2018. *Philosophy and Model Theory*.
Coauthored with Sean Walsh.
With a historical appendix by Wilfrid Hodges.
Oxford University Press.

// doi // errata // pop-exposition //

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; they typically presuppose that the reader has a significant background in mathematics; and little clue is given as to their philosophical significance. On the other hand, the philosophical applications of these results are then scattered across disconnected pockets of papers, separated by decades or more.

The first aim of *Philosophy and Model Theory*, then, is to consider the *philosophical uses of model theory*. On a technical level, we try to show how philosophically significant results connect to one another, and also to state the best version of a result for philosophical purposes. On a philosophical level, we show how similar dialectical situations arise repeatedly, across fragmented debates in varied philosophical areas.

The second aim of *Philosophy and Model Theory*, though, is to consider the *philosophy of model theory*. Model theory itself is rarely taken as the subject matter of philosophising (contrast this, say, with the philosophy of biology, or the philosophy of set theory). But model theory is a beautiful part of pure mathematics, and worthy of philosophical study in its own right.

2013. *The Limits of Realism*. Oxford University Press.

// doi //

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 external realists, who worry about the possibility of radical deception. Equally, however, we cannot be internal realists, who reject all possibility of deception. We must position ourselves somewhere between internal realism and external realism, but we cannot hope to say exactly where. We must be realists, for what that is worth, and realists within limits.

In establishing these claims, *The Limits of Realism* critically explores and develops several themes from Hilary Putnam’s work: the model-theoretic arguments; the connection between truth and justification; the brain-in-vat argument; semantic externalism; and conceptual relativity. The book establishes the continued significance of these topics for all philosophers interested in mind, logic, language, or the possibility of metaphysics.

Lieven Decock, *Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews*: published

Nicholas K Jones, *Analysis*: published // preprint

Drew Khlentzos, *Australasian Journal of Philosophy*: published

Rory Madden, *European Journal of Philosophy*: published // preprint

J.T.M. Miller, *Philosophy in Review*: published

Joshua Thorpe, *Argumenta*: published

Jan Westerhoff, *Mind*: published

Nathan Wildman, *Zeitschrift für philosophische Forschung*: preprint

forthcoming. A fictionalist theory of universals.
Coauthored with Robert Trueman.
For P. Fritz and N. Jones (eds.), *Higher-Order Metaphysics*. Oxford University Press.

// preprint

We are Fregean realists. Very roughly speaking, this means that we believe in a vast type-hierarchy, and we insist that the typing is strict, so that every entity has a unique type. For example: we believe in properties, but we never confuse properties with objects. Our question in this paper is whether Fregean realists should believe in universals as well as properties. By ‘universals’, we mean object-level correlates of properties, such as wisdom, mortality and the colour blue. There are good reasons to reject the existence of universals, but various natural language constructions appear to force us to believe in them. We explore a fictionalist response to this problem. Specifically, we present a fictionalist theory of universals which is provably conservative. This allows us to speak as if universals existed, whilst denying that any really do.

2022 (online first). Symmetric relations, symmetric theories, and Pythagrapheanism.
*Philosophy and Phenomenological Research*.

// doi (open access)

It is a metaphysical orthodoxy that interesting non-symmetric relations cannot be reduced to symmetric ones. This orthodoxy is wrong. I show this by exploring the expressive power of symmetric theories, i.e. theories which use only symmetric predicates. Such theories are powerful enough to raise the possibility of Pythagrapheanism, i.e. the possibility that the world is just a vast, unlabelled, undirected graph.

2022. Against cumulative type theory.
Coauthored with Robert Trueman.
*Review of Symbolic Logic*, 15.4: 907–49.

// doi (open access)

Standard Type Theory, STT, tells us that *b ^{n}*(

2022. Mathematical internal realism.
In J. Conant and S. Chakraborty (eds.), *Engaging Putnam*. Berlin: De Gruyter: 157–182.

In “Models and Reality” (1980), Putnam sketched a version of his internal realism as it might arise in the philosophy of mathematics. Here, I will develop that sketch. By combining Putnam’s model-theoretic arguments with Dummett’s reflections on Gödelian incompleteness, we arrive at (what I call) the Skolem-Gödel Antinomy. In brief: our mathematical concepts are perfectly precise; however, these perfectly precise mathematical concepts are manifested and acquired via a formal theory, which is understood in terms of a computable system of proof, and hence is incomplete. Whilst this might initially seem strange, I show how internal categoricity results for arithmetic and set theory allow us to face up to this Antinomy. This also allows us to understand why “Models are not lost noumenal waifs looking for someone to name them,” but “constructions within our theory itself,” with “names from birth.”

