News from April 2001


The wall of a terrace house in Dulwich Hill. (February 2001)


Interesting things are to be found at xrefer, a compendium of decent reference materials cross-referenced and freely searchable here on the net. For example, here is Steve Read's article (from the Oxford Companion to Philosophy) on relevant logic which explains just a little of what I do.


The old Waratah mill at dusk, in Dulwich Hill. (February 2001)

Some items about Zachary.

  • I never expected that starting your digestive system was so much fun and bother at the very same time.
  • It's a little known fact that children do actually have instruction manuals.
  • Zack and his dad know how to sleep.
  • For a short time only, photos of Zack are available up at for your perusal, and for printing. (Don't you want a picture of Zack and me adorning a mousepad, or a mug? I know I do.)
  • The fact that I don't add daily posts about him on this website means that I'm actually spending time with him, rather than writing about him.


[Richard] Rorty sympathizes with those—like Thomas Kuhn, to take a prominent example—who have pleaded with him not to characterize their work in ways they find distorting or misleading. "It's a natural reaction," he says. "They think of themselves as having made a quite specific point, and with a wave of my hand I seem to subsume their specific point as part of some great cultural movement, or something like that. They think that it's a way of putting them in bad company and ignoring the really interesting thing they said, which my net is too gross to capture." Still, Rorty defends this tendency: "I don't see anything wrong with doing that. Regardless of how they feel about it, if you think there's a common denominator or a trend, then why not say so?"



Two television antennas on a cloudy midday in Summer Hill. (March 2001)

Does anyone have an idea of the best way to get 2 megapixel JPG files (bigger versions of these and various other things) printed on high quality photo paper? I don't yet want to shell out for a good printer myself. I want either to upload them to a digital image processing place who print them and send them to me, or to walk into a processing place (in Sydney) with a compactflash card with a pile of images (say, 10 or 20) and they upload them, print them, and give them to me. It's not much to ask. A cursory search reveals a few places which might do what I'm after. Does anyone have any experience with this sort of thing? If so, let us know.


On why devils have both horns and a tail, and why angels have large wings.


Jasper Hoskin's translation of Anselm's Monologion and Proslogion are available online. Joy!

Here is a snippet: Chapter 2 of the Proslogion, which is entitled That God Truly Exists.

Therefore, O Lord, You who give understanding to faith, grant me to understand to the degree You know to be advantageous that You exist, as we believe, and that You are what we believe You to be. Indeed, we believe You to be something than which nothing greater can be thought. Or is there, then, no such nature as You, for the Fool has said in his heart that God does not exist? But surely when this very same Fool hears my words "something than which nothing greater can be thought," he understands what he hears. And what he understands is in his understanding, even if he does not understand it to exist. For that a thing is in the understanding is distinct from understanding that this thing exists. For example, when a painter envisions what he is about to paint: he indeed has in his understanding that which he has not yet made, but he does not yet understand that it exists. But after he has painted it: he has in his understanding that which he has made, and he understands that it exists. So even the Fool is convinced that something than which nothing greater can be thought is at least in his understanding; for when he hears of this being, he understands what he hears, and whatever is understood is in the understanding. But surely that than which a greater cannot be thought cannot be only in the understanding. For if it were only in the understanding, it could be thought to exist also in reality something which is greater than existing only in the understanding. Therefore, if that than which a greater cannot be thought were only in the understanding, then that than which a greater cannot be thought would be that than which a greater can be thought! But surely this conclusion is impossible. Hence, without doubt, something than which a greater cannot be thought exists both in the understanding and in reality.
That is a stunning argument.


Two houses, and one satellite TV dish, in Summer Hill. (February 2001)

After a seriously sleep deprived night, a visit to the Early Childhood Centre (and talking things through with an early childhood nurse) works wonders. I'd give you a link to the Dulwich Hill Early Childhood Centre, but they're too busy actually looking after people to spend time on creating web presence.

It has been forever and a day since we last spent over an hour gently talking through issues, joys, thoughts, worries and possibilities with a health professional. Those tax dollars used to pay for Early Childhood Centres are seriously effective.


Mozart's musical dice game for constructing minuets never fails to amuse.


The toilet block in Hoskins Park. (February 2001)

Maybe it's just me, but I think that the meaning of the word universe is changing. I think, according to what used to be the meaning of the word, something like this (two "universes" colliding) would be impossible.

Why would it be impossible? Because the universe, whatever it is, is spatiotemporally complete. If you (or any matter or energy) can get from point A to point B then point A and point B are in the same "universe".

Apparently that's not what "universe" means any more. As to what it does mean, neither this article, nor anything else I've seen, tells me.


Chew on some Mathematical Fiction.


The sign for the Chinese doctor in Dulwich Hill. (February 2001)

Stas Busygin seems to be doing fruitful fringe research on the problem of NP-completeness.


Today, I visited It's quite a nice website, once you have an infringement number to use to get past the welcome page.

Do you have postscript? (You do, if you have a postscript printer, or a postscript interpreter such as Ghostview.) If you do, you can use it to draw nice things.


A house for sale in Dulwich Hill. (February 2001)

Here is a thought-provoking article from the Chronicle of Higher Education. The point is stated in its title. The author, Lindsay Waters wants us to Rescue Tenure From the Tyranny of the Monograph. The tagline "publish or perish" is not hyperbole. If you don't publish (and fast) you won't get hired, or if you are already hired, you don't get tenure. If you've got tenure, you won't get promoted, and you won't get research grants, and as a result, you won't get time to do research. As a result, you won't publish so much.

