Department of Philosophy
Department of Philosophy

Jon E. Litland


Assistant ProfessorPhD, Harvard

Contact

Interests


Metaphysics, Logic, Philosophy of Logic, Philosophy of Mathematics

Biography


Professor Litland joined the department in fall 2014. He works mainly in metaphysics and the philosophy of logic. His recent work has focussed on the notion of ground, specifically issues concerning the logic of ground. He has also worked on inferentialism and vagueness. 

 

If you are interested in drafts of recent work click on the link to his website or follow his work on Academia.edu

Courses


PHL 313 • Introductory Symbolic Logic

41710-41720 • Spring 2019
Meets MWF 9:00AM-10:00AM WAG 420

This is a first course in deductive symbolic logic. We'll study formal languages for representing sentences
in logically precise ways, we'll study algorithms for evaluating arguments as logically valid or invalid, and
we'll get an introduction to some of the surprising discoveries logicians have made about what tasks no
algorithm can possibly do.

PHL 389 • Core Logic

42047 • Spring 2019
Meets W 12:00PM-3:00PM WAG 310

Prerequisites

This seminar is restricted to first year Philosophy graduate students

 

Course Description

This course is the required graduate logic seminar. The course will introduce students to a variety of issues in logic that are of importance for work across philosophy. Possible topics include: modal logic and systems of propositional modal logic;  quantified modal logic, de reand de dicto readings, possibilist and actualist quantifiers, necessitism and contingentism; counterfactual conditionals; multi-valued logic; formal theories of truth including Kripke’s fixed-point construction and revision theories; supervaluationism and the semantics of vagueness; proof theory and Gentzen systems; intuitionistic logic; relevance logic and contradiction-friendly paraconsistent logics; higher-order logic and lambda-calculus;  and core results of classical first-order metatheory including completeness, compactness, and the Godel incompleteness results.

 

Grading Policy

Grading will be based on periodic problem sets.

 

Texts

Readings will be made available as required.

PHL 323K • Metaphysics

42130 • Fall 2018
Meets TTH 9:30AM-11:00AM WAG 208

This course is an overview of some of the central topics in metaphysics.
Metaphysics, generally speaking, is the branch of philosophy concerned
with the nature of reality; metaphysicians seek an understanding of the
fundamental sorts of things that constitute the world, as well as of the
structure of the world itself.
We will begin by focusing on issues surrounding one particular sort of
thing: persons. In particular, we will be considering different views
regarding what it is to be a person and for a person to persist through
change. This will lead to more general discussions of the nature and
structure of time and the persistence of things through temporal change.
From there we’ll take up the issue of composition. In particular, we’ll be
concerned with the following question: Under what circumstances do
some things (parts) compose another thing (whole)? We’ll then turn to the
problems of universals and individuation – how do we account for (i)
similarities among distinct things and (ii) the distinctness of exactly
similar things? We’ll conclude the course with a discussion of possible
worlds.

PHL 391 • Ground, Grain/Generality

42295 • Fall 2018
Meets T 12:30PM-3:30PM WAG 310

Prerequisite

Graduate Standing and Consent of Graduate Adviser of Instructor required.

Course Description

This course is about the interaction between grounding, fineness of grain, generality - in particular about the paradoxes they give rise to.
 
If we accept that there is grounding we are forced to accept a structured view of reality. For ground allows us to distinguish between different necessary truths. The necessary truth that it is raining or not raining is grounded in its not raining; the necessary truth that it is snowing or not is grounded in its not snowing, but not in its not raining. But how fine-grained does reality have to be? Differing conceptions of ground answer differently, but the arguably most natural conception of ground commits us to a highly structured view of reality. Unfortunately, such highly structured views are inconsistent with standard higher-order logic - by the Russell-Myhill Paradox. One topic for the course is: how should the grounding theorist respond? (And not just the grounding theorist: existing theories of structured propositions are inconsistent by the same argument.)
 
Another topic is this:  some have taken paradoxes like Russell-Myhill to show that it is impossible to quantify over absolutely everything. We will try to determine whether it is true. If it is true it gives the grounding theorist a promising way of saving a structured view of reality. However, while the grounding theorist may be able to use the rejection of absolute generality to save a structured view of reality, this raises a further difficult problem. The only systematic accounts of the grounds for general propositions require absolute generality, so the grounding theorist who rejects absolute generality needs a new account of the grounds for general propositions. 
 
The goal of the course is to develop a satisfactory account of ground in the presence of these (and other) paradoxes, but along the way the course will serve as an introduction to some of the most notorious and deep problems in the foundations of logic and mathematics.
 

