•  1277
    The Logical Contingency of Identity
    European Journal of Analytic Philosophy 14 (2): 5-10. 2018.
    I show that intuitive and logical considerations do not justify introducing Leibniz’s Law of the Indiscernibility of Identicals in more than a limited form, as applying to atomic formulas. Once this is accepted, it follows that Leibniz’s Law generalises to all formulas of the first-order Predicate Calculus but not to modal formulas. Among other things, identity turns out to be logically contingent.
  •  624
    Vagueness and Family Resemblance
    In Hans-Johann Glock (ed.), A Companion to Wittgenstein, Wiley-blackwell. pp. 407-419. 2017.
    Ben-Yami presents Wittgenstein’s explicit criticism of the Platonic identification of an explanation with a definition and the alternative forms of explanation he employed. He then discusses a few predecessors of Wittgenstein’s criticisms and the Fregean background against which he wrote. Next, the idea of family resemblance is introduced, and objections answered. Wittgenstein’s endorsement of vagueness and the indeterminacy of sense are presented, as well as the open texture of concepts. Common…Read more
  •  392
    Voluntary action and neural causation
    Cognitive Neuroscience 5 (3-4): 217-218. 2014.
    I agree with Nachev and Hacker’s general approach. However, their criticism of claims of covert automaticity can be strengthened. I first say a few words on what voluntary action involves and on the consequent limited relevance of brain research for the determination of voluntariness. I then turn to Nachev and Hacker’s discussion of possible covert automaticity and show why the case for it is weaker than they allow.
  •  255
    A note on the chinese room
    Synthese 95 (2): 169-72. 1993.
      Searle's Chinese Room was supposed to prove that computers can't understand: the man in the room, following, like a computer, syntactical rules alone, though indistinguishable from a genuine Chinese speaker, doesn't understand a word. But such a room is impossible: the man won't be able to respond correctly to questions like What is the time?, even though such an ability is indispensable for a genuine Chinese speaker. Several ways to provide the room with the required ability are considered, a…Read more
  •  226
    Ned Block. Psychologism and behaviorism. Philosophical Review, 90, 5-43.) argued that a behaviorist conception of intelligence is mistaken, and that the nature of an agent's internal processes is relevant for determining whether the agent has intelligence. He did that by describing a machine which lacks intelligence, yet can answer questions put to it as an intelligent person would. The nature of his machine's internal processes, he concluded, is relevant for determining that it lacks intelligen…Read more
  •  191
    Absolute Distant Simultaneity in Special Relativity
    Foundations of Physics 49 (12): 1355-1364. 2019.
    What is simultaneous with an event is what can interact with it; events have duration; therefore, any given event has distant events simultaneous with it, even according to Special Relativity. Consequently, the extension of our pre-relativistic judgments of distant simultaneity are largely preserved.
  •  188
    The Row of Heads: A Philosophical Tragedy
    Think 11 (32): 71-84. 2012.
    Curtain. On the stage there's a row of about forty heads, of natural size, on a long and narrow white board roughly chest height, arranged facing the audience with equal spaces between them from near the left end of the stage to near its right end. The heads are all identical apart from two features. First, the leftmost head is completely bald, the rightmost head has lots of hair on its scalp, and the amount of hair on the heads increases gradually and uniformly from left to right, so that it is…Read more
  •  184
    Backwards causation still impossible
    Analysis 70 (1): 89-92. 2010.
    (No abstract is available for this citation)
  •  176
    The Modal Predicate Calculus gives rise to issues surrounding the Barcan formulas, their converses, and necessary existence. I examine these issues by means of the Quantified Argument Calculus, a recently developed, powerful formal logic system. Quarc is closer in syntax and logical properties to Natural Language than is the Predicate Calculus, a fact that lends additional interest to this examination, as Quarc might offer a better representation of our modal concepts. The validity of the Barcan…Read more
  •  165
    The formalisation of Natural Language arguments in a formal language close to it in syntax has been a central aim of Moss’s Natural Logic. I examine how the Quantified Argument Calculus (Quarc) can handle the inferences Moss has considered. I show that they can be incorporated in existing versions of Quarc or in straightforward extensions of it, all within sound and complete systems. Moreover, Quarc is closer in some respects to Natural Language than are Moss’s systems – for instance, is does no…Read more
  •  151
    The impossibility of backwards causation
    Philosophical Quarterly 57 (228). 2007.
