Tag Archives: philosophy

Q&A with Cambridge Fellow Thomas Forster

Thomas Forster from the University of Cambridge, UK – Semester 2 2016.

Where you have come from and what do you teach?

I have come from the University of Cambridge, UK, where I am a Director of Studies in Mathematics and Computer Science and a lecturer in the Department of Pure Mathematics and Mathematical Statistics.  My teaching focuses on Mathematical Logic.  When I return to Cambridge I shall be lecturing courses on Set Theory and Logic for the Maths faculty and Logic-for-Linguistics for the Linguistics Faculty.

Thomas Forster group

Dr Forster (middle row, second from the right)

What interested you in being a Cambridge Fellow/Why did you want to come to UC?

I actually have dual British and New Zealand citizenship and I spend most British summers in New Zealand to escape Cambridge which is full of tourists and can be rather hot.  I have been coming to UC for a number of years where I’ve predominately worked with the Department of Philosophy (I’m actually an Adjunct Senior Fellow in the Department of Philosophy).

Having previously been to UC as an Erskine Fellow I was delighted to be welcomed back as a Cambridge Fellow.

What have you been doing at UC?

I have been teaching MATH336 Foundations of Mathematics to undergraduates in the School of Mathematics and Statistics.  The course is an introduction to the philosophy of mathematics, classical and intuitionistic logic, set theory and Gödel’s theorems.  This is a 15 point course which I will teach for 9 weeks.  I’ve personally benefited from teaching this course as I will be lecturing a similar course at Cambridge in a few weeks so it’s been a good opportunity to test the material on UC’s students.

What have you most enjoyed about your time here at UC/Christchurch?

The chance to catch up with friends again both at UC and across New Zealand.  I’ve made the most of my weekends visiting friends elsewhere in the country and also hosting people in the campus house provided by UC.

I have greatly enjoyed the reading group we have had in the maths departments on Nonstandard Analysis (don’t ask) something I have always wanted to get on top of, and for which there is a body of expertise here at UC.  My final weekend I shall actually be spending at a Philosophy department retreat at Cass, a place where I have been on retreats before, and had a photograph taken of me posing in front of the railway station that Rita Angus* made famous.

*Rita Angus painted a famous picture of Cass Railway Station titled ‘Cass’ in 1936.

Thomas Forster

Dr Forster (front row, third from the left) pictured at the Philosophy Department retreat at Cass in September 2016

Life, the Universe and Everything

Professor George Ellis, a renowned cosmologist visiting on an Erskine Fellowship from the University of Cape Town, will present a series of eight lectures on big questions aimed at a broad audience, including cosmology, causality, life, aliens and the physics of the mind.

The lectures are open to everyone. The first will be held as a public lecture in C1, 8pm, Monday 8 August.

George has had a remarkable career. In addition to a string of academic honours, he also played a role in the anti-apartheid movement in South Africa in the 1970s and 1980s. (He was later awarded the Order of the Star of South Africa by Nelson Mandela.)

I got to know George on my first postdoc in Trieste, Italy, in 1988 at a time when things had got a bit too difficult for him in South Africa. For a few years George was based there at SISSA, an Institute directed then by Dennis Sciama, who in the 1960s had supervised George Ellis, Stephen Hawking, Martin Rees, and a whole generation of experts in general relativity.

George and Stephen co-wrote one of the classic texts of the field, published in 1973. (George appears as fellow student in the film dramatisations of Stephen’s life, including the 2014 movie “Theory of Everything”.)

George is truly a deep thinker, always tackling the most fundamental questions. His lectures (full list available here) will be a fascinating journey crossing the boundaries of physics, biology and philosophy.

The lectures are largely self-contained, so that students and staff can choose ones that interest them without worrying about missing others.

Astrobiology topics will be hosted by Biological Sciences (August 11, 18); cosmology by Philosophy (August 10) and Physics and Astronomy (August 12, 19) and causality and complex systems by Philosophy (August 15, 17). The last topics are discussed in George’s new book How Can Physics Underlie the Mind?: Top-Down Causation in the Human Context.

David Wiltshire

‘Flying Solo’: Delusions, Dreaming, and Doxastic Solipsism : Philosophy Department Seminar

Professor Tim Bayne (Western University/University of Manchester)
Delusions are typically conceptualized in terms of departures from the norms of epistemic rationality. This talk examines a number of problems with this conception of delusion, and explores an alternative to it based on the idea that delusions involve a break-down in the social scaffolding of belief. Read more…

  • Date: Tuesday 6 October 2015, 10-11am
  • Location: Room 508, Karl Popper building, Ilam Campus

Professor Tim Bayne: The Case for Covert Consciousness

Professor Tim Bayne Western University/University of Manchester

Consciousness is typically ascribed on the basis of verbal report and other forms of overt behaviour. We take a creature to be conscious—and to have certain kinds of conscious states—on the basis of its capacity to interact with its environment in intelligible ways. However, there are conditions in which a creature’s capacity to manifest its conscious states in the form of overt behaviour is severely restricted and perhaps even lost altogether. Read more…

  • Date: Tuesday 29 September 2015, 10:00AM to 29 September 2015, 12:00PM
  • Location: Room 508, Karl Popper Building, Ilam Campus