Re-shelving books at my job at the Oxford Philosophy Library always makes me sad because I look at the amount of text that philosophers have churned out in the past century—mostly I’m reshelving 20th century books rather than classic texts—and wonder how much of it could possibly matter. My patience with academics and fellow students doing their subject just because they like it is quite low at the moment; I want capital-t Truth, it seems—how naïve—and I want them to want it too.

As far as revision is concerned, a quite reasonable divide has arisen between my papers. Those that I did last term, when I was finally back on my game after a year and a half of misery, I am set to get a first in; I have things to say and I think it’s reasonably worth saying them. I have a line on the paper as a whole, and what’s important, which is great.

This is definitely not the case with the other two. One is quite a strange paper, Philosophy of Maths, in that it feels quite shallow: it never really gets into the various issues it touches upon. That one will depend on what sort of questions come up basically, whether the topics where I do have something interesting to say come up (Plato, Kant, Structuralism basically).

Then there is my old friend, the History of Philosophy from Descartes to Kant. I do not know this paper well. I have things to say on a few topics, but instead of just picking three questions from about 25 as you do on most philosophy papers, you have to answer on at least one rationalist author and one empiricist (for these purposes essentially just a chronological division). The topics I am sorted out on, though, do not line up so well with this. I could actually end up with not having three questions I can answer; more likely, I could only have two that I can answer well. This is really depressing. It means that my chances of getting a first in this paper are quite small. My tutor took weight off my shoulders this week though by pointing out that it’s too late to deal with this so I should just accept it.

Of course, this was the paper that I studied during my most difficult period in second year. So it’s fair enough that I suck at it. Now as then, this is sad because I think the paper matters; there is a lot of very important stuff going on. But that’s in the past, and there’s not so much I can do.

Maths actually rather positive in that I’ve realised that I actually know quite a lot about Galois Theory, relatively speaking. There are still loads of proofs to learn, but we all plan to rely on short-term memory for that, trying to get as many into our heads the day before the exam. There’s not much else you can do; there is just too much, otherwise.

Logic is proving to be harder than expected. Still no-one in Balliol, and no tutor in Oxford we’ve asked, can prove ¬¬p -> p in the axiomatic deductive system—rather, no-one can prove the equivalent formulation that you can get it from easily: that if you can prove something from p and you can prove it from ¬p, then it’s a tautology.

Have barely touched Set Theory and Topology…

So I’ll get some decent marks this year but nothing special. But I have next year. Next year which will be like last term was, so I can work hard and do really well and then apply for graduate study. This means taking a year out, but that’s okay.

Off to the philosophy library now to open up the building for Saturday; not done this before, never had a set of keys before, so a nice thing to be doing on my day off from revision this week.

Is the not-not-p => p thing something rather like the law of the excluded middle (which iirc is not something you prove but rather something you take as true)?

Comment by James Robson Sat 12 May 2012 21:46:05 UTC
comment X4HMGYV26L9R8GMG

The equivalent formulation I gave in my post is indeed PoEM.  But all proof is relative.  In the axiomatic deductive system I refer to, one only assumes a couple of axioms concerning implication and one which is precisely contraposition.  So one still needs to prove PoEM to use it, but no-one I know can.  The situation is made worse by the fact that PoEM is used in the proof of completeness so you can’t just get it from that.

Comment by spw Sun 13 May 2012 12:11:29 UTC