    Dummett and others have failed to show that an effect can precede its cause. Dummett claimed that 'backwards causation' is unproblematic in agentless worlds, and tried to show under what conditions it is rational to believe that even backwards agent-causation occurs. Relying on considerations originating in discussions of special relativity, I show that the latter conditions actually support the view that backwards agent-causation is impossible. I next show that in Dummett's agentless worlds exp…Read more
  •  141
    Against characterizing mental states as propositional attitudes
    Philosophical Quarterly 47 (186): 84-89. 1997.
    The reason for characterizing mental states as propositional attitudes is sentence form: ‘S Vs that p’. However, many mental states are not ascribed by means of such sentences, and the sentences that ascribe them cannot be appropriately paraphrased. Moreover, even if a paraphrase were always available, that in itself would not establish the characterization. And the mental states that are ascribable by appropriate senses do not form any natural subset of mental states. A reason for the character…Read more
  •  132
    In this book, Ben-Yami reassesses the way Descartes developed and justified some of his revolutionary philosophical ideas. The first part of the book shows that one of Descartes' most innovative and influential ideas was that of representation without resemblance. Ben-Yami shows how Descartes transfers insights originating in his work on analytic geometry to his theory of perception. The second part shows how Descartes was influenced by the technology of the period, notably clockwork automata, i…Read more
  •  130
    Plural quantification logic: A critical appraisal
    Review of Symbolic Logic 2 (1): 208-232. 2009.
    I first show that most authors who developed Plural Quantification Logic (PQL) argued it could capture various features of natural language better than can other logic systems. I then show that it fails to do so: it radically departs from natural language in two of its essential features; namely, in distinguishing plural from singular quantification and in its use of an relation. Next, I sketch a different approach that is more adequate than PQL for capturing plural aspects of natural language s…Read more
  •  126
    The semantics of kind terms
    Philosophical Studies 102 (2): 155-184. 2001.
    This paper criticizes Kripke’s and Putnam’s theory of the semantics of natural kind terms (KPT) and develops an alternative theory. It first examines description theories of natural kind terms, to see what their flaws are and what can be preserved of them. It then presents the KPT and makes three main criticisms. These rely on the meaning of elementary particles’ names, on reactions to the absence of a common essential nature, and on applications of old terms to new cases. Lastly, it develops a …Read more
  •  122
    Could Sherlock Holmes Have Existed?
    Croatian Journal of Philosophy 10 (3): 175-181. 2010.
    In Naming and Necessity Kripke argued against the possible existence of fictional characters. I show that his argument is invalid, analyze the confusion it involves, and explain why the view that fictional characters could not have existed is implausible
  •  113
    An argument against functionalism
    Australasian Journal of Philosophy 77 (3): 320-324. 1999.
    Functionalists define a given mental state as a state that is apt to be the cause of specific effects and the effect of specific causes. Two tokens of the same belief, however, often cause and are caused by very different events: what makes them beliefs of the same type? Several answers, including the one relying on the identity of actual plus counterfactual causal relations, are considered and rejected. Functionalists did not notice that they have to specify how a state which is to be identifie…Read more
  •  111
    The quantified argument calculus
    Review of Symbolic Logic 7 (1): 120-146. 2014.
    I develop a formal logic in which quantified arguments occur in argument positions of predicates. This logic also incorporates negative predication, anaphora and converse relation terms, namely, additional syntactic features of natural language. In these and additional respects, it represents the logic of natural language more adequately than does any version of Frege’s Predicate Calculus. I first introduce the system’s main ideas and familiarize it by means of translations of natural language s…Read more
  •  109
    What does the so-called False Belief Task actually check?
