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Summary Putnam attempted to refute metaphysical realism by the use of a model-theoretic argument (or perhaps arguments, in the plural). For the most part, the required model theory was very simple. The easiest model theoretic argument involved the idea of a permutation over the objects of the world, so that (for example) my word "cat" does not apply to all and only cats, but to cats*, where cats* might just be cherries. (Another model theoretic argument involved appeal to the Completeness Theorem of first-order logic, or the Löwenheim-Skolem Theorem.) The aim of these arguments was to threaten the metaphysical realist with radical indeterminacy of reference (which Putnam did not himself embrace, but took to be a reductio of metaphysical realism). In response to the claim that causation (for example) fixes reference, Putnam always responded by maintaining that this was just more theory. Much of the subsequent literature has turned on the acceptability (or otherwise) of Putnam's just more theory manoeuvre.
Key works Although there were some anticipations, the model-theoretic argument(s) are most famous from Putnam 1977, 1980 and 1981 (ch.2). Several suggestions have been made, in an effort to rule out the deviant interpretations generated by the use of elementary model theory: Putnam himself considered appealing to causation; Lewis 1984 advanced the idea that some properties are more "referentially magnetic" than others; in a more mathematical context, Shapiro 1991 (ch.8) appealed to second-order (rather than first-order) logic; and McGee 2005 highlighted the fact that certain expressions should be (Kripkean) rigid designators. Putnam's response to all of these considerations was his just-more-theory manoeuvre (which he always presented alongside his model-theoretic arguments). Many authors (including Devitt 1983, Hale & Wright 1997 and Bays 2001) found this manoeuvre entirely question-begging; but Putnam was undeterred. His fullest explanation of why is provided in his 2000; and Putnam's position here -- and the model-theoretic arguments, more generally -- are defended by Button 2013.
Introductions Putnam 1977; Putnam 1981 (ch.2); Lewis 1984; Hale & Wright 1997; Button 2013 (chs.1-7).
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  1. Newman’s Objection is Dead; Long Live Newman’s Objection!Sebastian Lutz - manuscript
    There are two ways of reading Newman’s objection to Russell’s structuralism. One assumes that according to Russell, our knowledge of a theory about the external world is captured by an existential generalization on all non-logical symbols of the theory. Under this reading, our knowledge amounts to a cardinality claim. Another reading assumes that our knowledge singles out a structure in Russell’s (and Newman’s) sense: a model theoretic structure that is determined up to isomorphism. Under this reading, our knowledge is far (...)
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  2. A Critique of Metaphysical Thinking.T. Parent - manuscript
    Draft of March 2022. This is a draft of the front matter and ch. 1, for a new book manuscript on metametaphysics.
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  3. Reference Magnetism Beyond the Predicate: Two Putnam-Style Results.Rohan Sud - forthcoming - Journal of Philosophy.
    Many accept David Lewis's (1983) claim that, among the candidate meanings for our predicates, some are more natural than others -- they do better or worse at ``carving nature at its joints''. Call this claim predicate naturalism. Disagreement remains over whether the notion of naturalness extends ``beyond the predicate'' (à la Sider, 2011). Are the candidate meanings of logical vocabulary also more or less natural? Call this claim logical naturalism. -/- One motivation for predicate naturalism comes from its supposed ability (...)
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  4. Realism and the Value of Explanation.Samuel John Andrews - 2023 - Philosophical Quarterly 73 (4):1305–1314.
    Dasgupta poses a serious challenge to realism about natural properties. He argues that there is no acceptable explanation of why natural properties deserve the value realists assign to them and are consequently absent of value. In response, this paper defines and defends an alternative non-explanatory account of normativity compatible with realism. Unlike Lewis and Sider, who believe it is sufficient to defend realism solely on realist terms, I engage with the challenge on unfriendly grounds by revealing a tu quoque. Dasgupta (...)
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  5. The Indeterminacy of the Distinction between Objects and Ways of Being.Julio De Rizzo - 2022 - Erkenntnis 87 (6):2923-2941.
