From the Archives: Making References

When I was an undergraduate at UAB I took Philosophy of Language and Epistomology from a professor named Tim Day, and these classes made a huge impression on me. I’ve often wondered what happened to this professor. I assumed he wouldn’t be in Birmingham anymore. He always seemed a bit of a fish out of water (and I recall that he had a particular interest in seafaring stories).

I happened to run into him at a bar last night and hope he’ll read this.

Cheers, Professor.

I wrote the short story below while taking Day’s classes, and I wrote the song “Make Reference” a couple of years later while thinking about things he had said in class. The refrain “Is there something between me and the tree or is the tree in my head? Is the tree too big for my head?” is practically lifted from one of Day’s lectures on how reference works.

Click here to listen to “Make Reference” as recorded by PopCanon in 1999


This short story has been published several times–in a Birmingham zine called Isms, in a national journal called Nanofiction, and in my collection The Salvation of Billy Wayne Carter and Other Stories.

Bertrand Russell Sees a Man

I. A Man Viewing a Sunset

Let (x is human and x is male) be true where (x=x) is always true and (x has the name “John”) is sometimes true. Let (s=the visible atmosphere of the earth) be true if and only if the sun appears from position(x) on the surface of the earth to rest on the edge of the western horizon such that s:x is fragile and delicious as a warm cookie.

II. A Man in Love

Let x have the property L(x) where (L=the certain combination of active neurons which results in giddiness) is always true. Let (g is human and g is female) be true where (g=g) is always true and (g has the name “Mary”) is sometimes true. Let L(x) occur if and only if x:g results in the property B(x) where (B=an intensional relation [belief] that L(g):x reciprocally) is always true. If L(x) is true and B(x) is true then LB(x) results in the property F(x) where (F=the certain combination of neurons which result in the intensional relation [feeling] that L(x):g is fragile and delicious as a warm cookie) is sometimes true.

III. A Dead Man

Let L(g):x be false if and only if x:g results in the property D(g) where (D=the intensional relation [disgust] that L(x):g) is sometimes true. If L(g):x is false then not x.

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