Texts

We will read articles by:  Fine, Kraemer, Fritz, Goodman, Dorr, Uzquiano, Litland, Correia, Williamson, Fairchild, Rosen, Woods, Linnebo, Yablo, Hawthorne, Rayo, Levey, Skiles, Dummett, Kripke, Cartwright, Boolos, Parsons, Russell, and others.
 

Grading Policy:

90 % : a term paper 
10 % : in class presentation of the idea in the term paper. 

 

 

PHL 313 • Introductory Symbolic Logic

41975-41985 • Spring 2018
Meets TTH 11:00AM-12:30PM WAG 302

Description:

This is a first course in deductive symbolic logic. We’ll introduce and study formal languages in order to represent sentences and arguments precisely and give precise characterizations of when an argument is valid. We will introduce algorithms (formal proof systems) to determine whether arguments are valid or invalid. We will prove some of the classic results about when algorithms for determining validity exist.

List of Proposed Texts /Readings :

Richard Jeffrey, Formal Logic, Its Scope and Limits, 4th Edition

 

Proposed Grading Policy:

 

Grades will be determined as follows: A midterm counting for 18%; a final exam counting for 28% and six homework assignments counting for 8% each. Percentages will be converted to letter grades as follows

93-100% = A                  90-92%  = A-                 87-89 % = B+                83-86%  = B

80-82  % = B-                and so on until                   59 and below = F

PHL 323K • Metaphysics

42025 • Spring 2018
Meets TTH 8:00AM-9:30AM WAG 308

This course is an overview of some of the central topics in metaphysics.
Metaphysics, generally speaking, is the branch of philosophy concerned
with the nature of reality; metaphysicians seek an understanding of the
fundamental sorts of things that constitute the world, as well as of the
structure of the world itself.

We will begin by focusing on issues surrounding one particular sort of
thing: persons. In particular, we will be considering different views
regarding what it is to be a person and for a person to persist through
change. This will lead to more general discussions of the nature and
structure of time and the persistence of things through temporal change.
From there we’ll take up the issue of composition. In particular, we’ll be
concerned with the following question: Under what circumstances do
some things (parts) compose another thing (whole)? We’ll then turn to the
problems of universals and individuation – how do we account for (i)
similarities among distinct things and (ii) the distinctness of exactly
similar things? We’ll conclude the course with a discussion of possible
worlds.

PHL 344K • Intermediate Symbolic Logic

42525 • Fall 2017
Meets TTH 9:30AM-11:00AM SZB 278
(also listed as M 344K)

This course focuses on some of the most important results in 20th century metalogic: the study of logical systems, their powers and limitations. We will prove the completeness of classical predicate logic, the undecidability of the halting problem, the undecidability of classical predicate logic, the undefinability of truth,  the incompleteness of arithmetic and the unprovability of consistency.

While knowledge of particular mathematical results will not be presupposed the course is technically demanding and the students are well advised to have some familiarity with mathematical proofs.

PHL 382 • Metaphysics Of Modality

42600 • Fall 2017
Meets T 12:30PM-3:30PM WAG 310

Prerequisites

Graduate Standing and Consent of Graduate Advisor or instructor required.

Description

We study issues in the metaphysics of modality. We will discuss some of the following issues. Should metaphysical modality be explained in terms of possible worlds or should rather metaphysical modality be taken as primitive? Does everything exist necessarily? Could properties, relations, and propositions exist merely contingently? What is the relationship between essence and necessity? Can we give a reductive account of metaphysical modality? Can we find grounds (or truthmakers) for every necessary truth? Can we make sense of de re modality? What is the relationship between different types of modality such as metaphysical, nomological, and normative necessity? 

Course requirements

Grades will be determined as follows:

Final paper 90% of the grade
Presentation 10%

Texts

We will read works by Adams, Barcan Marcus, Kripke, Lewis, Fine, Stalnaker, Williamson, Sider, Bennett, van Inwagen, Rosen, Kment, Dasgupta, Hale, Bacon, Goodman, Fritz, Vetter, and other contemporary authors.  

This seminar satisfies the M&E requirement

PHL 323K • Metaphysics

42455 • Fall 2016
Meets TTH 9:30AM-11:00AM WAG 210

Description:

We will examine some of the main issues in metaphysics. We will discuss problems of Identity and Survival: is death bad? If so, why? What is it for something to persist through time? Is identity over time possible? Can it be vague whether two things are identical? We will discuss questions in Ontology: are there numbers? Are there properties? What does it mean for something to exist? Can something depend on something else for its existence?  We will discuss problems of modality: What does it mean to say that something is possible? Are there different types of possibility? Could things have been different than they actually are, or is everything necessary? 

