Pelletier crosses disciplines

March 04, 2004, vol. 29, no. 5
By Jim Lyon



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A new arrival on campus, Francis Jeffry Pelletier has been named to a Canada Research Chair in cognitive science at SFU, a joint appointment to the departments of philosophy and linguistics.

Pelletier comes to B.C. from the University of Alberta in Edmonton where he held professorships in philosophy and computing science.

“SFU is extremely fortunate to have attracted him,” says philosophy chair Phil Hanson. “One eminent referee who recommended Pelletier's appointment referred to him as ‘the very best person alive working at the interface between linguistics and the philosophy of language.' ”

Pelletier's early training was in mathematics at the University of Nebraska in the mid-1960s. He then took an MA in philosophy at Nebraska and a PhD at UCLA. In 1971 he accepted an appointment at the University of Alberta and while there, he obtained masters degrees in both linguistics and computing science.

Pelletier has also held appointments at the University of Tuebingen in Germany; the University of Rochester, New York; the University of Texas at Austin; and previously at SFU (in 1977).

His new appointment at SFU is split between philosophy (his home department) and linguistics, and he also retains associate status in the school of computing science. His first course in the philosophy department will be on the philosophy of language and logic. His first course for linguistics will be on the semantics of generic sentences and mass terms.

Pelletier is looking forward to collaborating with his new colleagues. Cognitive science is very much an interdisciplinary, collaborative endeavor, which tries to advance the understanding of human cognition by integrating the theoretical contributions of cognitive psychology, neuroscience, linguistics, computer modelling, and philosophy of mind and language.

Pelletier's primary research interests and past research contributions are on an impressive number of fronts within cognitive science including: knowledge representation, formal semantics, philosophy of logic, automated theorem proving, belief revision, philosophy of language, the psychology of reasoning, and computational linguistics. An overarching interest of his concerns general philosophical questions about cognitive science methodology and theory.

He also has intellectual interests outside of cognitive science, and they are not mere hobbies. For example, he has found the time to publish a number of scholarly works on ancient Greek philosophy.

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