    Few if any distinctions are more easily recognisable and assented to than that between _objects_, that is, things which are some ways, and that which they are, that is, _ways for objects to be_ (‘ways of being’ for short). In this paper I present an argument designed to show that this distinction is indeterminate in the sense that the truth-conditions of predicational sentences leave open what should count as an object and a way of being. The bulk of the argument (...)
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  6. Putnam’s model-theoretic argument (meta)reconstructed: In the mirror of Carpintero’s and van Douven’s interpretations.Krystian Jobczyk - 2022 - Synthese 200 (6):1-37.
    In “Models and Reality”, H. Putnam formulated his model-theoretic argument against “metaphysical realism”. The article proposes a meta-reconstruction of Putnam’s model-theoretic argument in the light of two mutually compatible interpretations of it–elaborated by Manuel Garcia-Carpintero and Igor van Douven. A critical reflection on these interpretations and their adequacy for Putnam’s argument allows us to expose new theses coherent with Putnam’s reasoning and indicate new paths to improve this argument for our reconstruction task. In particular, we show that Putnam’s position may (...)
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  7. Metaphysical Realism and Anti-Realism.J. T. M. Miller - 2022 - Cambridge University Press.
    Minimally, metaphysical realists hold that there exist some mind-independent entities. Metaphysical realists also hold that we can speak meaningfully or truthfully about mind-independent entities. Those who reject metaphysical realism deny one or more of these commitments. This Element aims to introduce the reader to the core commitments of metaphysical realism and to illustrate how these commitments have changed over time by surveying some of the main families of views that realism has been contrasted with: such as scepticism, idealism, and anti-realism.
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  8. Categoricity by convention.Julien Murzi & Brett Topey - 2021 - Philosophical Studies 178 (10):3391-3420.
    On a widespread naturalist view, the meanings of mathematical terms are determined, and can only be determined, by the way we use mathematical language—in particular, by the basic mathematical principles we’re disposed to accept. But it’s mysterious how this can be so, since, as is well known, minimally strong first-order theories are non-categorical and so are compatible with countless non-isomorphic interpretations. As for second-order theories: though they typically enjoy categoricity results—for instance, Dedekind’s categoricity theorem for second-order PA and Zermelo’s quasi-categoricity (...)
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  9. Descriptivism about the Reference of Set-Theoretic Expressions: Revisiting Putnam’s Model-Theoretic Arguments.Zeynep Soysal - 2020 - The Monist 103 (4):442-454.
    Putnam’s model-theoretic arguments for the indeterminacy of reference have been taken to pose a special problem for mathematical languages. In this paper, I argue that if one accepts that there are theory-external constraints on the reference of at least some expressions of ordinary language, then Putnam’s model-theoretic arguments for mathematical languages don’t go through. In particular, I argue for a kind of descriptivism about mathematical expressions according to which their reference is “anchored” in the reference of expressions of ordinary language. (...)
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  10. Mbailundu Remembered: Colonial Traces in Post-Civil War Angola.Shana Melnysyn - 2019 - Kronos 45 (1).
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  11. Philosophy and Model Theory.Tim Button & Sean P. Walsh - 2018 - Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press. Edited by Sean Walsh & Wilfrid Hodges.
    Philosophy and model theory frequently meet one another. Philosophy and Model Theory aims to understand their interactions -/- Model theory is used in every ‘theoretical’ branch of analytic philosophy: in philosophy of mathematics, in philosophy of science, in philosophy of language, in philosophical logic, and in metaphysics. But these wide-ranging appeals to model theory have created a highly fragmented literature. On the one hand, many philosophically significant mathematical results are found only in mathematics textbooks: these are aimed squarely at mathematicians; (...)
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  12. The Dilemma Imposed on the Realist by Putnam's and Kripkensteinian Argument.Henrik Sova - 2017 - Studia Philosophica Estonica 10 (1):62-82.
