Timothy Williamson

Last updated

Timothy Williamson

Professor Timothy Williamson.JPG
Born (1955-08-06) 6 August 1955 (age 63)
Uppsala, Sweden
NationalityBritish
Alma mater Oxford University
Era Contemporary philosophy
Region Western philosophy
School Analytic
Thesis The Concept of Approximation to the Truth  (1980)
Doctoral advisor Michael Dummett
Doctoral students Maria Baghramian
Main interests
Philosophical logic
Epistemology
Metaphysics
Philosophy of language
Philosophy of mathematics
Notable ideas
Epistemicism, modal logic as metaphysics, knowledge as conceptually primitive

Timothy Williamson FRSE FBA (born 6 August 1955) is a British philosopher whose main research interests are in philosophical logic, philosophy of language, epistemology and metaphysics. He is the Wykeham Professor of Logic at the University of Oxford, and fellow of New College, Oxford.

Fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh Award granted by the Royal Society of Edinburgh

Fellowship of the Royal Society of Edinburgh (FRSE) is an award granted to individuals that the Royal Society of Edinburgh, Scotland, judges to be "eminently distinguished in their subject".

Fellow of the British Academy Award granted by the British Academy to leading academics for their distinction in the humanities and social sciences.

Fellowship of the British Academy (FBA) is an award granted by the British Academy to leading academics for their distinction in the humanities and social sciences. There are three kinds of fellowship

  1. Fellows, for scholars resident in the United Kingdom
  2. Corresponding Fellows, for scholars not resident in the UK
  3. Honorary Fellows, an honorary academic title
Philosopher person with an extensive knowledge of philosophy

A philosopher is someone who practices philosophy, which involves rational inquiry into areas that are outside either theology or science. The term "philosopher" comes from the Ancient Greek, φιλόσοφος (philosophos), meaning "lover of wisdom". The coining of the term has been attributed to the Greek thinker Pythagoras.

Contents

Education and career

Timothy Williamson's education began at Leighton Park School and continued at Henley Grammar School. He then went to Oxford University. He graduated in 1976 with a B.A. (first class honours) in Mathematics and Philosophy, and in 1981 with a doctorate in philosophy (D.Phil.) for a thesis examining The Concept of Approximation to the Truth.

Leighton Park School

Leighton Park School is a co-educational independent school for both day and boarding pupils in Reading in South East England. The school's ethos is closely tied to the Quaker values, having been founded as a Quaker School in 1890. The school's ethos is described as achievement with values, character and community.

The British undergraduate degree classification system is a grading structure for undergraduate degrees or bachelor's degrees and integrated master's degrees in the United Kingdom. The system has been applied in other countries and regions.

Doctor of Philosophy Postgraduate academic degree awarded by universities in many countries

A Doctor of Philosophy is the highest university degree that is conferred after a course of study by universities in most English-speaking countries. PhDs are awarded for programs across the whole breadth of academic fields. As an earned research degree, those studying for a PhD are usually required to produce original research that expands the boundaries of knowledge, normally in the form of a thesis or dissertation, and defend their work against experts in the field. The completion of a PhD is often a requirement for employment as a university professor, researcher, or scientist in many fields. Individuals who have earned a Doctor of Philosophy degree may, in many jurisdictions, use the title Doctor or, in non-English-speaking countries, variants such as "Dr. phil." with their name, although the proper etiquette associated with this usage may also be subject to the professional ethics of their own scholarly field, culture, or society. Those who teach at universities or work in academic, educational, or research fields are usually addressed by this title "professionally and socially in a salutation or conversation." Alternatively, holders may use post-nominal letters such as "Ph.D.", "PhD", or "DPhil". It is, however, considered incorrect to use both the title and post-nominals at the same time.

Prior to taking up the Wykeham Professorship in 2000, Williamson was Professor of Logic and Metaphysics at the University of Edinburgh (1995–2000); fellow and lecturer in Philosophy at University College, Oxford (1988–1994); and lecturer in Philosophy at Trinity College, Dublin (1980–1988).

University of Edinburgh public research university in Edinburgh, Scotland

The University of Edinburgh, founded in 1582, is the sixth oldest university in the English-speaking world and one of Scotland's ancient universities. The university is deeply embedded in the fabric of the city of Edinburgh, with many of the buildings in the historic Old Town belonging to the university. The university played an important role in leading Edinburgh to its reputation as a chief intellectual centre during the Age of Enlightenment, and helped give the city the nickname of the Athens of the North.

University College, Oxford college of the University of Oxford in England

University College, is a constituent college of the University of Oxford in England. It has a claim to being the oldest college of the university, having been founded in 1249 by William of Durham.

He was president of the Aristotelian Society from 2004 to 2005.