    with Maya Ben-Yami and Yotham Ben-Yami
    There is currently a theoretical tension between young children’s failure in False Belief Tasks (FBTs) and their success in a variety of other tasks that also seem to require the ability to ascribe false beliefs to agents. We try to explain this tension by the hypothesis that in the FBT, children think they are asked what the agent should do in the circumstances and not what the agent will do. We explain why this hypothesis is plausible. We examined the hypothesis in two experiments, each involv…Read more
  •  108
    I introduce a sequence which I call indefinite: a sequence every element of which has a successor but whose number of elements is bounded; this is no contradiction. I then consider the possibility of space and time being indefinitely divisible. This is theoretically possible and agrees with experience. If this is space and time’s structure, then even if the laws of nature are deterministic, the behaviour of physical systems will be probabilistic. This approach may also shed light on directionali…Read more
  •  105
    I reconstruct from Rietdijk and Putnam’s well-known papers an argument against the applicability of the concept of becoming in Special Relativity, which I think is unaffected by some of the objections found in the literature. I then consider a line of thought found in the discussion of the possible conventionality of simultaneity in Special Relativity, beginning with Reichenbach, and apply it to the debate over becoming. We see that it immediately renders Rietdijk and Putnam’s argument unsound. …Read more
  •  103
    A Wittgensteinian solution to the sorites
    Philosophical Investigations 33 (3): 229-244. 2010.
    I develop a solution to the Sorites Paradox, according to which a concatenation of valid arguments need not itself be valid. I specify which chains of valid arguments are those that do not preserve validity: those that pass the vague boundary between cases where the relevant concept applies and cases where that concept does not apply. I also develop various criticisms of this solution and show why they fail; basically, they all involve a petitio at some stage. I criticise the conviction that if …Read more
  •  93
    Causality and temporal order in special relativity
    British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 57 (3): 459-479. 2006.
    David Malament tried to show that the causal theory of time leads to a unique determination of simultaneity relative to an inertial observer, namely standard simultaneity. I show that the causal relation Malament uses in his proofs, causal connectibility, should be replaced by a different causal relation, the one used by Reichenbach in his formulation of the theory. I also explain why Malament's reliance on the assumption that the observer has an eternal inertial history modifies our conception …Read more
  •  81
    Logical Inquiries into a New Formal System with Plural Reference
    with Ran Lanzet
    In Vincent Hendricks, Fabian Neuhaus, Stig Andur Pedersen, Uwe Schefler & Wansing Heinrich (eds.), First-Order Logic Revisited, Logos Verlag. pp. 173-223. 2004.
  •  76
    In recent literature on plurals the claim has often been made that the move from singular to plural expressions can be iterated, generating what are occasionally called higher-level plurals or superplurals, often correlated with superplural predicates. I argue that the idea that the singular-to-plural move can be iterated is questionable. I then show that the examples and arguments intended to establish that some expressions of natural language are in some sense higher-level plurals fail. Next, …Read more
  •  71
    Generalized Quantifiers, and Beyond
    Logique Et Analyse (208): 309-326. 2009.
    I show that the contemporary dominant analysis of natural language quantifiers that are one-place determiners by means of binary generalized quantifiers has failed to explain why they are, according to it, conservative. I then present an alternative, Geachean analysis, according to which common nouns in the grammatical subject position are plural logical subject-terms, and show how it does explain that fact and other features of natural language quantification.
  •  69
    Bare Quantifiers?
    Pacific Philosophical Quarterly 95 (2): 175-188. 2014.
    In a series of publications I have claimed that by contrast to standard formal languages, quantifiers in natural language combine with a general term to form a quantified argument, in which the general term's role is to determine the domain or plurality over which the quantifier ranges. In a recent paper Zoltán Gendler Szabó tried to provide a counterexample to this analysis and derived from it various conclusions concerning quantification in natural language, claiming it is often ‘bare’. I show…Read more
  •  67
    In Naming and Necessity Kripke argues 'intuitively' that names are rigid. Unlike Kripke, Ben-Yami first introduces and justifies the Principle of the Independence of Reference (PIR), according to which the reference of a name is independent of what is said in the rest of the sentence containing it. Ben-Yami then derives rigidity, or something close to it, from the PIR. Additional aspects of the use of names and other expressions in modal contexts, explained by the PIR but not by the rigidity cla…Read more