2022. Level Theory, part 3: A boolean algebra of sets arranged in well-ordered levels.
*Bulletin of Symbolic Logic*, 28.1: 1–26.

On a very natural conception of sets, every set has an absolute complement. The ordinary cumulative hierarchy dismisses this idea outright. But we can rectify this, whilst retaining classical logic. Indeed, we can develop a boolean algebra of sets arranged in well-ordered levels. I show this by presenting Boolean Level Theory, which fuses ordinary Level Theory (from Part 1) with ideas due to Thomas Forster, Alonzo Church, and Urs Oswald. BLT neatly implement Conway’s games and surreal numbers; and an obvious extension of BLT is definitionally equivalent with ZF.

2021. Level Theory, part 2: Axiomatizing the bare idea of a potential hierarchy.
*Bulletin of Symbolic Logic*, 27.4: 461–84.

Potentialists think that the concept of set is importantly modal. Using tensed language as an heuristic, the following bare-bones story introduces the idea of a potential hierarchy of sets: ‘Always: for any sets that existed, there is a set whose members are exactly those sets; there are no other sets.’ Surprisingly, this story already guarantees well-foundedness and persistence. Moreover, if we assume that time is linear, the ensuing modal set theory is almost definitionally equivalent with non-modal set theories; specifically, with Level Theory, as developed in Part 1.

2021. Level Theory, Part 1: Axiomatizing the bare idea of a cumulative hierarchy of sets.
*Bulletin of Symbolic Logic*, 27.4: 436–60.

The following bare-bones story introduces the idea of a cumulative hierarchy of pure sets: ‘Sets are arranged in stages. Every set is found at some stage. At any stage S: for any sets found before S, we find a set whose members are exactly those sets. We find nothing else at S.’ Surprisingly, this story already guarantees that the sets are arranged in well-ordered levels, and suffices for quasi-categoricity. I show this by presenting Level Theory, a simplifiation of set theories due to Scott, Montague, Derrick, and Potter.

2020.
Deflationary metaphysics and ordinary language.
*Synthese* 197.1: 33–57.

// doi (open access)

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 trivial enterprise. Second: a wide variety of existence questions cannot be deflated using ordinary language, trivially or otherwise, for ordinary language often points in different directions simultaneously.

2018. Other minds and God: Russell and Stout on James and Schiller.
In M. Baghramian and S. Marchetti (eds.), *Pragmatism and the European Traditions: Encounters with analytic philosophy and phenomenology before the great divide*. London: Routledge: 86–109.

In 1907–8, Russell and Stout presented an objection against James and Schiller, to which both James and Schiller replied. In this paper, I shall revisit their transatlantic exchange. Doing so will yield a better understanding of Schiller’s relationship to a worryingly solipsistic brand of phenomenalism. It will also allow us to appreciate a crucial difference between Schiller and James; a difference which James explicitly downplayed.

2018. Wittgenstein on solipsism in the 1930s: Private pains, private languages, and two uses of ‘I’.
*Royal Institute of Philosophy Supplement* 82: 205–29.

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’, Wittgenstein makes his now famous suggestion that the word ‘I’ has two distinct uses: a subject-use and an object-use. The purpose of Wittgenstein’s suggestion has, however, been widely misunderstood. I unpack it in §2, explaining how the subject-use connects with a phenomenological language, and so again tempts us into solipsism. In §§3–4, I consider various stages of Wittgenstein’s engagement with this kind of solipsism, culminating in a rejection of solipsism (and of subject-uses of ‘I’) via reflections on private languages.

2017.
Exclusion problems and the cardinality of logical space.
*Journal of Philosophical Logic* 46.6: 611–23.

// doi (open access)

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 present a very simple necessary and sufficient condition for the tenability (in principle) of the atomist picture. The condition is: logical space is a power of two. This cardinality-condition supplies a cheap response to exclusion problems. (Moreover, this cheap response amounts to a distillation of a proposal due to Sarah Moss, 2012.) However, the cheapness of this response vindicates Wittgenstein’s ultimate rejection of the atomist picture. We have no guarantee that there are any solutions to a given exclusion problem but, if there are any, then there are far too many.

