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, in holding life to be a mechanical (...) phenomenon, reducing the soul to the mind and considering it immaterial. Ben-Yami explores the later role of the digital computer in Turing's criticism of Descartes' ideas. The last part discusses the Meditations: far from starting everything afresh without presupposing anything that can be doubted, Descartes' innovations in the dream argument, the cogito and elsewhere are modifications of old ideas based upon considerations issuing from his separately developed theories, formed under the influence of the technology, mathematics and science of his age. (shrink)
Frege's invention of the predicate calculus has been the most influential event in the history of modern logic. The calculus' place in logic is so central that many philosophers think, in fact, of it when they think of logic. This book challenges the position in contemporary logic and philosophy of language of the predicate calculus claiming that it is based on mistaken assumptions. Ben-Yami shows that the predicate calculus is different from natural language in its fundamental semantic characteristics, primarily in (...) its treatment of reference and quantification, and that as a result the calculus is inadequate for the analysis of the semantics and logic of natural language. Ben-Yami develops both an alternative analysis of the semantics of natural language and an alternative deductive system comparable in its deductive power to first order predicate calculus but more adequate than it for the representation of the logic of natural language. Ben-Yami's book is a challenge to classical first order predicate calculus, casting doubt on many of the central claims of modern logic. (shrink)
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 formulas and their converses is (...) shown by Quarc to be a result of the specific incorporation of quantification in the Predicate Calculus, and not as reflecting a feature of the interaction of quantification and modality more generally. Necessary existence is shown to follow from the identification, in the Predicate Calculus on its canonical interpretation, of particular quantification, ascription of existence and the ‘there is’ construction, three constructions which are distinguished in both Quarc and Natural Language. The issues surrounding the Barcan formulas, their converses and necessary existence are thus shown to be an artefact of a specific logic system, not an essential feature of our relevant modal concepts or of formal logic. (shrink)
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.
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, I argue that these and some (...) other expressions should instead be classified as plurals whose reference is articulated, an idea explained and elaborated in the paper. I also show that the related categories of plural and superplural predicates collapse to that of ordinary predicates. In the process we also see that the law of substitutivity salva veritate should be elaborated for cases involving expressions more complex than singular ones. (shrink)
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 characterization relying on beliefs, (...) etc., about non‐existing things is also rejected. Last, some sentences ascribing abilities and dispositions have the same grammatical form as some senses that ascribe mental states, so that the attempt to paraphrase the latter would obscure the conceptual relations between the two sorts. It follows that mental states are not relations to propositions. (shrink)
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 not use negative nouns. The process also sheds light on formal properties and presuppositions of some inferences it formalises. Directions for future work are outlined. (shrink)
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 sentences. I then develop a formal system built on (...) these principles, the Quantified Argument Calculus or Quarc. I provide a truth-value assignment semantics and a proof system for the Quarc. I next demonstrate the system’s power by a variety of proofs; I prove its soundness; and I comment on its completeness. I then extend the system to modal logic, again providing a proof system and a truth-value assignment semantics. I proceed to show how the Quarc versions of the Barcan formulas, of their converses and of necessary existence come out straightforwardly invalid, which I argue is an advantage of the modal Quarc over modal Predicate Logic as a system intended to capture the logic of natural language. (shrink)
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.
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 misunderstandings are addressed along the way. Wittgenstein’s ideas, as is (...) then shown, have far-reaching implications for knowledge of meaning and the nature of logic, and with them to the nature of the philosophical project and its possible achievements. (shrink)
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 explanation does not necessitate backwards causation. I then (...) show why even relative backwards causation is impossible in his and Tooley's scenarios of parallel processes in which causes apparently act in opposite temporal directions. We thus have good reasons for thinking that backwards causation is impossible. (shrink)
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 involving a new task. In the first task, the hypothesised misunderstanding of the question leads to failure without the need to ascribe a false belief, and we show that failure in this new task is correlated with failure in the FBT. In the second task, passing which requires ascribing a false belief to an agent, and for which we have partial yet encouraging results, the children are asked a question which is unlikely to be misunderstood. Children pass this task much more often than they do a standard FBT. The mentioned tension is thus resolved. We conclude that the so-called False Belief Task probably does not check the ability to ascribe false beliefs but rather linguistic development. (shrink)
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.
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. I end by comparing (...) my approach to others found in the literature, primarily Stein’s. (shrink)
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 of simultaneity, and (...) I therefore eliminate it. Having made these changes, Malament's uniqueness result no longer follows, although the conventionality of simultaneity is not reinstated. I contrast my approach with previous criticisms of Malament. Introduction Causality and Temporal Order Malament's Argument Causality versus Causal Connectibility Simultaneity and History Conclusion. (shrink)
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 (...) semantics and logic. I conclude with a criticism of the claim that PQL should replace natural language for specific philosophical or scientific purposes. (shrink)
I explain why I think that considerations regarding the opposing rights involved in the practice of circumcision—rights of the individual to bodily integrity and rights of the community to practice its religion—would not help us decide on the desirable policy towards this controversial practice. I then suggest a few measures that are not in conflict with either religious or community rights but that can both reduce the harm that circumcision as currently practiced involves and bring about a change in attitude (...) towards the practice, thus further reducing its frequency. These measures are the compulsory administration of anaesthetics; the banning of the metzitzah b’peh; and having an upper age limit of a few months on nontherapeutic circumcision of minors. I conclude with general considerations on why the steps taken towards the reform of circumcision should be moderate. (shrink)
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.
