Donald Davidson Archives

More Generally: Contemporary Thinkers (160)

April 18, 2011

The History of Swampman

It's been a while since I posted anything here, so I thought I'd take Jeremy's recent discussion of Davidson's 'Swampman' case (and modifications thereof) as an occasion to post a historical tidbit about swampman-like scenarios. Davidson's story - of a duplicate of himself being created by a lightning strike in a swamp - has obvious resemblances to the DC Comics character Swamp Thing. What is less obvious, less well known, and not mentioned on Swamp Thing's Wikipedia page, is that the swampman scenario was actually originated by Theodore Sturgeon in his short story "It", originally published in Unknown in August of 1940. Sturgeon himself, who was not a follower of comic books, did not know about his influence on that genre until he was invited to receive an award at the San Diego Comic Convention in 1975. Sturgeon's own description of the event can be found in the introduction to his 1984 collection, Alien Cargo, and is quoted in the story notes to "It" in the first volume of Sturgeon's Complete Stories.
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January 5, 2009

The Problem of Analyticity

The new quarter has begun, and I have just finished reading Quine's "Two Dogmas of Empiricism". One of Quine's chief purposes here is to argue that the difference between 'analytic' and 'synthetic' truths is one of degree, and not of kind, so that there is no neat division between the two. I want discuss this difficulty here, although I shall treat it slightly differently than Quine does. Anyone who has been exposed to post-Kantian philosophy is familiar with the distinction between the analytic and the synthetic. For instance, 'no bachelor is married' is an analytic truth...
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December 22, 2008

Cartesian Demon Skepticism as 'Adversarial Epistemology'

In one of my computer science classes in undergrad, we discussed a particular way of thinking about the efficiency of an algorithm, which the professor called 'adversarial upper bounds'. The idea was to suppose that someone knows the 'guts' of your algorithm - exactly how it works - and that person is trying to make your algorithm take as many steps to complete as possible. The upshot was that sometimes with this kind of system inserting some randomness will give you a better expectation value. For instance, suppose I am trying to find a route (just any route) from A...
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