-propositional, since they do not have structures. Jackson himself says that his current view is surprisingly like early McDowell's, but I think when we bear his possible world semantics in mind, it becomes clear that his view and McDowell's one are extremely different.

I suspect that the debate between Fregean/Russellian structural semantics and possible world nonstructural semantics creates the largest chasm in philosophical semantics, by the way.

2010年5月31日 星期一

Perceptual Contents and the Limits of the Linguistic Turn

Most of the things I will say below are not based on solid arguments at the present stage; I just want to outline my larger project for future research.

Philosophy of perception in the Anglo-Saxon tradition nowadays is generally shaped by philosophy of language. This is hardly surprising, since after the linguistic turn no branch in analytic philosophy (I like this label, but I am not going to defend this now) can be isolated from the linguistic approach. I tend to think, contra the currency, that this approach has serious limits when it comes to perceptual contents. It has been over-emphasized, and thereby over-reacted.

Most of us believe that there are rational relations between perceptions and beliefs, and we try to make good sense of this fact (notable exceptions include Donald Davidson and Robert Brandom, who downplay the very idea of perception). Rational relations require certain structures, and many analytic philosophers attempt to start with language and apply the structures to perception, since the latter seems to be much more elusive. Many of them think that if we do not regard perceptual contents as propositional, it would be impossible to account for their rational relations to beliefs. If perceptual contents are propositional, presumably they have to be conceptual, since the constituents of propositions have to be concepts.

But conceptualism seems phenomenologically off key, so nowadays very few philosophers hold this opinion. Bill Brewer changed his mind recently, and John McDowell is also not as resolute as before. In renouncing propositionalism of perception, it is difficult to understand his remarks that perceptions are "intuitional," albeit still "conceptual in form." It is not that this position is not defensible, but at least we can see that linguistic-driven philosophy of perception may go too far.

Nowadays more analytic philosophers of perception are phenomenologically-driven. This approach has its roots in British empiricism and the Phenomenological tradition, to be sure, but still it is partially due to the unsatisfactoriness of the linguistic-driven approach. The problem, however, is that it would be so difficult to cash out the rational relations between perceptions and beliefs without attributing propositional structures to perceptual contents. So a great chasm has been generated. The phenomenologically-driven philosophers generally do not take relevant thoughts of Davidson and Brandom seriously, and vise versa. The L-driven philosophers regard their approach as the only way to avoid something like the Myth of the Given, and the the P-driven philosophers regard their approach as the only way to do justice to perceptual experience. So in his 2006 paper, Tim Crane boldly asserts that his "interface philosophy" in Putnam's sense will not give arise any metaphysical or epistemological anxieties. This might be true, but we cannot know this without arguments.

There are a lot more to be said about this divide, but I shall stop for now and shift to something more positive. Let me start with David Chalmers' recent effort to apply his two-dimensional framework to perceptual contents. It assigns three different kinds of content to experiences: Fregean, Russellian, and Edenic. Details aside, Chalmers' picture has the merit that it is both heavily linguistic- and phenomenologically-driven: the 2D framework is linguistic enough, and the reason he adds Edenic content in the case of perception is that he thinks Fregean content itself is not phenomenologically adequate enough. Now, I tend to think that Chalmers' picture is still too linguistic. It relies crucially on both Fregean content and Rusellian content, and presumably they are propositional in nature. This is not clear, for Chalmers emphasizes at the end of the 2006 paper that his Fregean and Russellian contents need not be conceptual, and I take this to be also a reservation about propositionality. Still, Chalmers' analyses of perceptual contents are based on his view on linguistic contents, and he tries to make the whole picture phenomenologically more adequate by adding something else.

I have no good argument to raise against his view now, but I think it sounds more right to say that perceptual contents are not propositional at all. Consider an argument paralleled to the one often used by the L-driven philosophers: since perceptual contents are both spatial and temporal, in order to secure the rational relations between perceptions and beliefs, the contents of belief have to be conceived as both spatial and temporal in character. But this does not sound right. If not, however, why should we accept the argument that since beliefs are propositional, perceptual contents must be conceived as propositional as well in order to account for the rational relations? As analytic philosophers, we are too used to the idea that contents are propositional, so when applying to perceptions, it might sound weird, but still somewhat acceptable. But if so, how do we accommodate the parallel argument for the conclusion that the contents of belief are spatial and temporal?

