Student Spotlight: Stephen Mackereth


Interviewed as Third Year Student

 Stephen Mackereth, a second year graduate student in the Department of Philosophy, stands in front of a doorway in Oxford, England. How would you explain your area/s of research?

Lately I have been working on truth and paradox in formal (mathematical) languages. If a language contains devices for self-reference, then the question of whether a certain sentence is true can sometimes be circular, or even paradoxical (e.g., “This sentence is false”). This raises both philosophical and mathematical questions about truth and logic in these languages.

What inspired you to choose this field of study?

I was inspired by my teacher Anil Gupta, who has worked extensively on truth and paradox, and recently taught a graduate seminar on this topic. My work from this seminar turned into a forthcoming paper in Journal of Philosophical Logic.  [*update: published paper]

What is the significance of your research?

My paper contributes towards a better understanding of the influential theories of truth due to Kripke and Martin & Woodruff. I characterize the structure of Kripkean “fixed points” (roughly, possible interpretations of the truth-predicate) for self-referential first-order languages. These technical results help to deepen our understanding of the mathematical behavior of truth when there is self-reference.

What has most influenced you as a scholar?

My friends, my teachers, and my mathematical training have been most influential in helping me to think more clearly, carefully, and charitably. My thinking has been shaped by Plato, Aquinas, Hume, Wittgenstein, and J L Austin, amongst others.

Why did you choose Pitt to pursue your graduate degree?

Two things especially attracted me. Firstly, Pitt’s philosophy department is extremely intellectually diverse. As a young scholar it is exciting to be exposed to so many different styles of doing philosophy. Secondly, Pitt’s philosophy department is well known for its careful and sympathetic engagement with the history of philosophy, which I think is very important.

What are your plans after graduation?

I would like to become a philosophy professor!