The Aristotelian Society for the Systematic Study of Philosophy, more generally known as the Aristotelian Society, was founded at a meeting on 19 April 1880, at 17 Bloomsbury Square.

He is a Fellow of the British Academy (FBA), [1] the Norwegian Academy of Science and Letters, [2] Fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh (FRSE) and a Foreign Honorary Fellow of the American Academy of Arts & Sciences.

Norwegian Academy of Science and Letters academy of sciences

The Norwegian Academy of Science and Letters is a learned society based in Oslo, Norway.

Philosophical work

Williamson has contributed to analytic philosophy of language, logic, metaphysics and epistemology.

Analytic philosophy style of philosophy

Analytic philosophy is a style of philosophy that became dominant in the Western world at the beginning of the 20th century. The term can refer to one of several things:

Philosophy of language, in the analytical tradition, explored logic, the nature of meaning, and accounts of the mind at the end of the nineteenth century.

Logic study of inference and demonstration

Logic is the systematic study of the form of valid inference, and the most general laws of truth. A valid inference is one where there is a specific relation of logical support between the assumptions of the inference and its conclusion. In ordinary discourse, inferences may be signified by words such as therefore, hence, ergo, and so on.

On vagueness, he holds a position known as epistemicism, which states that every seemingly vague predicate (like "bald", or "thin") actually has a sharp cutoff, which is impossible for us to know. That is, there is some number of hairs such that anyone with that number is bald, and anyone with even one more hair is not. In actuality, this condition will be spelled out only partly in terms of numbers of hairs, but whatever measures are relevant will have some precise cutoff. This solution to the difficult sorites paradox was considered an astonishing and unacceptable consequence, but has become a relatively mainstream view since his defense of it. [3] Williamson is fond of using the statement, "no one knows whether I am thin" to illustrate his view. [4]

In epistemology, he suggests that the concept of knowledge is unanalyzable. This goes against the common trend in philosophical literature up to that point, which was to argue that knowledge could be analysed into constituent concepts. (Typically this would be justified true belief plus an extra factor.) He agrees that knowledge entails justification, truth and belief, but argues that it is conceptually primitive. He accounts for the importance of belief by discussing its connections with knowledge, but avoids the disjunctivist position of saying that belief can be analyzed as the disjunction of knowledge with some distinct, non-factive mental state. [5]

Publications

Williamson has also published more than 120 articles in peer-reviewed scholarly journals.

Related Research Articles

Epistemology A branch of philosophy concerned with the nature and scope of knowledge

Epistemology is the branch of philosophy concerned with the theory of knowledge.

Metaphilosophy is "the investigation of the nature of philosophy". Its subject matter includes the aims of philosophy, the boundaries of philosophy, and its methods. Thus, while philosophy characteristically inquires into the nature of being, the reality of objects, the possibility of knowledge, the nature of truth, and so on, metaphilosophy is the self-reflective inquiry into the nature, aims, and methods of the activity that makes these kinds of inquiries, by asking what is philosophy itself, what sorts of questions it should ask, how it might pose and answer them, and what it can achieve in doing so. It is considered by some to be a subject prior and preparatory to philosophy, while others see it as inherently a part of philosophy, or automatically a part of philosophy while others adopt some combination of these views. The interest in metaphilosophy led to the establishment of the journal Metaphilosophy in January 1970.

In philosophy, vagueness refers to an important problem in semantics, metaphysics and philosophical logic. Definitions of this problem vary. A predicate is sometimes said to be vague if the bound of its extension is indeterminate, or appears to be so. The predicate "is tall" is vague because there seems to be no particular height at which someone becomes tall. Alternately, a predicate is sometimes said to be vague if there are borderline cases of its application, such that in these cases competent speakers of the language may faultlessly disagree over whether the predicate applies. The disagreement over whether a hotdog is a sandwich suggests that “sandwich” is vague.

Sorites paradox paradox that, if ① one million grains of sand is a heap of sand and ② a heap of sand minus one grain is still a heap, then it follows that one grain of sand is a heap

The sorites paradox is a paradox that arises from vague predicates. A typical formulation involves a heap of sand, from which grains are individually removed. Under the assumption that removing a single grain does not turn a heap into a non-heap, the paradox is to consider what happens when the process is repeated enough times: is a single remaining grain still a heap? If not, when did it change from a heap to a non-heap?

Crispin James Garth Wright is a British philosopher, who has written on neo-Fregean (neo-logicist) philosophy of mathematics, Wittgenstein's later philosophy, and on issues related to truth, realism, cognitivism, skepticism, knowledge, and objectivity. He is Professor of Philosophy at New York University and Professor of Philosophical Research at the University of Stirling, and taught previously at the University of St Andrews, University of Aberdeen, Princeton University and University of Michigan.

