•  379
    The Limits of Realism
    Oxford University Press UK. 2013.
    Tim Button explores the relationship between minds, words, and world. He argues that the two main strands of scepticism are deeply related and can be overcome, but that there is a limit to how much we can show. We must position ourselves somewhere between internal realism and external realism, and we cannot hope to say exactly where.
  •  317
    Truth by Analysis: Games, Names, and Philosophy By Colin McGinn (review)
    Analysis 73 (3): 577-580. 2013.
    In Truth by Analysis (2012), Colin McGinn aims to breathe new life into conceptual analysis. Sadly, he fails to defend conceptual analysis, either in principle or by example.
  •  256
    There's no time like the present
    Analysis 66 (2). 2006.
    No-futurists ('growing block theorists') hold that that the past and the present are real, but that the future is not. The present moment is therefore privileged: it is the last moment of time. Craig Bourne (2002) and David Braddon-Mitchell (2004) have argued that this position is unmotivated, since the privilege of presentness comes apart from the indexicality of 'this moment'. I respond that no-futurists should treat 'x is real-as-of y' as a nonsymmetric relation. Then different moments are re…Read more
  •  186
    The Metamathematics of Putnam's Model-Theoretic Arguments
    Erkenntnis 74 (3): 321-349. 2011.
    Putnam famously attempted to use model theory to draw metaphysical conclusions. His Skolemisation argument sought to show metaphysical realists that their favourite theories have countable models. His permutation argument sought to show that they have permuted models. His constructivisation argument sought to show that any empirical evidence is compatible with the Axiom of Constructibility. Here, I examine the metamathematics of all three model-theoretic arguments, and I argue against Bays (2001…Read more
  •  173
    SAD computers and two versions of the Church–Turing thesis
    British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 60 (4): 765-792. 2009.
    Recent work on hypercomputation has raised new objections against the Church–Turing Thesis. In this paper, I focus on the challenge posed by a particular kind of hypercomputer, namely, SAD computers. I first consider deterministic and probabilistic barriers to the physical possibility of SAD computation. These suggest several ways to defend a Physical version of the Church–Turing Thesis. I then argue against Hogarth's analogy between non-Turing computability and non-Euclidean geometry, showing t…Read more
  •  167
    Tallant (2007) has challenged my recent defence of no-futurism (Button 2006), but he does not discuss the key to that defence: that no-futurism's primitive relation 'x is real-as-of y' is not symmetric. I therefore answer Tallant's challenge in the same way as I originally defended no-futurism. I also clarify no-futurism by rejecting a common mis-characterisation of the growing-block theorist. By supplying a semantics for no-futurists, I demonstrate that no-futurism faces no sceptical challenges…Read more
  •  148
    Keränen (2001) raises an argument against realistic (ante rem) structuralism: where a mathematical structure has a non-trivial automorphism, distinct indiscernible positions within the structure cannot be shown to be non-identical using only the properties and relations of that structure. Ladyman (2005) responds by allowing our identity criterion to include 'irreflexive two-place relations'. I note that this does not solve the problem for structures with indistinguishable positions, i.e. positio…Read more
  •  129
    Dadaism: Restrictivism as Militant Quietism
    Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society 110 (3pt3): 387-398. 2010.
    Can we quantify over everything: absolutely, positively, definitely, totally, every thing? Some philosophers have claimed that we must be able to do so, since the doctrine that we cannot is self-stultifying. But this treats restrictivism as a positive doctrine. Restrictivism is much better viewed as a kind of militant quietism, which I call dadaism. Dadaists advance a hostile challenge, with the aim of silencing everyone who holds a positive position about ‘absolute generality’
  •  115
    Spotty Scope and Our Relation to Fictions
    Noûs 46 (2): 243-58. 2012.
    Whatever the attractions of Tolkein's world, irrealists about fictions do not believe literally that Bilbo Baggins is a hobbit. Instead, irrealists believe that, according to The Lord of the Rings {Bilbo is a hobbit}. But when irrealists want to say something like “I am taller than Bilbo”, there is nowhere good for them to insert the operator “according to The Lord of the Rings”. This is an instance of the operator problem. In this paper, I outline and criticise Sainsbury's (2006) spotty scope a…Read more
  •  115
    This article surveys recent literature by Parsons, McGee, Shapiro and others on the significance of categoricity arguments in the philosophy of mathematics. After discussing whether categoricity arguments are sufficient to secure reference to mathematical structures up to isomorphism, we assess what exactly is achieved by recent ‘internal’ renditions of the famous categoricity arguments for arithmetic and set theory.
  •  98
    Brains in vats and model theory
    In Sanford Goldberg (ed.), The Brain in a Vat, Cambridge University Press. forthcoming.
