Lunacy and Scepticism
This article develops a logical (or semantic) response to scepticism about the existence of an external world. Specifically, it is argued that any doubt about the existence of an external world can be proved to be false, but whatever appears to be doubt about the existence of an external world that cannot be proved to be false is nonsense, insofar as it must rely on the assertion of something that is logically impossible. The article further suggests that both G. E. Moore and Ludwig Wittgenstein worked towards the same solution but left their work unfinished.
Published in Topoi (Online first, 2022), 1–9
AI’s First Philosopher
Alan Turing was a pioneer of machine learning, whose work continues to shape the crucial question: can machines think? Turing’s thinking on this topic was far ahead of everyone else’s, partly because he had discovered the fundamental principle of modern computing machinery – the stored-program design – as early as 1936 (a full 12 years before the first modern computer was actually engineered).
Published in Aeon (2022)
Philosophy and Common Sense
(with Timothy Williamson)
Sebastian Sunday-Grève and Timothy Williamson discuss the question of where philosophy starts and the idea of philosophy as a non-natural science.
Published in The Philosophers' Magazine 95–7 (2021–22)
Nietzsche and the Machines
There is a lot of grandstanding going on today about the ethics of machines. Intellectuals have developed a taste for presenting the question of the moral status of machines as a kind of futuristic spectacle that may become reality any time now. Arguments that try to persuade us of the pressing nature of issues such as whether machines would deserve moral consideration if they could be made conscious are largely an uninspired extension of moralistic discourse on animal rights. The problem of this sort of discourse is not that some animals or machines may not deserve moral consideration. Rather, the problem is the academic manner in which it is typically conducted.
Published in The Philosophers' Magazine 93 (2021), 12–15
Logic and Philosophy of Logic in Wittgenstein
This essay discusses Wittgenstein’s conception of logic, early and late, and some of the types of logical system that he constructed. The essay shows that the common view according to which Wittgenstein had stopped engaging in logic as a philosophical discipline by the time of writing Philosophical Investigations is mistaken. It is argued that, on the contrary, logic continued to figure at the very heart of later Wittgenstein’s philosophy; and that Wittgenstein’s mature philosophy of logic contains many interesting thoughts that have gone widely unnoticed.
Published in Australasian Journal of Philosophy 96/1 (2018), 168–82
Logic played an important role in Wittgenstein’s work over the entire period of his philosophizing, from both the point of view of the philosopher of logic and that of the logician. Besides logical analysis, there is another kind of logical activity that characterizes Wittgenstein’s philosophical work after a certain point during his experience as a soldier and, later, as an officer in the First World War – if not earlier. This other kind of logical activity has to do with what appears to be the literary form of Wittgenstein’s philosophical prose, and it is likely to be seen as the most modernist feature of his preoccupation with logic.
Published in Understanding Wittgenstein, Understanding Modernism, Anat Matar, ed., Bloomsbury Publishing (2017), 205–16
Wittgenstein on Gödelian ‘Incompleteness’, Proofs and Mathematical Practice
(co-authored with Wolfgang Kienzler)
This essay argues that Wittgenstein’s philosophical perspective on Gödel’s most famous theorem is even more radical than has commonly been assumed. Wittgenstein shows in detail that there is no way that the Gödelian construct of a string of signs could be assigned a useful function within (ordinary) mathematics. — The focus is on Appendix III to Part I of Remarks on the Foundations of Mathematics. The present reading highlights the exceptional importance of this particular set of remarks and, more specifically, emphasises its refined composition and rigorous internal structure.
Published in Wittgenstein and the Creativity of Language, Sebastian Sunday Grève and Jakub Mácha, eds, Palgrave Macmillan (2016), 76–116
The Importance of Understanding Each Other in Philosophy
What is philosophy? How is it possible? This essay constitutes an attempt to contribute to a better understanding of what might be a good answer to either of these questions by reflecting on one particular characteristic of philosophy, specifically as it presents itself in the philosophical practice of Socrates, Plato and Wittgenstein. Throughout this essay, I conduct the systematic discussion of my topic in parallel lines with the historico-methodological comparison of my three main authors. First, I describe a certain neglected aspect of the Socratic method. Then, exploring the flipside of this aspect, I show that despite the fact that both Socrates and Wittgenstein understand their philosophical approaches as being essentially directed at the particular problems and modes of understanding that are unique to single individuals, they nevertheless aspire to philosophical understanding of the more ‘mundane’ kind that is directed at the world. Finally, interpreting parts of Plato’s dialogues Phaedrus and Laches, I further develop my case for seeing the role of mutual understanding in philosophy as fundamentally twofold, being directed both at the individual and what they say (the word), and at things that are ‘external’ to this human relation at any particular moment of philosophical understanding (the world).
Published in Philosophy 90/2 (2015), 213–39