Dorothy J Killam Memorial Postdoctoral Fellow Prize

The Dorothy J Killam Memorial Postdoctoral Fellow Prize was approved in spring 2004 to further enhance the profile of the Killam name at the University of Alberta. The Prize is offered to the most outstanding Killam Postdoctoral Fellowship recipient in the annual competition.

The recipient is selected on the basis of academic achievement, research proposal,publications, letters of recommendation, and leadership qualities. The recipient receives a cash prize of $5,000 and a certificate acknowledging their award.

2020 Recipient

Landon Elkind, Philosophy
Using Computer Proof-Assistants in History of Philosophy

Proof-assistant programs are interactive programs. They can be used to assert claims and create formal proofs and, as users input data into a proof-assistant, they can give hints about how to prove the desired claim and machine-check the user's input. In these respects, proof-assistant programs act rather like a human tutor would: they guide and check a user's work. Proof-assistant programs have been applied in reconstructing philosophical arguments, but never to history of philosophy. This project will be the first to do so. Proof-assistants will be applied to Principia Mathematica, a landmark work in 20th-century philosophy and logic. Experts disagree over how to interpret Principia. For example, the proofs are often schematic in Principia: not every step is explicitly carried out. Proof-assistant programs will be used to fill in the missing steps and to machine-check that the suggested completions are correct. Additionally, Principia will be computer-checked under different experts' interpretations. This will in effect empirically test the various interpretations of Principia: one interpretation may leave more gaps in machine-checked proofs than alternatives, counting against that reading. This project will even produce machine-readable data regarding these different readings of Principia, enabling visualizations of this monumental 2,000-page work for the first time.

Read this profile of Dr. Elkind
, published by the Department of Philosophy