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Showing posts from April, 2012

My laptop has died. How do I choose a new one?

My laptop and I have enjoyed a tempestuous relationship for the last few years. Initially a company reject, I was delighted to pick up the pieces of the thoroughly unremarkable HP Compaq 6515b. As a company machine my first duty was to remove the software which was not licensed for private use, and the easiest way to do this was simply to replace the limited 60gb hard drive with a decent 320gb drive and a fresh install of Linux Ubuntu (of which , more later). Unfortunately, Ubuntu and my laptop did not see eye to eye on many issues.  The fan broke within months while the budget AMD processor was initially slow and over the years progressed to being glacial.  By far the most problematic issue was the use of wireless. The inbuilt Broadcom wireless card refused to speak to anything not owned by Microsoft, so for three years working online has been a never-ending wrestling match involving re-installing drivers and threatening the wretched machine with a 15ft drop from the nearest window.

Theories of Description

So. Picture yourself on a rainy, gloomy Thursday, looking forward to the prospect of delivering a two-hour lecture on Bertrand Russell's theories of description. Can you feel my pain? The difficulty here is that the purpose of this class is not to develop a deep and comprehensive understanding of the various theories which surround Russell's idea (this is quite possibly something which should reasonably expected of any sane person), but to introduce just enough to provide a working definition (if you will excuse the philosophical paradox) of the theory which to a large extent determined the shape and style of philosophical approaches to language throughout the twentieth century, and on to the present day. This presentation was designed to follow on from an initial review of the problems with referential language. Anyway, here we go:

Re. 'Are we just meat in the room?'

I have just read yet another very interesting blog from @PlashingVole (hereafter referred to as PV, which I hope he does not mind) about the issue of attendance at lectures (read the article here:  I started to write a comment back for it, but it got so long-winded I thought I would blog my response instead.
I imagine most places are struggling with this same issue.  PV makes an excellent point about the fact that students do not necessarily recognize the benefit of a course when they feel forced to do it.  We deliver compulsory Study Skills courses on the degrees at NUC which often incur a wide-spread (even aggressive) resentment from students.  Common responses are: ‘Why am I being told how to structure a sentence?’; ‘I have three A-levels, so I already know how to write an essay!’; ‘I hate maths, so why am I having to study quantitative research methods?’; ‘I came to study English – and this unit isn’t E…

Problems with referential theories of language

Yesterday I begun the unenviable task of trying to explain twentieth century philosophies of language to a group of students who had really done nothing to deserve it.  As a build-up to the inevitable headaches which Bertrand Russell is going to create next week I thought I would begin with a line or argument explaining the problems caused by referential theories of meaning, and the consequent need for a new model to explain language.

Anyway, here is my presentation.  Does it make any sense to anyone?