I came across an interesting site this evening, Argumentics: The Physics of Argumentation, which looks like extended commentary and analysis of a broad range of texts. What caught my eye was this most recent post about Emmon Bach:

imageEmmon Bach delivered these lectures in 1984 at Tianjin Normal University (China). The general topic is model-theoretic semantics. Presented in the preface as the first of the three “self-imposed constraints”, Bach goes about explaining the groundwork in model-theoretic semantics without presuming any logical or linguistic background for the reader’s part, and without unnecessary formalism. The lectures are therefore (uncommonly) easy to read and apprehend. I agree fully with the author’s saying that “it should be possible for a specialist or technician to explain what he or she is doing to anyone who is interested and who is willing to go along and do a little work” (p. 1). It is partly the spirit that lies behind this section altogether; with me in the set denoted by “anyone”, of course.


Check out the first in a series of posts on Bach here.


3 thoughts on “Argumentics

  1. Just a brief note. I’m not sure about the fate of formal semantics in philosophy but it has made a steep career in programming language theory. Same goes with logics and type theory. It is fun thinking about proofs of the existence of God encoded in Coq ( no pun intended ).

    In 1984 there was surely also some interest in formal semantics by the AI community but this has gone down since then. Knowledge databases a la Cyc have run out of favour and even the “semantic net” hasn’t recovered them ( or hardly even taken up itself ). The infamous AI debates involving luminaries like H.Dreyfuss and J.Searle ( “syntax is not semantics” ) have revolved around those approaches. On the other side there is a-semantic ( statistic ) language analysis and automatic translation a la Google which relies on stored and indexed data of Google scale and comparatively simple heuristics, according to Googles research director P.Norvig. It is some sort of “wisdom of the crowd” approach to data analysis.

  2. Get this: a friend told me I was mentioned here. Now how small is the Internet!? 🙂 Big thanks.

    @Kay: On a rather related note, I haven’t got the slightest clue as to the applications of formal semantics outside descriptive linguistics, but sometime at the end of March the reviews of “Introduction to Montague Semantics” will start appearing on my blog. There, the intersections between type theory and logics and semantics will be out in the open. Cheers!

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