In a new interview with the Oxford Review of Books, philosopher Stephen Yablo (MIT), who completed his BSc in philosophy and mathematics at U of T in 1979 before receiving his PhD from UCLA in 1986, discusses the development of his philosophical career and ideas.
In particular, Hans Herzberger, one of Yablo’s undergraduate professors at U of T, is credited as an early influence: “It was in Herzberger’s class that Yablo was first exposed to Saul Kripke – the prominent philosopher of language – who Yablo says has been his most significant intellectual influence.”
Yablo also discusses his interpretation (and sometimes criticism) of Kripke, the problem of “empty names,” verisimilitude, partial truth, scepticism, parthood, modelling, confirmation, vagueness, and permission, among many other concepts.
Interviewer Daniel Kodsi remarks on “the war that Yablo has been fighting over the last decade (Aboutness being the dazzling blitzkrieg campaign) in support of taking seriously subject matter as a component of meaning and reconciling philosophers to ways as a new primitive in metaphysics.”
The interview contains, among other things, the curious anecdote that a high-school-aged Yablo wrote a letter to an early idol, the behaviourist BF Skinner, “partly to do with thinking he was making things too simple, which were really complicated.” (Skinner wrote back, Yablo says, “which was really cool.”)