2017.
Grades of Discrimination: Indiscernibility, symmetry, and relativity.
*Notre Dame Journal of Formal Logic* 58.4: 527–53.

// doi (open access)

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 discrimination have been studied in some detail. However, this paper also introduces grades of relativity, defined in terms of relativeness correspondences. This paper explores the relationships between all the grades of discrimination, exhaustively answering several natural questions that have so far received only partial answers. It also establishes which grades can be captured in terms of satisfaction of object-language formulas, and draws connections with definability theory.

2016. Brains in vats and model theory.
In S. Goldberg (ed.), *The Brain in a Vat*, Cambridge University Press: 131–54.

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 contributions to the realism/antirealism debate: his discussions of brains-in-vats, of Skolem’s Paradox, and of permutations. In all three cases, we have an argument which does not merely defeat the sceptic; it also shows us that we must reject some prima facie plausible philosophical picture.

2016.
Knot and Tonk: Nasty connectives on many-valued truth-tables for classical sentential logic.
*Analysis* 76.1: 7–19.

Prior’s Tonk is a famously horrible connective. It is defined by its inference rules. My aim in this paper 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 many-valued truth-tables for classical sentential logic. I close by outlining the technicalities surrounding nasty connectives on many-valued truth-tables.

2016.
Structure and categoricity: Determinacy of reference and truth-value in the philosophy of mathematics.
Coauthored with Sean Walsh.
*Philosophia Mathematica* 24.3: 283–307.

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.

2014.
The weight of truth: Lessons for minimalists from Russell’s Gray’s Elegy argument.
*Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society* 114.3: 261–89.

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, the minimalist regards 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; and, when applied to minimalism, they show us why we should abandon it.

2012.
The philosophical significance of Tennenbaum’s Theorem.
Coauthored with P. Smith.
*Philosophia Mathematica*, 20.1: 114–21.

Tennenbaum’s Theorem yields an elegant characterisation of the standard model of arithmetic. Several authors have recently claimed that this result has important philosophical consequences: in particular, it offers us a way of responding to model-theoretic worries about how we manage to grasp the standard model. We disagree. If there ever was such a problem about how we come to grasp the standard model, then Tennenbaum’s Theorem doesn’t help. We show this by examining a parallel argument, from a simpler model-theoretic result.

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) *spotty scope* approach to the operator problem. Sainsbury treats the problem as syntactic, but the problem is ultimately metaphysical.

2011.
The metamathematics of Putnam’s model-theoretic arguments.
*Erkenntnis* 74.3: 321–49.

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.

Philip Scowcroft wrote a very useful review of this paper, on *MathSciNet*, MR2785345 (2012e:03005), which notes some errata in the original.

2010.
Dadaism: restrictivism as militant quietism.
*Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society* 110.3: 387–98.

Can we quantify over everything: absolutely, positively, definitely, totally, *every* thing? Some authors 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 claims to hold a positive position about ‘absolute generality’.

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.

2009.
SAD computers and two versions of the Church–Turing Thesis.
*British Journal for the Philosophy of Science* 60.4: 765–92.

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 barriers 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 of the Church–Turing Thesis is unaffected by SAD computation.

2007.
Every now and then, no-futurism faces no sceptical problems.
*Analysis* 67.4: 325–32.

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 to interpret the relation ‘*x* is real-as-of *y*’.

NB: a correction to this article appears in *Analysis* 68.1, and is available here. The preprint incorporates the change made in this correction.

2006.
Realistic structuralism’s identity crisis: A hybrid solution.
*Analysis* 66.3: 216–22.

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 relations to all objects (including themselves). I conclude that realistic structuralists must compromise and treat some structures eliminativistically.

2006.
There’s no time like the present.
*Analysis* 66.2: 130–35.

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. This reunites privilege with indexicality, but entails that no-futurists must believe in ineliminably tensed facts.

(draft). The iterative conception of function and the iterative conception of set.

