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Lecture by Sara L. Uckelman: "Formal models for philosophy beyond Europe: a look at the logician's toolkit"

Oct 26, 2010 06:00 pm to 08:00 pm
Organizer: Cluster Professorship Buddhist Studies
Karl Jaspers Centre, Room 112

Sara L. Uckelman is a post-doctoral researcher at the Institute for Logic, Language & Computation, University of Amsterdam. Her research focuses on medieval European logic, in particular on Obligationes. Website:

Abstract: Engineers and scientists analyse the world by measuring it, and from these measurements they build mathematical models, which they use to generate hypotheses. If the hypotheses are confirmed by tests, we can learn something novel about the world, but if they are disconfirmed, then the model needs to be rebuilt.

The process of model building has utility outside of the formal sciences, but in those contexts mathematical models are not descriptive enough; formal or logical models can be used instead. These can also be of use in understanding philosophical or logical theories from contexts far removed from the present day, such as theories found in ancient texts of (among others) Indian, Chinese, or Western origin.  We can build formal models of these texts to provide a precise version of their theories that can be analysed in the same way that scientists use mathematical models to analyse the world.

What kind of tools can be used to build these formal models, and how can they be applied? In this talk we will introduce recent developments in logic, such as modal logic, dynamic logic, interactive logic, etc., stressing the applied aspects of these logics and how they can be used to shed light on and clarify historical philosophical and logical theories. The talk will not presuppose any logical knowledge, and while the examples will be drawn mainly from medieval Europe, I will show how these techniques can also be used in Eastern contexts.