Recent News

I’ve been away from home in Auckland at a conference over the last couple of days, so I’m a bit behind on the news, but tonight I’ve finally found a few moments to write something in honour of my friend and mentor, Bruce French, who was—three days ago—named an Officer of the Order of Australia in the 2016 Australia Day Honour’s list. Bruce was awarded this honour because of his many decades of work, learning about tropical food plants throughout the Pacific, Asia and Africa, cataloguing that knowledge and making it freely available to anyone who can use it.

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Thanks to a recent visit from Jc Beall, I was reminded of a critical discussion between Jc and our colleague and friend Graham Priest in the pages of Analysis. Jc was puzzled by a claim that Graham made in his reply to Jc’s paper, concerning nonmonotonic consequence relations and failures of truth preservation. Here, I’ll explain the disagreement between Jc and Graham, and why Graham’s claim (that all nonmonotonic logics fail to preserve truth) is wrong.

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In between wrapping up teaching for the end of Semester 2, and getting ready for a short trip to Scotland, I’m spending some time thinking about free logic and quantified modal logic and identity. This is difficult but exciting terrain to cover. There is no obvious way to tie together the logic of quantifiers, the modalities and identity in a way that commands broad appeal—there is no default quantified modal logic that has the same ‘market reach’ as classical first order logic.

This is a shame, because many important arguments involve quantification, identity and possibility and necessity—and claims about existence and nonexistence. Understanding the logic of these arguments better would help us gain some kind of systematic understanding of the positions in play. In the absence of a clear picture of the logic implicit in our concepts, we’re playing the dialectical game in ignorance of the rules.

Not that there’s anything wrong with that.

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I’ve been at the University of Melbourne since 2002, and the Logic Group has been meeting regularly since my arrival there. While it’s changed significantly in its membership over the last 13 years, one thing has remained constant—we’ve been an informal, friendly bunch of people, so hard at work in teaching and research that we’ve not had time to make a website for the group. Well, thanks to the hardworking Shawn Standefer, that’s changed. Point your browsers to to keep up with Logic at Melbourne.

There’s something very attractive in the idea that meanings of logical concepts—such as conjunction, negation, the quantifiers—can be specified by the role they play in proofs. If I learn the rules for conjunction: \( \def\sem#1{[\![#1]\!]} \) \[ \frac{A\land B}{A} \quad \frac{A\land B}{B} \qquad \frac{A\quad B}{A\land B} \] then I’ve “pinned down” what there is to know about the conjunction connective “\(\land\)”. The quantifiers are an interesting case. The rules for quantifiers, like \((\exists x)\) prove to be more complex. \[ \frac{A(t)}{(\exists x)A(x)} \qquad \frac{ {{{}\atop{\large }}\atop{\large (\exists x)A(x)}} \quad {{{\LARGE A(n)}\atop{\large \vdots}}\atop{\large C}} } {C} \] (where in the second rule, the name \(n\) is not present in \(C\) or in the other premises of the subproof from \(A(n)\) to \(C\)). In these rules, we unwrap the quantified expression \((\exists x)A(x)\) into a simpler expression which is an instance of the schema \(A(x)\). In the introduction rule, \(A(t)\) is an instance formed by substituting any singular term \(t\) for \(x\), while in the elimination rule, it must be a name (or an eigenvariable). The details can be worked out in many different ways, but one feature remains the same: the semantics of quantifiers is tied closely to the semantics of singular terms. Can we avoid this connection? Is there a way to define the semantics of quantifiers in by way of their rules in proof which do not tie them so closely to the semantics of singular terms.

This was one of the goals of Cian Dorr’s talk “Pinning Down the Meanings of Quantifiers” at the Verbal Disputes conference, and is a central theme in his paper “Quantifier Variance and the Collapse Theorems”. There’s a lot in the paper (it’s 67 pages long!), and I won’t engage with most of it, but I’d like to discuss this central theme of the paper here.

Cian Dorr
Cian Dorr

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Recent Writing

  • “Three Cultures—or: what place for logic in the humanities?” unpublished essay. Abstract  pdf
  • “Generality and Existence I: Quantification and Free Logic,” article in progress. Abstract  pdf
  • “Assertion, Denial, Accepting, Rejecting, Symmetry and Paradox,” pages 310-321 in Foundations of Logical Consequence, edited by Colin R. Caret and Ole T. Hjortland, Oxford University Press, 2015 Abstract  pdf
  • “Normal Proofs, Cut Free Derivations and Structural Rules,” Studia Logica 102:6 (2014) 1143–1166. Abstract  pdf
  • “Pluralism and Proofs,” Erkenntnis 79:2 (2014) 279–291. Abstract  pdf

Recent & Upcoming Presentations

Recent & Upcoming Classes


I’m Greg Restall, and this is my personal website. I teach philosophy and logic as Professor of Philosophy at the University of Melbourne. ¶ Start at the home page of this site—a compendium of recent additions around here—and go from there to learn more about who I am and what I do. ¶ This is my personal site on the web. Nothing here is in any way endorsed by the University of Melbourne.



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