[FOM] Shapiro on natural and formal languages

Roger B Jones rbj01 at rbjones.com
Wed Nov 24 11:57:26 EST 2004

In brief support of Avron's criticism of Sharpiro
I observe that, to the best of my knowledge, none of the
formal notations I have ever used are intended to model
or to mimic natural languages.
When chosing a formal notation for some purpose, in my
personal experience, the relationship between the formal
languages and natural languages has never entered into
to matter.

However it is not uncommon for philosophers (in my limited
experience) to write as if formal notations could have
no other purpose, and as if they can only be evaluated
in terms of how well they relate to natural languages.

My experience in reading Shapiro's book, (apart from
appreciating the technical content) was to feel very
frustrated by the conceptual gerrimandering which seemed
to me to be involved in his (though it may be standard
among philosophers of mathematics) concept of "foundationalism".
This seemed to me to be a paper tiger.  I know of no
philosopher (living or dead) who I would consider a
"foundationalist" as this concept is defined by Shapiro.
I am myself highly appreciative of the merits of mathematical
"foundation systems" and would expect by any reasonable
definition of "foundationalist" to count myself in.
I am not, however, even close to being a foundationalist
by Shapiro's definition.

Roger Jones

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