The reasons for this dynamic should be clear. Academics are meant to be researchers, and researchers are meant to publish: research ought to be publically evaluated, it must appear in the public domain. So much I agree with, wholeheartedly.

But how do you measure quality of research? Apparently, at least if you're in the Australian higher education bureaucracy, you do this by quantity. This is why in every year we go through the DETYA, during which each research office in a university tallies up the quantities of research "output". You get one point for an article in a refereed journal. Five points for a book. All of this goes to form the research quantum, which is used to calculate funding for your university, your division and your department.

The institutional pressures are clear to everyone in the system. Publish often. Publish anything you can. Publish garbage if you must. Why write your entry in an encyclopedia concisely when making it over 4000 words would increase its point score from 0.2 to 1? Had I been aware of this borderline when writing that entry you can be sure that I would have tried to add the extra few words to bump it over the borderline. After all, it would have made for at least $2000 extra for my university, and thereby, my department.

All of this makes for the dilution of quality. We spend less time on producing work with bite, with a wide readership, which might make an impact, which has gone through quality control and multiple drafts, and we publish anything we can, as many times as we can get away with it. It is not healthy for universities, and neither is it healthy for intellectual culture in general. However, these are the boundaries which structure our working lives.


Take the colours of my imagination
Take the scent hanging in the air
Take this tangle of a conversation
and turn it into your own prayer
with my fingers as you want them
with my nails under your hide
with my teeth at your back
and my tongue to tell you the sweetest lies

Do you feel loved?

Loves a bully pushing and shoving
in the belly of a woman
heavy rhythm taking over
to stick together
a man and a woman
stick together

Do you feel loved?


Rocky Auto Repairs, at Summer Hill. (March 2001)


Today's listening: The Two Three-Voice Masses by Johannes Ockeghem. Perfect music by which to celebrate resurrection, and life emerging out of pain, suffering and death.


Zachary and Christine. Zachary is approximately 1.5 hours of age. (April 2001)

I interrupt this series of Dulwich Hill and Summer Hill photographs to give you one taken just a couple of days ago at King George V Memorial Hospital for Mothers and Babies in Camperdown.


Today's listening: Arvo Pärt's Passio.

Today's reading: the passion narrative from the gospel of Luke (Luke 21-23).

Today's singing: My Song is Love Unknown. (My friend Barbara and I are our church's two tenors.)


A fence, flowers, two plastic baskets and two cats. (March 2001)

Zachary Luke Parker Restall was born at 11:10pm on Wednesday April 11. For those of you who care about measurements, he's around 9lb/4kg, 50cm in length, and he has a big head with a big brain which caused Christine no end of trouble during labour.

For those of you who don't care for measurements, he's achingly cute.

The long and the short of it is, we're all well, and kind-of looking forward to sleep interrupted by crying every so often instead of sleep interrupted by contractions every 10 minutes (as we were struggling since Saturday night).

And yes, the entries over the last few days of this weblog (and the next few too) are running on autopilot. I've got more important things to do than to surf the web in the next couple of days.


Are you a philosopher or logician? If so, these papers from Andrew Boucher might interest you.


A fence, a vent, and flowers. (March 2001)


"Erratic impact" is not only an interesting name for a website. It's an interesting name for a website about philosophy.


Letterbox #4. (March 2001)


I'm not writing a lot these days (for reasons obvious to those who know what's going on in the Restall/Parker household). Spend the time you save not reading me by browsing around these lovely media nuggets.


Letterbox #3. (March 2001)


Your task for today: have a browse around Anthony Giddens' pages at the LSE. Get a feel for The Third Way as he presents it. (For those of you who have been living under a rock for the last few years, Giddens is one of the social theorists behind the "Third Way" rhetoric and policies undergirding Blair's New Labour.) Then read this critical essay from Radical Philosophy. Then, answer the following question: Does the critical essay hit the mark? (For bonus points, make the same points as the essay without resorting to academic jargon.)


Letterbox #2. (March 2001)

One of Australia's most interesting political commentators, Margot Kingston, has a web diary where she has no editor, and writes up what she's interested in on a daily basis. Why have I not seen this before?


"Some say that the internet is a new place for a public culture, but I have my doubts. First, the sheer size of the internet makes the intimacy of an intellectual culture difficult to achieve. Second, there is something about sharing the same space and time in conversation that is denied by the internet, something without which interchange remains too anonymous in character. I don't think the internet is useless; but it's ability to substitute for what we have lost is more limited than some folks think." A bite of insight from Todd May.


Letterbox #1. (March 2001)

The pictures for this month are all taken on the streets of Dulwich Hill and Summer Hill, here in Sydney.


Where did all those entries go? They went away, but you can still visit them, either all at once, or one at a time. Get the hang of it? This is not the standard, last few entries on the main page weblog. It's more the one page for each month kind of deal. This month will be a big month for me, I think, but a not so big month for this place. Enjoy the pictures to come, and the occasional update of news when I get to it.


It's unfashionable to like him, but I can't help it. I love Ralph Vaughan Williams' symphonies. Call me an unthinking romantic if you must, but while plenty of composers were off twelve-toning (and there's some worthwhile music in that tradition) RVW was composing unfashionable, "nonintellectual" music which stands the test of time and bears his unmistakeable mark.

But then, I like Fred Astaire & Ginger Rogers movies too. Perhaps I am simply an incurable romantic.


I’m Greg Restall, and this is my personal website. I am the Shelby Cullom Davis Professor of Philosophy at the University of St Andrews, and the Director of the Arché Philosophical Research Centre for Logic, Language, Metaphysics and Epistemology I like thinking about – and helping other people think about – logic and philosophy and the many different ways they can inform each other.


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