I am more willing to say that perceptual contents are Carnapian, roughly in the sense of Aufbau. I know this idea has generated various problems, and most philosophers today think it only leads to a dead end. Again, I do not have good things to offer for now (But notice that Chalmers himself also elaborates this Carnapian-style project in his Locke Lectures). But I hope the parallel argument outlined above can motivate a more phenomenologically-driven picture. It is true that British empiricists were too naive in relevant regards, and the Phenomenological tradition seems to lack enough attentions and apparatus concerning linguistic structures, but still to attribute propositional structures to perceptions seems to be as wild as to attribute spatial/temporal structures to beliefs, or so I shall urge.

2010年5月8日 星期六

Don't Try This at Home

I am referring to applying philosophy Ph.D. My main support of this statement is based on my own case, so obviously it would a bad induction. My intention, though, is not to generalize anything substantial from a single case. Rather I want to expatiate on some aspects of my application so that some of my fellow students will be able to distill something important for themselves. Let me start from my statistics.

GRE: V 690 / Q 780 / AW 4.0
TOEFL: R 30 / L 29 / S 28 / W 28
Letters: Taiwan * 1, CUNY * 1, Pittsburgh * 1, Berkeley * 3
Writing Sample: "Disjunctivism, Intentionalism, and the Argument from Illusion"
Applying: 18 Ph.D and 3 MA in the U.S.; 3 MA/M.Phil/B.Phil in the U.K.

Results: U.C. Irvine's Ph.D, CUNY's MA, UCL's M.Phil/Ph.D, and Warwick's MA/Ph.D in phil. of mind. Waitlisted by CUNY's and Indiana Bloomington's Ph.D. Attending CUNY's MA.

Now here goes my comments. My GRE score is fine with regard to philosophy application, except the mediocre AW. My issue topic was about commercial stuffs, and that was too difficult for anyone from non-English speaking countries and whose major is in the humanities. My TOEFL is pretty good (to my own surprise), but it plays no weight in the decision, except damping some skepticisms about the English ability of those who do not have English as their first language.

As for letters, I was told by many western professors that it would be a problem if all of them are from Taiwan, so I keep it minimum. I know the CUNY and Pitts professors at conferences and other occasions, and I spent a semester in U.C. Berkeley. They all assure that the letters will be positive. I did not submit all the letters for every application.

I think my writing sample was ill-chosen. I was motivated by the thought that committee members might generally prefer seeing us to analyze a well-known argument, since it shows that the applicant can confront the argument directly (as opposed to make one's point by insinuating others' remarks), and since the chosen argument is well-known, presumably all members will have some rough ideas about your writing. I still believe in this general guideline, but now I think the argument from illusion is no good for this. It is well-known, to be sure, but it is rather unnoticed or downplayed in the present U.S. community. In conducting my discussions, I concentrate on philosophers like A.D. Smith and Tim Crane (I omit McDowell intentionally), and they are pretty U.K. style (Some U.K. philosophers perform U.S. style, and vise versa). I guess this hurts my application to some extent. There is no denying that what's more important is the quality of the paper, but to better the quality is much more difficult than choosing a more suitable topic. I think I will do philosophy of language for this round, and I hope I can do that with the help from Nathan Salmon and Michael Devitt with their two seminars in CUNY in fall 2010.

I applied to 18 Ph.D programs in the U.S., but I over-reached. The main reason is that unlike most applicants in the western world, I have spent too much in my life for preparing this (6 years at least). So I just wanted to give it a shot, but I failed in the end. I was also rejected by Stanford's and NYU's MA. I know they are tough. Columbia's MA decision is yet to come, but I am not going to wait that one. I will definitely change my stance this round.