    Hilary Putnam’s BIV argument first occurred to him when ‘thinking about a theorem in modern logic, the “Skolem–Löwenheim Theorem”’ (Putnam 1981: 7). One of my aims in this paper is to explore the connection between the argument and the Theorem. But I also want to draw some further connections. In particular, I think that Putnam’s BIV argument provides us with an impressively versatile template for dealing with sceptical challenges. Indeed, this template allows us to unify some of Putnam’s most e…Read more
  •  98
    Deflationary metaphysics and ordinary language
    Synthese 1-25. forthcoming.
    Amie Thomasson and Eli Hirsch have both attempted to deflate metaphysics, by combining Carnapian ideas with an appeal to ordinary language. My main aim in this paper is to critique such deflationary appeals to ordinary language. Focussing on Thomasson, I draw two very general conclusions. First: ordinary language is a wildly complicated phenomenon. Its implicit ontological commitments can only be tackled by invoking a context principle; but this will mean that ordinary language ontology is not a…Read more
  •  96
    The Weight of Truth: Lessons for Minimalists from Russell's Gray's Elegy Argument
    Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society 114 (3pt3): 261-289. 2014.
    Minimalists, such as Paul Horwich, claim that the notions of truth, reference and satisfaction are exhausted by some very simple schemes. Unfortunately, there are subtle difficulties with treating these as schemes, in the ordinary sense. So instead, minimalists regard them as illustrating one-place functions, into which we can input propositions (when considering truth) or propositional constituents (when considering reference and satisfaction). However, Bertrand Russell's Gray's Elegy argument …Read more
  •  54
    Prior’s Tonk is a famously horrible connective. It is defined by its inference rules. My aim in this article is to compare Tonk with some hitherto unnoticed nasty connectives, which are defined in semantic terms. I first use many-valued truth-tables for classical sentential logic to define a nasty connective, Knot. I then argue that we should refuse to add Knot to our language. And I show that this reverses the standard dialectic surrounding Tonk, and yields a novel solution to the problem of ma…Read more
  •  46
    Exclusion Problems and the Cardinality of Logical Space
    Journal of Philosophical Logic 46 (6): 611-623. 2017.
    Wittgenstein’s atomist picture, as embodied in his Tractatus, is initially very appealing. However, it faces the famous colour-exclusion problem. In this paper, I shall explain when the atomist picture can be defended in the face of that problem; and, in the light of this, why the atomist picture should be rejected. I outline the atomist picture in Section 1. In Section 2, I present a very simple necessary and sufficient condition for the tenability of the atomist picture. The condition is: logi…Read more
  •  36
    In The American Pragmatists (2013), Cheryl Misak casts Peirce and Lewis as the heroes of American pragmatism. She establishes an impressive continuity between pragmatism and both logical empiricism and contemporary analytic philosophy. However, in casting James and Dewey as the villains of American pragmatism, she underplays the pragmatists' interest in action.
  •  26
    Hyperloops do not threaten the notion of an effective procedure
    Lecture Notes in Computer Science 5635 68-78. 2009.
    This paper develops my (BJPS 2009) criticisms of the philosophical significance of a certain sort of infinitary computational process, a hyperloop. I start by considering whether hyperloops suggest that "effectively computable" is vague (in some sense). I then consider and criticise two arguments by Hogarth, who maintains that hyperloops undermine the very idea of effective computability. I conclude that hyperloops, on their own, cannot threaten the notion of an effective procedure.
  •  25
    Introduction to truth-functional and first-order logic.
  •  23
    Grades of Discrimination: Indiscernibility, Symmetry, and Relativity
    Notre Dame Journal of Formal Logic 58 (4): 527-553. 2017.
    There are several relations which may fall short of genuine identity, but which behave like identity in important respects. Such grades of discrimination have recently been the subject of much philosophical and technical discussion. This paper aims to complete their technical investigation. Grades of indiscernibility are defined in terms of satisfaction of certain first-order formulas. Grades of symmetry are defined in terms of symmetries on a structure. Both of these families of grades of discr…Read more
  •  23
    In the early-to-mid 1930s, Wittgenstein investigated solipsism via the philosophy of language. In this paper, I want to reopen Wittgenstein's ‘grammatical’ examination of solipsism.Wittgenstein begins by considering the thesis that only I can feel my pains. Whilst this thesis may tempt us towards solipsism, Wittgenstein points out that this temptation rests on a grammatical confusion concerning the phrase ‘my pains’. In §1, I unpack and vindicate his thinking.After discussing ‘my pains’, Wittgen…Read more
  •  3
    Philosophy and Model Theory
    with Sean Walsh
    Oxford University Press. 2018.
    Model theory is an important area of mathematical logic which has deep philosophical roots, many philosophical applications, and great philosophical interest in itself. The aim of this book is to introduce, organise, survey, and develop these connections between philosophy and model theory, for the benefit of philosophers and logicians alike.