// draft

Hilary Putnam once suggested that “the actual existence of sets as ‘intangible objects’ suffers… from a generalization of a problem first pointed out by Paul Benacerraf… are sets a kind of function or are functions a sort of set?” Sadly, he did not elaborate; my aim, here, is to do so on his behalf. There are well-known methods for treating sets as functions and functions as sets. But these do not raise any obvious philosophical or foundational puzzles. For that, we first need to provide a full-fledged function theory. I supply such a theory: it axiomatizes the iterative notion of *function* in exactly the same sense that ZF axiomatizes the iterative notion of *set*. Indeed, this function theory is synonymous with ZF. It might seem that set theory and function theory present us with rival foundations for mathematics, since they postulate different ontologies. But appearances are deceptive: set theory and function theory are the very same foundation.

(draft). Too clever by halving. Coauthored with Daniel Rothschild and Levi Spectre.

// draft

We argue against the halving response to Sleeping Beauty. First, we outline an appealing constraint on probability assignments: the Principle of Irrelevant Information. Roughly, this says: if you don’t know whether *C*, but you would assign probability *p* to *X* regardless of whether *C* or not-*C*, then you should assign *p* to *X*. This Principle is deeply plausible, but we show that it contradicts halving. Second, we show that halving either violates solid statistical reasoning or draws absurd distinctions.

2019.
Review of: *Hilary Putnam on Logic and Mathematics*, by Geoffrey Hellman and Roy T. Cook (eds.).
*Mind*, 129.516: 1327–37.

Putnam’s most famous contribution to mathematical logic was his role in investigating Hilbert’s Tenth Problem; Putnam is the ‘P’ in the MRDP Theorem. This volume, though, focusses mostly on Putnam’s work on the philosophy of logic and mathematics. It is a somewhat bumpy ride. Of the twelve papers, two scarcely mention Putnam. Three others focus primarily on Putnam’s ‘Mathematics without foundations’ (1967), but with no interplay between them. The remaining seven papers apparently tackle unrelated themes. Some of this disjointedness would doubtless have been addressed, if Putnam had been able to compose his replies to these papers; sadly, he died before this was possible. In this review, I do my best to tease out some connections between the paper; and there are some really interesting connections to be made.

2017.
Review of: *Naturalism, Realism, and Normativity*, by Hilary Putnam, edited by Mario de Caro.
*Philosophy* 92.2: 305–15.

Hilary Putnam’s *Realism with a Human Face* began with a quotation from Rilke, exhorting us to ‘try to love the questions themselves like locked rooms and like books that are written in a very foreign tongue’. Putnam followed this advice throughout his life. His love for the questions permanently changed how we understand them. In *Naturalism, Realism, and Normativity* – published only a few weeks after his death – Putnam continued to explore central questions concerning realism and perception, from the perspective of ‘liberal naturalism’. The volume’s thirteen papers were written over the past fifteen years (only one paper is new), and they show a man who fully inhabited the questions he loved. And the main significance of this book is that it shows – implicitly, but very clearly – quite how much of Putnam’s contribution to his philosophy is continuous with his ‘The Meaning of “Meaning”’.

2016.
Review of: *Ontology After Carnap*, by Stephan Blatti and Sandra Lapointe (eds.).
*Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews*.

*Ontology after Carnap* focusses on metaontology in the light of recent interest in Carnap’s ‘Empiricism, Semantics and Ontology’. That paper is at the centre of things, as it is where Carnap formulates his internal/external dichotomy. If you haven’t already encountered the dichotomy, then neither *Ontology after Carnap*, nor this review, is for you. My aim in this review is to try to tease out some of the book’s themes, thereby giving some sense of contemporary neo-Carnapianism.

2014.
Review of: *Reading Putnam*, by Maria Baghramian (ed.).
*Mind* 123.490: 569–75.

*Reading Putnam* consists largely of papers from the fantastic ‘Putnam @80’ conference (organised by Maria Baghramian in 2007) together with replies from Hilary Putnam. Given the diversity of Putnam’s work, the papers in this collection cover many different topics. This makes the collection difficult to read but, ultimately, extremely rewarding. In this review, I focus on the contributions from Michael Devitt, Charles Parsons, Richard Boyd, Ned Block, Charles Travis and John McDowell, together with Putnam’s responses. My aim is to highlight some connections between Putnam’s (evolving) views on ontology, conceptual relativism, and perception.

2013.
The chair that is used to sit in. Review of: *The American Pragmatists*, by Cheryl Misak.
*The Times Literary Supplement* 18 October 2013.

// preprint

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.