My GRE score is going to expire soon, and I really don't want to take it again. So if I fail again at the end of this year, I will write my dissertation in the U.K., and I think this is pretty good. I myself is more U.K. style, and it is difficult for me to turn down my offers from UCL and Warwick. I opt for CUNY mainly because I realized that hard-core philosophy of language is very important for my interests in philosophy of mind and perception (I came to see this by reading David Chalmers' recent works). If I go to the U.K. now, I will rush into my beloved U.K. style philosophy of mind, which is also tied to my interests in Kant and some phenomenologists. I want to force myself to do some more down-to-earth stuffs first, and CUNY is better on this score.

I guess I can continue this self-reflection forever, but I shall stop for now. I truly hope that someone will find some bits of this post useful.

2010年4月30日 星期五

The Only Post This Month

I have not written anything here for a while, not because I do not care this place. I know I do not have many readers, but I will try my best to keep this active. The real reason for not writing anything is that I am still recovering from the fiasco of graduate application this season. I thought I would be fine sooner, but I was wrong. I will try to speed up, and post something about my miserable result soon.

2010年3月19日 星期五

The Qualm concerning Determinism and Quantum Physics

Or worse, "determinism" itself is annoying enough. Most of us can be pretty sure that skepticism about knowledge and the external world is wrong, but still enjoy pinning down where it goes wrong exactly. But this is not true of determinism. Upon reflection, it is easy to find out that our concept of "freedom" is a mess. It is not that arguments for determinism are impeccable; the real trouble is that as a philosopher who believes in free will, I cannot have a clear yet substantial notion of free will. Whenever it goes substantial, it is ruled out by determinism. I have encountered several intricate counter-arguments against determinism, e.g. David Lewis's one, but still, it is difficult to be comfortable with the results. I side with Sellars and McDowell that the Space of Reasons is sui generis, but I feel hopeless when it comes to details.
Maybe Pascal's Wager can come to a rescue here. Maybe we should bet that we are free:
if determinism is false, then good for us; if determinism is true, then we are determined to bet on free will anyway. Maybe it is not a coincidence that both the existence of God and free will are postulates in Kant's system. God.
I do not consider compatibilism here, since I think "freedom" in compatibilism is always too thin. This is controversial, to be sure.
But sometimes to bet on determinism makes one feel better; for example, consider the case in which all the admission decisions are determined before we exist.

2010年3月18日 星期四

"Mental Episodes"

"Mental episodes" is a term made popular by Wilfrid Sellars (correct me if I am wrong). I like to use it to cover mental states, events, and processes - they are of course different, but sometimes we want to talk about them without involving metaphysical implications immediately. I am interested in both the nature of mental episodes in general and the contents of my own mental episodes in particular. I predict that I will write about both of them here in the future, but I am not sure.
One kind of mental episodes I possess recently is pretended indifference to those postal rejections, by the way.

2010年3月16日 星期二

Why "Drinking Saké with God"

"Saké" is a kind of Japanese alcoholic beverage that I like. You could find a pretty good entry of it on Wiki. And I don't really believe in God, but I am not going to explain why I am not a Christian. That said, I would like to say something about the name of this blog.
I am applying to philosophy graduate school for the entry of fall 2010 (I will say more about this after I get all the results). If you do not have any idea about how difficult it is, let me illustrate it with a quote from an anonymous writer: "
Yale law school gets roughly 2000 applications each year and admits 200 students, and that it's the best, most selective law school in the country. Cornell's philosophy department got 300 applications, and admitted 4, and they're ranked 17. 10% vs 1.3%."
Now, I am lucky enough to get admitted by University College, London, but almost shut out by the U.S. programs. For some reasons, I still prefer studying in the U.S., but the waiting is just too torturous, so at some point I shouted to myself, "just go to London for God's sake!" And suddenly the name of this blog came to mind. I noticed the "sake/Saké" pair long time ago, and now it's time to bring it on stage.
But the name also has a meaning distinct from its origin. By "God," I mean something like fate, though again I have no faith in it. Nevertheless, we agnosticists still often have conversations with "God" (whatever that means) when we feel despair. I am pretty despair at this point, so let's drinking
Saké with God. You are invited, but no pressure.