    In this article, I have two aims. Firstly, I argue that Hilary Putnam's model theoretic indeterminacy argument against external realism and Saul Kripke's so-called Kripkensteinian argument against semantic realism have the same dialectical structure and the same conclusion---both force the opponent to face the same dilemma. Namely: either adopt meaning minimalism or postulate unobservable semantic facts. Secondly, I analyze more closely the first horn of the dilemma---meaning minimalism. This is the position according to which there are no truth conditions for (...)
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  13. Hilary Putnam (1926-2016): A Lifetime Quest to Understand the Relationship between Mind, Language, and Reality.David Leech Anderson - 2016 - Mind and Matter 14 (1):87-95.
    This is an extended intellectual obituary for Hilary Putnam.
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  14. Brains in vats and model theory.Tim Button - 2016 - In Sanford Goldberg (ed.), The Brain in a Vat. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. pp. 131-154.
    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 enduring (...)
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  15. Arguing about Realism: Adjudicating the Putnam-Devitt Dispute.Fletcher Jade - 2016 - European Journal of Analytic Philosophy 12 (2):39-53.
    In this paper I want to adjudicate the dispute between those philosophers who do and those who do not think that the philosophy of language can illuminate metaphysical questions. To this end, I take the debate between Devitt and Putnam as a case study and diagnose what I take to be illuminating about their disagreement over metaphysical realism. I argue that both Putnam and Devitt are incorrect in their assessment of the significance of the model theoretic argument for realism. That, (...)
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  16. Rule Following and Metaontology.T. Parent - 2015 - Journal of Philosophy 112 (5):247-265.
    Wittgenstein’s rule-following argument suggests that linguistic understanding does not consist in knowing interpretations, whereas Kripkenstein’s version suggests that meaning cannot be metaphysically fixed by interpretations. In the present paper, rule-following considerations are used to suggest that certain ontological questions cannot be answered by interpretations. Specifically, if the aim is to specify the ontology of a language, an interpretation cannot answer what object an expression of L denotes, if the interpretations are themselves L-expressions. Briefly, that’s because the ontology of such interpretations (...)
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  17. Realism Behind the Veil. [REVIEW]Nicholas K. Jones - 2014 - Analysis 74 (4):721-730.
    This is a critical notice of Tim Button's book "The Limits of Realism".
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  18. Tim Button , The Limits of Realism . Reviewed by. [REVIEW]J. T. M. Miller - 2014 - Philosophy in Review 34 (3-4):151-154.
  19. The Limits of Realism.Tim Button - 2013 - Oxford: Oxford University Press UK.
    Tim Button explores the relationship between words and world; between semantics and scepticism. -/- A certain kind of philosopher – the external realist – worries that appearances might be radically deceptive. For example, she allows that we might all be brains in vats, stimulated by an infernal machine. But anyone who entertains the possibility of radical deception must also entertain a further worry: that all of our thoughts are totally contentless. That worry is just incoherent. -/- We cannot, then, be (...)
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  20. Russell and the Newman Problem Revisited.Marc Champagne - 2012 - Analysis and Metaphysics 11:65 - 74.
    In his 1927 Analysis of Matter and elsewhere, Russell argued that we can successfully infer the structure of the external world from that of our explanatory schemes. While nothing guarantees that the intrinsic qualities of experiences are shared by their objects, he held that the relations tying together those relata perforce mirror relations that actually obtain (these being expressible in the formal idiom of the Principia Mathematica). This claim was subsequently criticized by the Cambridge mathematician Max Newman as true but (...)
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  21. La prueba de Putnam contra el escepticismo radical: dos reinterpretaciones basadas en el autoconocimiento.Manuel Pérez Otero - 2012 - Critica 44 (132):35-63.
    Presento y defiendo dos reinterpretaciones de la prueba ideada por Putnam para demostrar que no somos cerebros en una cubeta. Ambas resaltan explícitamente el papel desempeñado por el autoconocimiento de nuestros propios pensamientos y por el externismo sobre el contenido. La primera asume que el externismo implica que un cerebro en una cubeta no puede pensar el contenido proposicional relevante (constituido por conceptos acerca de cerebros y cubetas). La otra versión invoca una tesis externista más débil, conforme a la cual (...)
