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  • Past, Present and Future: the logic and philosophy of Arthur Prior, a special memorial lecture presented by Dr Jeremy Seligman

    Arthur Prior, Logician. (1914-1969).

    28/05/2014 - A special memorial lecture delivered by Professor Jeremy Seligman of Auckland University, with assistance from the New Zealand Centre, the Peking University Centre for Logic, Language and Cognition (represented by Wang Yanjing), and The Education Section of the New Zealand Embassy (represented by Sam Mackay).

    New Zealand Centre visiting fellow Professor Jeremy Seligman recently delivered a lecture in memory of New Zealand logician Arthur Prior (1914-1969), in honour of the 100th anniversary of his birth. Fascinated with the concept of pre-destination, Prior initiated the first systematic investigation into the logic of time. His clarity of thought and sharp distinctions are a model of philosophical enquiry and many of his ideas subsequently became a theoretical foundation for research on time in philosophy, linguistics and computer science. His various works are still held in high regard to this day, and so the New Zealand Centre is delighted to be one of many organizations remembering Prior at the time of his centennary year.

    Seligman provided the audience with a gentle introduction to some of Prior's ideas, against the background of the life of “an exuberant, playful man of seemingly inexhaustible vitality” (Copeland 2007). Prior dedicated a great deal of time and thought in applying his subject to everyday life, challenging even the most firmly held preconceptions on topics such as religion and war. His approach to the study of Logic won Prior tremendous respect and attention from his contemporaries at Oxford, and today students of linguistics, logic, and philosophy continue to benefit from the clarity of his writing - as one Oxford academic would put it: "Prior lacks completely in mugwumpery".

    The memorial lecture was followed by a 'Study in New Zealand' workshop.

    The memorial lecture, which was well attended by students from both Peking University and Tsinghua University, was followed by a casual 'Study in New Zealand' workshop with assistance from the Education Section of the New Zealand Embassy, represented by former New Zealand Centre liaison officer Sam Mackay (now Senior Education Manager at the embassy). Students were able to discuss their fields of study over cups of tea and biscuits with a view to learning more about the potential to continue post-graduate studies at New Zealand universities. Of particular interest to Chinese students was the recent announcement of new scholarships and fees arrangements for the pursuit of PhD level studies in information science and technology, an area where New Zealand is growing in influence.

    The event was made possible by collaboration between the New Zealand Centre and the Peking University Centre for Logic, Language and Cognition. For more information about New Zealand Centre Visiting Fellow Dr Jeremy Seligman, you can visit his official profile on the University of Auckland website by clicking here.

    Dr Jeremy Seligman prepared his memorial lecture as part of a Visiting Fellowship with the New Zealand Centre. If you are a member of the academic staff from any of our five partner institutions (University of Auckland, University of Otago, Waikato University, Canterbury University, and Victoria University) and you are interested in attending a fellowship at Peking University, get in touch with our liaison officers to learn more about the application process. Visiting fellowships for New Zealand academics are held year-round at Peking University, across a broad range of departments, forming a significant contribution to the advancement of academic exchange between China and New Zealand.

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