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Profile: Tim Button (Cambridge University)
  1. Tim Button (forthcoming). Brains in Vats and Model Theory. In Sanford Goldberg (ed.), The Brain in a Vat. Cambridge University Press.
    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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  2. Tim Button (2014). Reading Putnam, Edited by Maria Baghramian. Mind 123 (490):569-575.
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  3. Tim Button (2014). The Weight of Truth: Lessons for Minimalists From Russell's Gray's Elegy Argument. Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society 114 (3pt3):261-289.
    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 teaches us some important lessons about propositions and propositional constituents. When applied to minimalism, (...)
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  4. Tim Button (2013). Truth by Analysis: Games, Names, and Philosophy By Colin McGinn. [REVIEW] Analysis 73 (3):577-580.
    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.
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  5. Tim Button (2013). The Chair That is Used to Sit In. Review Of: The American Pragmatists by Cheryl Misak. [REVIEW] Times Literary Supplement.
    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.
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  6. Tim Button (2013). The Limits of Realism. Oxford University Press.
    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; we might all, for example, 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 external realists, who worry about the possibility of radical (...)
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  7. Tim Button (2012). Spotty Scope and Our Relation to Fictions. Noûs 46 (2):243-58.
    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) (...)
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  8. Tim Button (2011). The Metamathematics of Putnam's Model-Theoretic Arguments. 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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  9. Tim Button (2010). Dadaism: Restrictivism as Militant Quietism. Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society 110 (3pt3):387-398.
    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’.
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  10. Tim Button (2009). Hyperloops Do Not Threaten the Notion of an Effective Procedure. Lecture Notes in Computer Science 5635:68-78.
    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.
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  11. Tim Button (2009). SAD Computers and Two Versions of the Church–Turing Thesis. British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 60 (4):765-792.
    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 that it is a non-sequitur. I conclude that the Effective version (...)
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  12. Tim Button (2007). Every Now and Then, No-Futurism Faces No Sceptical Problems. Analysis 67 (296):325–332.
    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. I conclude by considering the problem of how (...)
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  13. Tim Button (2006). Realistic Structuralism's Identity Crisis: A Hybrid Solution. Analysis 66 (3):216–222.
    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. positions that have all the same properties as each other and exactly the same (...)
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  14. Tim Button (2006). There's No Time Like the Present. Analysis 66 (290):130–135.
    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 real-as-of different times. (...)
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