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  22. The Metamathematics of Putnam’s Model-Theoretic Arguments.Tim Button - 2011 - Erkenntnis 74 (3):321-349.
    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, 2007) that Putnam is largely immune to metamathematical challenges.
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  23. Putnam's Model‐Theoretic Argument.Maximilian de Gaynesford - 2011 - In Steven D. Hales (ed.), A Companion to Relativism. Oxford, UK: Wiley‐Blackwell. pp. 569–587.
    This chapter contains sections titled: Abstract The Model ‐ Theoretic Argument Difficulties and Differences Putnam's Progress Implications Objections and Replies References.
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  24. Argument teoriomodelowy trzydzieści lat później.Krzysztof Czerniawski - 2010 - Filozofia Nauki 18 (3).
    The paper aims at describing the discussion about the model-theorethic argument of Hilary Putnam in the past thirty years. First of all it presents the view of Timothy Bays, who through scrupulous examination of the formal side of the argument demonstrates that in fact it has very little in common with the model-theory. It is rather a simple and purely philosophical argument, which isn't more reliable and conclusive than any other argument in philosophy. Putnam tries to block the answer of (...)
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  25. The return of Taylor's Putnam.Adam Kovach - 2009 - Australasian Journal of Philosophy 87 (1):119 – 125.
    It is argued that the version of Hilary Putnam's model-theoretic argument developed by Barry Taylor in Models, Truth and Realism poses no threat to the realist claim that an ideal theory may be false.
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  26. Two arguments against realism.Timothy Bays - 2008 - Philosophical Quarterly 58 (231):193–213.
    I present two generalizations of Putnam's model-theoretic argument against realism. The first replaces Putnam's model theory with some new, and substantially simpler, model theory, while the second replaces Putnam's model theory with some more accessible results from astronomy. By design, both of these new arguments fail. But the similarities between these new arguments and Putnam's original arguments illuminate the latter's overall structure, and the flaws in these new arguments highlight the corresponding flaws in Putnam's arguments.
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  27. More on Putnam’s models: a reply to Belloti.Timothy Bays - 2007 - Erkenntnis 67 (1):119-135.
    In an earlier paper, I claimed that one version of Putnam's model-theoretic argument against realism turned on a subtle, but philosophically significant, mathematical mistake. Recently, Luca Bellotti has criticized my argument for this claim. This paper responds to Bellotti's criticisms.
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  28. The Mathematics of Skolem's Paradox.Timothy Bays - 2006 - In Dale Jacquette (ed.), Philosophy of Logic. North Holland. pp. 615--648.
    Over the years, Skolem’s Paradox has generated a fairly steady stream of philosophical discussion; nonetheless, the overwhelming consensus among philosophers and logicians is that the paradox doesn’t constitute a mathematical problem (i.e., it doesn’t constitute a real contradiction). Further, there’s general agreement as to why the paradox doesn’t constitute a mathematical problem. By looking at the way firstorder structures interpret quantifiers—and, in particular, by looking at how this interpretation changes as we move from structure to structure—we can give a technically (...)
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  29. Ramseyfication and theoretical content.Joseph Melia & Juha Saatsi - 2006 - British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 57 (3):561-585.
    Model theoretic considerations purportedly show that a certain version of structural realism, one which articulates the nvtion of structure via Ramsey sentences, is in fact trivially true. In this paper we argue that the structural realist is by no means forced to Ramseyfy in the manner assumed in the formal proof. However, the structural realist's reprise is short-lived. For, as we show, there are related versions of the model theoretic argument which cannot be so easily blocked by the structural realist. (...)
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  30. Models, truth, and realism.Barry Taylor - 2006 - New York: Oxford University Press.
