June 30, 2006

Torture Awareness

It's no longer June here, but it still is back in the states for a few hours, so I'll belatedly (via Rummy's Diaries) link to the Torture Awareness Website.

The Hamdan decision is a step forward for the rule of law in the U.S. and its fiefdoms, or at least a refusal to take another step backward. Particularly in the apparent holding that the Geneva Conventions do apply to the so-called War on Terror. But it is by no means the end of the fight against torture by the U.S. and its allies. (I oppose torture by anyone, but the U.S. is the country I can do most about; and since it's the most powerful nation, and the best placed to be an exemplar of human rights, torture by the U.S. is especially harmful.)

Blog against Torture (by the folks who brought you Rummy's Diaries is a place to keep checking. This is a good post on how torture is bad no matter who does it to who. This on the dehumanization of the Guantanamo suicides. All worth reading.

And in case it needed to be said:

Posted by Matt Weiner at 07:44 PM | Comments (3)

Evidentials Everywhere

Part of the reason I mentioned this is because it brings out another evidential: "doubtless." It would have been odd to say

Charlie Haden's composition "Out of Focus" (a duo with Don Cherry on The Golden Number) is based on a quote from his opening solo on Ornette Coleman's "Focus in Sanity." Which is doubtless why it's called that

if I had read an explanation, by Haden, of the origin of the title. I'm tempted to say "I don't know where the title comes from."

In fact I think it would be odd to say this if I had read an explanation by someone else of the origin; and I think it would be odd for you to say that, now that you've read my admittedly speculative explanation of the origin. (Unless, perhaps, you consider the title independently and come to the same conclusion.) Which seems to mean that 'doubtless' patterns with 'must' and not with 'apparently'.

In the paper I gave at the epistemic modals conference I gave an (admittedly weak) argument that my account of 'must' might help explain its evidentiality. Should I be worried that there are evidentials popping up everywhere, and that a better account of evidentiality would explain them all in concert? Not necessarily. The other evidentials involve explicit epistemic terms: 'doubt', 'appear', 'clear'. So there's some reason to think that 'must' might get one kind of explanation and the others another kind (with 'doubtless' at least I suspect it's Gricean). Or at least we need a story about why 'must' would behave like an explicitly epistemic term; perhaps 'appear' and 'clear' refer to the kind of evidence involved, while 'must' and 'doubtless' refer to levels of certainty.

Posted by Matt Weiner at 06:08 AM | Comments (0)

June 26, 2006

Imaginary Gardens with Real Toads in Them

Mom e-mails to point out that Get Fuzzy has much to say relevant to our recent discussion about real events taking place in fictional places. The post title was her idea too.

Posted by Matt Weiner at 01:24 AM | Comments (1)

June 24, 2006

Musical Insight

Charlie Haden's composition "Out of Focus" (a duo with Don Cherry on The Golden Number) is based on a quote from his opening solo on Ornette Coleman's "Focus in Sanity." Which is doubtless why it's called that.

(Did I mention that the night before I went to Australia I was in New York and saw Ornette play? Oh yeah. He did "Lonely Woman" as an encore, in true rock star fashion.)

Posted by Matt Weiner at 09:27 PM | Comments (1)

June 21, 2006

"Apparently" Is Evidential

Sometime since the last post I had the following insight (truth not guaranteed): "apparently" is evidential. It at least seems odd, in most circumstances, to stand outside in heavy rain and say "Apparently, it's raining." Nor can I say "Apparently, I'm in Canberra" when I know my location as securely as I usually know my location. (Up to the level of the city, since below that level I often don't know it securely at all.)

But unlike "must," "apparently" is permissible in cases of testimony. If Alice tells me on the phone that she's on her way to the party, I can't comfortably say "Alice must be on her way to the party." But I can often say "Alice is apparently on her way to the party."

And some cases of observation do seem to allow "apparently"; if I've got lost, and I look up at the street signs and they say 48th and Knoxville, I can say "Apparently I'm at 48th and Knoxville." But if I am tremendously familiar with the intersection it would be odd to say that. Because it would be underinformative? That doesn't obviously work if, as I suggest in comments to the last post, "apparently" as an adsentence is factive.

Posted by Matt Weiner at 02:39 AM | Comments (5)

June 16, 2006


As mentioned in comments I'm off to Canberra, first for the Epistemic Modality conference and then to be a visiting fellow at the ANU philosophy department till the AAP. So there definitely won't be any posting for a few days -- when I get there, who knows?

Posted by Matt Weiner at 01:39 PM | Comments (1)

More "Apparently"

Just ran across this at Fametracker:

In Legally Blonde, she...well, we haven't seen it yet. But judging by the trailer, she looks to be the sexed-up caricature of a gold-digging trophy wife who appears (to us) to be but apparently isn't the mother of Reese Witherspoon's Elle Woods.

This makes perfect sense to me. What "appears" is what they judge by watching the trailer only; what is "apparently" true is what they hear. They could have used "appears not to be" for "apparently isn't" if they hadn't already used "appears" in the sentence; but they couldn't use "apparently is" for "appears (to us) to be." I'm not quite sure why this is.

Posted by Matt Weiner at 08:39 AM | Comments (4)

June 11, 2006

I Find This Sentence Odd

Literary Encyclopedia on Felix Holt, The Radical:

George Eliot's novel, Felix Holt is set against the backdrop of the general election of 1832 as it apparently occurred in the fictional town of Treby Magna.

What is "apparently" doing there? Surely in this case appearances are not deceiving; the elections in Treby Magna appear to take place as they are described in the novel, and that is how they did take place.

I like the bit about how bad legal advice forced Eliot to crate and kill off an entirely superfluous character. (Though the character can't have been entirely superfluous, or Eliot wouldn't have had to create him/her.)

Posted by Matt Weiner at 10:53 AM | Comments (13)

June 03, 2006

Random Sporadic Posting May Continue for Awhile

via Pandagon, funny.

Posted by Matt Weiner at 09:06 AM | Comments (4)