 

Readings/ Texts:

Readings will be drawn from Metaphysics, an anthology, 2nd edition. Editors, Jaegwon Kim, Daniel Z.Korman and Ernest Sosa Supplementary articles will be provided on Canvas.

 

Grading:

Class participation: 10 %. Questions and discussion on canvas: 10% 2 short essays: 20%. Written comments on the work of peers: 20% Outline of final essay: 10% Final essay: 30%

PHL 344K • Intermediate Symbolic Logic

41745 • Spring 2016
Meets TTH 9:30AM-11:00AM GAR 2.112
(also listed as M 344K)

This course focuses on some of the most important results in 20th century metalogic: the study of logical systems, their powers and limitations. We will prove the completeness of classical predicate logic, the undecidability of the halting problem, the undecidability of classical predicate logic, the undefinability of truth,  the incompleteness of arithmetic and the unprovability of consistency. 

While knowledge of particular mathematical results will not be presupposed the course is technically demanding and the students are well advised to have some familiarity with mathematical proofs.

PHL 358 • Philosophical Logic

41690 • Fall 2015
Meets TTH 9:30AM-11:00AM WAG 308

This is an intermediate logic course. The main goal of the course is to familiarize ourselves with the techniques and methods of non-classical logic. Such logics play an increasingly important role in philosophy and they have numerous applications in linguists, computer science and mathematics. We will study both extensions of classical logic—such as modal and tense logics—and alternatives to classical logics—such as intuitionistic and multi-valued logic. The main focus of the course is the development of the tools and methods of non-classical logics, but we will take care understand both the philosophical motivations for the logics as well as some of their non-philosophical applications, in particular, applications in linguistics and mathematics. The logics we study have different strengths and weaknesses. We will pay particular attention to the following methodological question: how to decide which logic is the best logic for a given application?

PHL 382 • Grounding

41735 • Fall 2015
Meets TH 12:30PM-3:30PM WAG 312

Prerequisites

Graduate standing and consent of Graduate Advisor or instructor required.

 

Course Description: 

Many think that some truths (facts, propositions) are grounded in (consist in, hold in virtue of, depend on, are nothing over and above) other truths. A disjunctive truth, for instance, is typically taken to be grounded in its true disjuncts. Recently, the notion of (metaphysical) grounding has become a topic in its own right. This seminar will be an introduction to the recent work on grounding in metaphysics and philosophical logic.

We will read works both by enthusiasts and skeptics of grounding. Throughout the course we will focus on trying to develop systematic and rigorous theories of both grounding itself and its interaction with notions such as (metaphysical) modality and essence. Some questions that will be discussed include: What grounds logical truths? Do grounds necessitate the grounded? What grounds grounding? What to do with the paradoxes of ground? What is the relationship between grounding and essence? What is the relationship between grounding and real definition? How can grounding help with developing a “structuralist” metaphysics? 

Grading Policy:

Students enrolled in the class will have to make one presentation. (10 %) and write a term paper (90%). 

Texts:

We will read articles by Fine, Schaffer, deRosset, Rosen, Dasgupta, Wilson, Bennett, Koslicki, Raven, Hofweber, Litland, Skiles, Correia, Schnieder, Krämer and others. 

 

PHL 323K • Metaphysics

41900 • Spring 2015
Meets TTH 12:30PM-2:00PM CLA 1.102

We will examine some of the main issues in metaphysics. We will discuss questions in Ontology: are there numbers? Are there properties? What does it mean for something to exist? Can something depend on something else for its existence? We will discuss problems of Identity: what is it for something to persist through time? Is identity over time possible? Can it be vague whether two things are identical? We will discuss problems of modality? What does it mean to say that something is possible? Are there different types of possibility? Is it possible for a thing to be different than it actually is?  

PHL 344K • Intermediate Symbolic Logic

41990 • Spring 2015
Meets MWF 1:00PM-2:00PM CLA 0.112
(also listed as M 344K)

This course focuses on some of the most important results in 20th century metalogic: the study of logical systems, their powers and limitations. We will prove the completeness of classical predicate logic, the undecidability of classical predicate logic, the undefinability of truth,  the incompleteness of arithmetic and the unprovability of consistency.

 

While knowledge of particular mathematical results will not be presupposed the course is technically demanding and the students should have some familiarity with mathematical proofs. 

PHL 313 • Introductory Symbolic Logic

42895-42905 • Fall 2014
Meets TTH 12:30PM-2:00PM WAG 302

This is a first course in deductive symbolic logic. We'll study formal languages for representing sentences
in logically precise ways, we'll study algorithms for evaluating arguments as logically valid or invalid, and
we'll get an introduction to some of the surprising discoveries logicians have made about what tasks no
algorithm can possibly do.

Profile Pages


External Links