    Barry Taylor's book mounts a major new argument against one of the fundamental tenets of much contemporary philosophy, the idea that we can make sense of reality as existing objectively, independently of our capacities to come to know it. He concludes that there is no defensible notion of truth which preserves the theses of traditional realism, nor any extant position sufficiently true to the ideals of that doctrine to inherit its title. In presenting his case Taylor engages with many key (...)
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  31. Putnam and Constructibility.Luca Bellotti - 2005 - Erkenntnis 62 (3):395-409.
    I discuss and try to evaluate the argument about constructible sets made by Putnam in ‘ ”Models and Reality”, and some of the counterarguments directed against it in the literature. I shall conclude that Putnam’s argument, while correct in substance, nevertheless has no direct bearing on the philosophical question of unintended models of set theory.
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  32. From Metamathematics to Philosophy: A Critical Assessment of Putnam's Model-Theoretic Arguments.Johannes Hafner - 2005 - Dissertation, University of California at Berkeley
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  33. Inscrutability and its discontents.Vann McGee - 2005 - Noûs 39 (3):397–425.
    That reference is inscrutable is demonstrated, it is argued, not only by W. V. Quine's arguments but by Peter Unger's "Problem of the Many." Applied to our own language, this is a paradoxical result, since nothing could be more obvious to speakers of English than that, when they use the word "rabbit," they are talking about rabbits. The solution to this paradox is to take a disquotational view of reference for one's own language, so that "When I use 'rabbit,' I (...)
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  34. Realism, Beyond Miracles.Axel Mueller & Arthur Fine - 2005 - In Yemima Ben-Menahim (ed.), Contemporary Philosophy in Focus: Hilary Putnam. Cambridge University Press. pp. 83-124.
    Two things about Hilary Putnam have not changed throughout his career: some (including Putnam himself) have regarded him as a “realist” and some have seen him as a philosopherwho changed his positions (certainly with respect to realism) almost continually. Apparently, what realism meant to him in the 1960s, in the late seventies and eighties, and in the nineties, respectively, are quite different things. Putnam indicates this by changing prefixes: scientific, metaphysical, internal, pragmatic, commonsense, but always realism. Encouraged by Putnam’s own (...)
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  35. Précis of Philosophy and Its Epistemic Neuroses.Michael Hymers - 2004 - Dialogue 43 (3):569-576.
  36. Deflating Meinongianism.Wen-Fang Wang - 2004 - In Johann Christian Marek & Maria Elisabeth Reicher (eds.), Experience and Analysis: Papers of the 27th International Wittgenstein Symposium. Hölder-Pichler-Tempsky. pp. 403--4.
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  37. The place of semantic theory.Bernhard Weiss - 2004 - Pacific Philosophical Quarterly 85 (4):454–469.
    : Some twenty years since its publication Putnam's model‐theoretic argument is still much discussed. The present paper aims to defend a reconstruction of the argument but begins by attempting to clarify the form of the argument. Usually, and with good textual grounds, the argument is treated as a reductio argument against metaphysical realism. I argue instead that it should be treated as developing a paradox. I go on to claim that the most promising response to this paradox is to be (...)
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  38. Douven on Putnam's model-theoretic argument.Byeong D. Lee - 2003 - Erkenntnis 58 (1):7--12.
    The model-theoretic argument, which Putnam employs to argue againstmetaphysical realism, has faced serious objections of many realist opponents.Igor Douven in his recent paper offers a new interpretation of the model-theoreticargument, which avoids the previous objections. The purpose of this paper is toshow that Douven's reconstruction of Putnam's argument is not successful, andhence that the realist objections still stand.
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  39. The model theoretic argument, indirect realism, and the causal theory of reference objection.Steven L. Reynolds - 2003 - Pacific Philosophical Quarterly 84 (2):146-154.
    Abstract: Hilary Putnam has reformulated his model-theoretic argument as an argument against indirect realism in the philosophy of perception. This new argument is reviewed and defended. Putnam’s new focus on philosophical theories of perception (instead of metaphysical realism) makes better sense of his previous responses to the objection from the causal theory of reference. It is argued that the model-theoretic argument can also be construed as an argument that holders of a causal theory of reference should adopt direct realism in (...)
