Twelve things I love about philosophical logic

Over this last weekend, I spent some time tidying out one of the electronic “junk drawers” of my writing life, a folder full of thousands upon thousands of little scraps of text, ranging from minutes of meetings, recipes I’ve saved, little ideas I came across which I wanted to save, lists of places to visit when travelling, and many other kinds of digital flotsam and jetsam I’ve collected over around 20 years of being online, reading and writing.

There was a lot of junk in that big pile of text that I deleted on sight (though there were a few recipes I’m looking forward to trying out in the next little while) but one thing really surprised me. It was a short list, entitled “12 things I love about philosophical logic”. That scrap of writing was about 200 words—the “12 things” are each elaborated with only a sentence or two. I wrote it about five years ago, and I’d totally forgotten about it until coming across it this weekend. Rereading it, the ideas resonated. (My views haven’t shifted that much over five years.) What resonated wasn’t just that I agreed with my earlier self—but that I found the thoughts helpful, and they struck me as the kind of thing that you don’t often hear. Maybe other logicians have thought or said or written things like this, but if they have, I haven’t heard them. It seems to me that we don’t often reflect on the pleasures of our discipline, and we don’t often commit to text much about what it is like to work in our field, or to highlight what it means to us. Reading these words from five years ago clarified some things for me, so it seems to me that it’s at least possible that they might be of some use to others, too. Maybe seeing how things appear from here can help you get some more insight into how things are for you, whether you work in philosophical logic, you work in some other field, or you’re a curious outsider who wants to get some sense of what it is that we philosophical logicians do with our time.

Just a part of my junk drawer
Just a small part of my junk drawer.

So, here’s what I’ll do: I’m going to spend some time expanding my “12 things” notes, and I’ll post them at roughly one per day, over the next couple of weeks. Come back tomorrow for the first of the 12 things I love about working in philosophical logic. By the end, the list below will contain links to each entry.

  1. The Dialectic
  2. Abstraction
  3. Multiple Realisability
  4. Interdisciplinarity
  5. The Moment of Recognition
  6. Conceptual Expansion
  7. Pragmatics
  8. Attention
  9. Necessity
  10. Possibility
  11. Learning and Teaching
  12. Community

Oh, before I forget, I should add a qualification. This list is idiosyncratic and particular in a number of different ways. I don’t expect that what I love is what others who work in philosophical logic love, and neither do I mean to imply that these joys are only to be found when you work in philosophical logic. In giving this list, I don’t mean to universalise to other people’s experience, or to claim any particular distinction for my discipline in comparison to others.

With that said, I’d love to hear back from you, especially if these thoughts spark any reflections of your own.


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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