In late July I’ve made my way up to Munich, Germany to attend a summer school for female students interested in Mathematical Philosophy – an area of philosophy that includes the philosophy of logic, the philosophy of mathematics and the philosophy of language. My primary academic interests lie in the last one – specifically in the overlap of Philosophy and Psychology within the topic of language – hence my decision to apply for the summer school. Apart from deepening my knowledge of these complex topics, that are not well covered by courses on offer at Edinburgh University, I was hoping that this course would motivate me to finish my pilot study in experimental philosophy of language in time to present it at the summer school.
Both before and as the summer school progressed, I was worried that my existing (very rusty) knowledge of logic and mathematics might be insufficient to keep up with the lecture streams efficiently. Furthermore, I was nervous about presenting my own work for the first time. As it turned out, I did struggle to comprehend a lot of mathematical concepts that were taught to us, while other participants, who were all mostly postgrads specialized in logic, seemed to be faring better than me, at least from what I could tell. However, when it came to more language-related topics, as well as probability-related topics (which I’ve covered in some of the psychology courses back home), I faired quite well compared to the rest. While I felt a bit overwhelmed and incompetent at the start of the week, I started to feel more secure and able as time went by. This started to manifest itself at the point when we were to choose which of the three lecture streams (roughly corresponding to the three aforementioned topics of the summer school) we were going to continue with. I chose the one that I was most interested in – namely the topic of counterfactual conditionals, which then gave me the chance to go deep into the subject without having to worry about the more technical topics that I was less comfortable with. My presentation also went well, despite my being nervous, and the part that I was the most scared of before, namely the Q&A, ended up being the part I enjoyed the most. Overall, I’ve received valuable feedback and I’ve successfully stepped out of my comfort zone.
In the end, I was glad to have done a bit of everything, and even though I cannot say I’ve fully grasped some of the topics, the summer school has nonetheless taught me the basics and given me a bit of a feel for mathematical philosophy. Importantly, however, I’ve also learned that philosophy of mathematics and logic, specifically, aren’t topics that I’d want to go into much further. This has, in turn, strengthened my research interests even more surely in the direction of language, for which I am very grateful.