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  40. What is so magical about a theory of intrinsic intentionality?Deborah C. Smith - 2003 - Philosophical Papers 32 (1):83-96.
    Abstract Curiously missing in the vast literature on Hilary Putnam's so-called model-theoretic argument against semantic realism is any response from would-be proponents of what Putnam would call magical theories of reference. Such silence is surprising in light of the fact that such theories have occupied a significant position in the history of philosophy and the fact that there are still several prominent thinkers who would, no doubt, favor such a theory. This paper develops and examines various responses to Putnam's argument (...)
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  41. Anthony brueckner/contents just aren't in the head 1–6 Byeong D. lee/douven on Putnam's model-theoretic argument 7–12 Giorgio volpe/ideal epistemic situations and the access-ibility of realist truth 13–31. [REVIEW]Der Staudacher - 2003 - Erkenntnis 58 (1):417-418.
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  42. El Argumento de Teoria de Modelos de Putnam y la Metodologia para la Comprension de las Nociones Intencionales.José Tomás Alvarado - 2002 - Theoria: Revista de Teoría, Historia y Fundamentos de la Ciencia 17 (3):541-561.
    Putnam's Model- Theoretic Argument has been generally held as invalid. In this work, attention is addressed to two broad facts understated by critics and commentators: (i) there are, at least, two different model-theoretic arguments. One is directed against realism and the other is directed to naturalistic semantics. The general rejection affects the former, but it is open to discussion if it affects the latter; (ii) on the other hand, the model-theoretic argument construed as a reductio argument has not - prima (...)
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  43. Evaluating Fallacies: Putnam's Model-Theoretic Legacy.Louise Cummins - 2002 - Philosophica 69 (1).
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  44. Reasoning about Non-Actual Possibilities. Problems with the Douven-Putnam Model-Theoretic Argument against Metaphysical Realism.Manuel Pérez Otero - 2002 - Critica 34 (102):29-45.
    Igor Douven has offered an original reconstruction and defence of Putnam's model-theoretic argument against metaphysical realism. Douven's construal has notable exegetical virtues, since it makes sense of some assumptions in Putnam's argument which his opponents have considered question-begging or puzzling. In this article I provide an indirect defence of metaphysical realism, by showing why this new version of the anti-realist argument should also be rejected. The main problems in the Douven-Putnam argument come from ascribing to the realist a distorted view (...)
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  45. On Putnam and his models.Timothy Bays - 2001 - Journal of Philosophy 98 (7):331-350.
    It is not my claim that the ‘L¨ owenheim-Skolem paradox’ is an antinomy in formal logic; but I shall argue that it is an antinomy, or something close to it, in philosophy of language. Moreover, I shall argue that the resolution of the antinomy—the only resolution that I myself can see as making sense—has profound implications for the great metaphysical dispute about realism which has always been the central dispute in the philosophy of language.
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  46. On Putnam and His Models.Timothy Bays - 2001 - Journal of Philosophy 98 (7):331.
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  47. Putnam's paradox: A less quick reply to Haukioja and Kroon.Timothy Chambers - 2001 - Mind 110 (439):709-714.
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  48. Not so quick: A reply to Chambers.Jussi Haukioja - 2001 - Mind 110 (439):699-702.
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  49. Chambers on Putnam's paradox.Frederick Kroon - 2001 - Mind 110 (439):703-708.
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  50. Referenz und Fallibilismus: zu Hilary Putnams pragmatischem Kognitivismus.Axel Mueller - 2001 - New York: ISSN.
    This is a two tiered investigation. On the one hand, the author presents a systematic account of the philosophy of Hilary Putnam. Being the first comprehensive account to be published in the German-speaking world, the author traces the development of Putnam's realism and philosophy of language and their connections from the early 1950's to 2000. Contrary to the popular view of the discontinuity of Putnam's philosophy, he demonstrates that Putnam maintains certain semantic, pragmatic and epistemological foundations for the rational confirmability, (...)
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