Publications of Ben-Yami, H.

Absolute Distant Simultaneity in Special Relativity

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 H. Vagueness and Family Resemblance. In: Glock H-J, Hyman J, editors. A Companion to Wittgenstein. Wiley Blackwell; 2017. p. 407-19. (Blackwell Companions to Philosophy).

Filosofia, scena XVII: entra l'automa

I describe the influence of clockwork automata on modern philosophy and science, particularly on the conceptions of life, soul and mind.

Ben-Yami H. Bare Quantifiers? Pacific Philosophical Quarterly. 2014;95(2):175-88.

Bare Quantifiers?

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 wouldn’t be supported by it.

The Quantified Argument Calculus

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 familiarise 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. I. Introduction

Ben-Yami H. Natural Kind Terms. In: Hogan PC, editor. The Cambridge encyclopedia of the language sciences. Cambridge ; New York: Cambridge University Press; 2011.

A Wittgensteinian Solution to the Sorites

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 criticize 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 generalization 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.

Could Sherlock Holmes Have Existed?

In Naming and Necessity Kripke argued against the possible existence of fictional characters. I show that his argument is invalid, analyse the confusion it involves, and explain why the view that fictional characters could not have existed is implausible.

Plural Quantification Logic: A Critical Appraisal

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 ‘is-one-of’ 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.

Generalized Quantifiers, and Beyond

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 logical subject-terms or plural referring expressions, and show how it does explain that fact. The ability of competing theories of quantification to supply such an explanation is seen as one criterion for deciding between them.

Review of The Old New Logic: Essays on the Philosophy of Fred Sommers

This article reviews the book The Old New Logic: Essays on the Philosophy of Fred Sommers edited by David Oderberg.

Apparent Simultaneity

This article was presented in the 1st Conference of the European Philosophy of Science Association (Madrid, 15-17 November, 2007).

The Impossibility of Backwards Causation

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.

Causality and Temporal Order in Special Relativity

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.

A Critique of Frege on Common Nouns

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.

Ben-Yami H. The Semantics of Kind Terms. Philosophical Studies : An International Journal for Philosophy in the Analytic Tradition. 2001;102(2):155-84.
Ben-Yami H. Attributive Adjectives and the Predicate Calculus. Philosophical Studies : An International Journal for Philosophy in the Analytic Tradition. 1996;83(3):277-89.