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 theory that takes noun phrases to be plural referring expressions, and shows how that theory meets the objections to the KPT. (shrink)
Frege analyzed the grammatical subject-term 'S' in quantified subject-predicate sentences, 'q S are P', as being logically predicative. This is in contrast to Aristotelian Logic, according to which it is a logical subject-term, like the proper name 'a' in 'a is P' – albeit a plural one, designating many particulars. I show that Frege's arguments for his analysis are unsound, and explain how he was misled to his position by the mathematical concept of function. If common nouns in this grammatical (...) subject position are indeed logical subject-terms, this should require a thorough reevaluation of the adequacy of Frege's Predicate Calculus as a tool for the analysis of the logic and semantics of natural language. (shrink)
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 intelligence. I argue against Block that it (...) is not the nature of its processes but of its linguistic behavior which is responsible for his machine's lack of intelligence. As I show, not only has Block failed to establish that the nature of internal processes is conceptually relevant for psychology, in fact his machine example actually supports some version of behaviorism. As Wittgenstein has maintained, as far as psychology is concerned, there may be chaos inside. (shrink)
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 every short argument in a long concatenated argument is valid, so is the long argument: it is, I argue, the result of an unjustified generalisation from the case of arguments that do not employ vague concepts (as in mathematics) to arguments that do employ them. My approach is Wittgensteinian in its “leaving everything as it is,” in its claiming that the “beginning” has been searched too far back (see paper's epigraph) and in its claim that the paradox was generated by a misapplication of a partial picture of the behaviour of arguments. I conclude my paper by comparing and contrasting my approach to the few precedents found in the vagueness literature and by answering a few additional objections that were raised there. (shrink)
I introduce some distinctions concerning depiction and show that the checker-shadow phenomenon is not an illusion of the kind it is claimed to be. This might also help to think more clearly about other ‘illusory’ phenomena.
In the first chapter of his The World, Descartes compares light to words and discusses signs and ideas. This made scholars read into that passage our views of language as a representational medium and consider it Descartes’ model for representation in perception. I show, by contrast, that Descartes does not ascribe there any representational role to language; that to be a sign is for him to have a kind of causal role; and that he is concerned there only with the (...) cause’s lack of resemblance to its effect, not with the representation’s lack of resemblance to what it represents. I support this interpretation by comparisons with other places in Descartes’ corpus and with earlier authors, Descartes’ likely sources. This interpretation may shed light both on Descartes’ understanding of the functioning of language and on the development of his theory of representation in perception. (shrink)
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.
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 directionality in (...) time, a source of the Uncertainty Principle, and the reality of chaos. (shrink)
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 hard to discern a difference between any two consecutive heads. Secondly, the colour of the heads changes from bright red on the left to bright orange on the right, again so gradually that it is hard to discern a difference between any two consecutive heads. Apart from the row of heads the stage is empty, with dark background. (shrink)
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 claim, are then discussed. Ben-Yami next examines a difficulty in accepted definitions of rigidity, stemming from the fact that the same name can be used to name different particulars. This difficulty might force us to adopt a revised form of the rigidity claim. (shrink)
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 that (...) Szabó's example fails, and that even if it were successful his conclusions would not be supported by it. (shrink)
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, and it (...) is concluded that for each of these the room will have understanding. Hence, Searle's argument is invalid. (shrink)
I develop Special Relativity with backward-light-cone simultaneity, which I call, for reasons made clear in the paper, ‘Apparent Simultaneity’. In the first section I show some advantages of this approach. I then develop the kinematics in the second section. In the third section I apply the approach to the Twins Paradox: I show how it removes the paradox, and I explain why the paradox was a result of an artificial symmetry introduced to the description of the process by Einstein’s simultaneity (...) definition. In the fourth section I discuss some aspects of dynamics. I conclude, in a fifth section, with a discussion of the nature of light, according to which transmission of light energy is a form of action at a distance. -/- deposited in Pittsburgh PhilSci-Archive, March 2007. (shrink)
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 identified as mental is to be individuated, but, given their theory, this cannot be done. (shrink)
I have attempted to show that many attributive adjectives can be dealt with within the framework of first-order predicate calculus by the method suggested in this paper. I've also supplied independent reasons for the claim that attributive adjectives that are not responsive to this method require a formal treatment different from the one that the adjectives successfully dealt with by that method require. Thus, if the method I've argued for is sound, then the scope of first-order predicate calculus was shown (...) to be wider than assumed by several logicians. This I take to be of interest from a logical point of view. (shrink)