University of Rochester

EVENT: Professor Honored for Work in Philosophy, Computer Science

September 28, 2004

A University of Rochester professor renowned and respected as a leading authority on philosophical problems in the study of science and mathematics will be honored with a symposium celebrating his nearly 50-year career.

Former and current students and professional colleagues will meet on River Campus Saturday, Oct. 9, and Sunday, Oct. 10, to discuss the work of Henry E. Kyburg, Jr., who is Burbank Professor of Moral and Intellectual Philosophy and holds appointments in both the philosophy and computer science departments.

Kyburg has published numerous articles and books on topics such as inductive logic, statistical reasoning, probability, and epistemology, which is the study of the nature of knowledge. His current research focuses on uncertain or probabilistic inference—the process by which humans reach most conclusions, and the process that will be central to artificial intelligence—and data mining, the process by which computers search for information in data and draw conclusions from it.

“Henry’s at the forefront of work in uncertain inference, probability, and machine cognition, charting the frontiers of philosophy and computer science,” said Randall Curren, chair of the Department of Philosophy. “He continues to produce extraordinary, cutting-edge work that is very important to the field.”

In addition to teaching at the University, Kyburg holds an appointment as senior research scientist at the Institute for Human and Machine Cognition, located in Pensacola at the University of West Florida. The institute conducts interdisciplinary research in artificial intelligence, knowledge representation, and computers in education for private and government organizations.

“Henry’s impact in the field of artificial intelligence has been as significant as in philosophy, making him one of the rare individuals to gain prominence in both fields,” said Lenhart Schubert, professor of computer science. “As a member of our computer science department, he has inspired, guided, and carried out much novel and important work on evidence-based reasoning, and also has served as a statistics-probability-logic guru to many of us.”

Kyburg is a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and the American Association for Artificial Intelligence. His most recent books are Uncertain Inference, co-written with Choh Man Teng, who received her doctorate in computer science in 1998 from the University of Rochester, and Probability is the Very Guide of Life: The Philosophical Uses of Chance, co-edited with Mariam Thalos.

During the symposium, Kyburg will participate in a panel discussion on “Probability as a Guide to Life,” examining probability theory as it applies to practical matters of evidence, choice, and explanation. The panel also includes Isaac Levi, Emeritus Dewey Professor of Philosophy at Columbia University; Teddy Seidenfeld, the Herbert A. Simon Professor of Philosophy and Statistics at Carnegie Mellon University; Ronald Loui, associate professor of computer science at Washington University in St. Louis; and Thalos, who is professor of philosophy at the University of Utah.

Levi and Kyburg were fellow graduate students in philosophy at Columbia University. In the 1970s and 1980s, they engaged in a series of debates that led to the publication by D. Reidel Publishing Company of The Netherlands of a collection of papers comparing their work, “Profiles: Henry E. Kyburg, Jr., and Isaac Levi,” by R. Bogdan. Levi was the presenter when Kyburg received the Nicholas Murray Butler Medal in Silver for Philosophy from Columbia University in 1982.

Seidenfeld received his bachelor’s degree in mathematics and philosophy from the University of Rochester in 1969; Kyburg was his principal undergraduate advisor in philosophy. Kyburg also advised Loui, who received his interdisciplinary doctorate in computer science and philosophy from the University in 1988. Thalos was a graduate student at Rochester before going on to earn her doctorate at the University of Illinois at Chicago. The guest panelists also will give individual presentations.

Kyburg joined the Department of Philosophy of the University of Rochester as a professor in 1965 and served as chair of the department for 13 straight years beginning in 1969. In 1986, he was appointed professor of computer science. Before coming to Rochester, Kyburg taught at Wesleyan, Rockefeller, and Wayne State Universities and at the University of Denver.

In addition to his research and teaching, Kyburg is a member of numerous organizations, such as the American Philosophical Association, the Philosophy of Science Association, and the American Mathematical Society, and has served on many program committees and editorial boards.

“Probability and Inference: A Symposium in Honor of Professor Henry E. Kyburg, Jr.” is sponsored by the Departments of Philosophy and of Computer Science at the University and by the Institute for Human and Machine Cognition. The symposium coincides with Meliora Weekend, the celebration of homecoming, alumni reunions, and family weekend events. For more information, contact the Department of Philosophy, (585) 275-4105.