Ruth Barcan Marcus American philosopher

Ruth Barcan Marcus was an American philosopher and logician who developed the schemata known as the Barcan formula. She was a pioneer regarding the quantification of modal logic as well as the theory of direct reference. She additionally conducted seminal research on identity, essentialism, possibilia, belief, moral conflict and critical historical studies.

Nicholas Rescher American philosopher

Nicholas Rescher is a German-American philosopher at the University of Pittsburgh. He is the Chairman of the Center for Philosophy of Science and has formerly served as Chairman of the Philosophy Department.

Dorothy Margaret Doig Edgington FBA is a philosopher active in metaphysics and philosophical logic. She is particularly known for her work on the logic of conditionals and vagueness.

Naturalized epistemology, coined by W. V. O. Quine, is a collection of philosophic views concerned with the theory of knowledge that emphasize the role of natural scientific methods. This shared emphasis on scientific methods of studying knowledge shifts focus to the empirical processes of knowledge acquisition and away from many traditional philosophical questions. There are noteworthy distinctions within naturalized epistemology. Replacement naturalism maintains that traditional epistemology should be abandoned and replaced with the methodologies of the natural sciences. The general thesis of cooperative naturalism is that traditional epistemology can benefit in its inquiry by using the knowledge we have gained from the cognitive sciences. Substantive naturalism focuses on an asserted equality of facts of knowledge and natural facts.

Bastiaan Cornelis van Fraassen is a Dutch-American philosopher. He is a Distinguished Professor of Philosophy at San Francisco State University and the McCosh Professor of Philosophy Emeritus at Princeton University, noted for his seminal contributions to philosophy of science.

David Wiggins FBA is a British moral philosopher, metaphysician, and philosophical logician working especially on identity and issues in meta-ethics.

The following outline is provided as an overview of and topical guide to philosophy:

Formal epistemology uses formal methods from decision theory, logic, probability theory and computability theory to model and reason about issues of epistemological interest. Work in this area spans several academic fields, including philosophy, computer science, economics, and statistics. The focus of formal epistemology has tended to differ somewhat from that of traditional epistemology, with topics like uncertainty, induction, and belief revision garnering more attention than the analysis of knowledge, skepticism, and issues with justification.

Laurence Jonathan Cohen,, usually cited as L. Jonathan Cohen, was a British philosopher. He was Fellow and Praelector in Philosophy, 1957–90 and Senior Tutor, 1985–90 at The Queen's College, Oxford and British Academy Reader in Humanities, University of Oxford, 1982–84.

John Hawthorne is Professor of Philosophy at the University of Southern California. He is recognized as a leading contemporary contributor to metaphysics and epistemology.

Timothy John Smiley FBA is a British philosopher, appointed Emeritus Knightbridge Professor of Philosophy at Clare College, Cambridge University. He works primarily in philosophy of mathematics and logic.

Epistemology or theory of knowledge is the branch of philosophy concerned with the nature and scope (limitations) of knowledge. It addresses the questions "What is knowledge?", "How is knowledge acquired?", "What do people know?", "How do we know what we know?", and "Why do we know what we know?". Much of the debate in this field has focused on analyzing the nature of knowledge and how it relates to similar notions such as truth, belief, and justification. It also deals with the means of production of knowledge, as well as skepticism about different knowledge claims.

Michael Richard Ayers, is a British philosopher and professor emeritus of philosophy at the University of Oxford. He studied at St. John's College of the University of Cambridge, and was a member of Wadham College, Oxford from 1965 until 2002. Among his students are Colin McGinn and William Child.

John Greco is an American philosopher. He is the Leonard and Elizabeth Eslick Chair in Philosophy at Saint Louis University. Greco received his Ph.D. from Brown University in 1989, where he studied under Ernest Sosa, and his AB from Georgetown University in 1983. His research interests are in epistemology and metaphysics and he has published widely on virtue epistemology, epistemic normativity, skepticism, and Thomas Reid. He is the Editor of American Philosophical Quarterly. For 2013-15, together with Eleonore Stump, he holds a $3.3 million grant from the John Templeton Foundation for a project on intellectual humility.

Gail Fine is a professor of philosophy at Cornell University. She is also a visiting professor of ancient philosophy at Oxford University, and a senior research fellow at Merton College, Oxford University.

References

  1. British Academy Fellowship record Archived 6 June 2011 at the Wayback Machine
  2. "Gruppe 3: Idéfag" (in Norwegian). Norwegian Academy of Science and Letters . Retrieved 16 January 2011.
  3. Zalta, Edward N. (ed.). "Vagueness". Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy .
  4. Phil 2511: Paradoxes
  5. Williamson, Timothy (2002-10-10). Knowledge and its Limits. Oxford University Press. doi:10.1093/019925656x.001.0001. ISBN   9780199256563.