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Saturday, July 09, 2011

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We have discussed this before, and I must be brief as it is bedtime (as you know we were partying at Oxford last night).

The problem with your objection (namely, how can there be a 'thisness' of something that does not exist) is the assumption that to a haecceity predicate there must correspond a haecceity property. But consider

"Two twins were walking down a road. One twin was tall. The other twin was the same height. The first twin was red-haired. The second had hair of exactly the same colour."

Clearly the predicates 'the first' and 'the second', like 'the former' and 'the latter' do not pick out any real properties of the things signified. They are merely story-relative. And they are a vehicle of singular reference.

So you must accept that at least in some cases there can be singular reference or predication without a corresponding singular property. No?

Edward,

I myself do not see how your point (which I cannot fault) tells against Dr. Vallicella's criticism of the late C. J. F. Williams' account of singular existentials. Williams claims, not that existence is a property of predicates, but that it is a property of properties. Even if there is some predicate P that applies essentially to myself alone, I cannot necessarily make use it in analysing my own, seemingly first-level existence if I maintain that all existence is a property of properties, since P by your own admission need not be a property.

Or am I missing something?

Also, the haecceity-predicates you mention both refer to fictional, non-existent figures. So that looks like a bad way to go about analysing existential statements of any kind, unless you have some examples of haecceity-predicates that aren't story-relative. Again, tell me if I'm missing something.

>> I myself do not see how your point (which I cannot fault) tells against Dr. Vallicella's criticism of the late C. J. F. Williams' account of singular existentials.

Well, Williams’ account begins with the claim that the affirmative general existential 'Horses exist,' for example, is best understood as making an instantiation claim: 'The concept horse is instantiated.' And he does, as Bill says, maintain the draconian thesis that all meaningful uses of 'exist(s)' are second-level. If I am right, we can analyse ‘Pegasus does not exist’ in a similar way: “the concept Pegasus is not instantiated”. The reply to Bill’s objection is that the concept Pegasus does not correspond to any actual property.

If Williams really goes on to suggest that there are haecceity properties (I haven’t checked, but I will) then Bill's objection holds, to be sure.

>>Also, the haecceity-predicates you mention both refer to fictional, non-existent figures. So that looks like a bad way to go about analysing existential statements of any kind, unless you have some examples of haecceity-predicates that aren't story-relative. Again, tell me if I'm missing something.

I don't understand. Haecceity predicates (or haecceity concepts) can certainly be used to make existential statements. 'Those men did not really exist' means that the haecceity concepts corresponding to the demonstrative 'those men' are not satisfied.

If outer qualities (individuating properties) do not define one's existence.. what is?
If we cut off every quality associated with humans (intelligence, beauty, endurance), what else remains?

Bill,

Why can't William hold the "draconian" thesis that meaningful existence statements are second order and recursively define a particular class of existence statement. So according to Williams, Ed's existence does depend upon the existence of other individuals, but that is the nature of all recursive definitions. So far as I can see (and I have not read Williams work on this), Williams does not claim that *all* singular existence statements are to be defined in terms of origin; only that some are to be so defined. In this case he considers the assertion: I might not have existed.

Theism and I have had an on-again, off-again relationship. But if I were a theist at the moment, I might say these things:

When God created the world, he knew precisely which individuals he would get.
Thus he didn't need to have those very individuals in front of him to know which ones they were.
Thus there must be a way to individuate all possible individuals that in no way depends upon their actual existence.
Such a thing is by definition a haecceity. Thus there are haecceities.

(Not so very carefully done I know. But I assume you get the point.)

Edward writes, >>So you must accept that at least in some cases there can be singular reference or predication without a corresponding singular property. No?<<

I agree. I don't assume that for every predicate there is a corresponding property. 'Sally is either anorexic or ten feet from a basketball.' I rather doubt that there is a disjunctive property corresponding to this disjunctive predicate.

'Tom is identical to Tom.' I don't assume, indeed I deny, that there is a property corresponding to the predicate 'is identical to Tom.'

But I don't see the relevance of your unexceptionable point to what I am arguing.

A further wrinkle, Edward. 'One of the twins is a violinist, the other is not.' One might question whether in this example and in the ones you gave above there is gen-u-ine singular reference. Suppose Tom and Tim are the twins. In 'Tom is a violinist but Tim is not' we have genuine singular reference to Tom and Tim respectively. But what do 'one' and 'the other' refer to? Not clear! Can you feel my pain?

I can know that one is and the other isn't without knowing which one is and which one isn't. If I know, of two girls, that one is virgin and the other isn't, I don't thereby know which one is and which one isn't. Suppose that Prudence is the virgin and Roxanne is the non-virgin. Am I referring to Prudence when I say 'One is a virgin'? Arguably not!

Edward,

I agree with Mr. Mollica that you muddy the waters by bringing in fictional names like 'Pegasus.'

Forget about fiction. I exist and so do you (though the latter is less clear). The question is whether the Fregan analysis works with 'I exist' and 'I might not have existed' which are both obviously meaningful and obviously true, pace any O.L. philosophers lurking in the shadows.

Harjo,

Intelligence, beauty, and endurance are not individuating properties.

Peter wtites, >>Williams does not claim that *all* singular existence statements are to be defined in terms of origin; only that some are to be so defined. In this case he considers the assertion: I might not have existed.<<

That's right, but not to the point. The Fregean claim is that every singular existence statement is analyzable as a statement that asserts the instantiation of some property. And that is what I reject for the reasons given.

Bill >>The question is whether the Fregan analysis works with 'I exist' and 'I might not have existed' which are both obviously meaningful and obviously true

Well, exactly on the lines I suggested. 'I exist' is true iff the singular concept signified by my use of the indexical 'I' is instantiated.

'I might not have existed' is true iff that very same singular concept might not have been instantiated. What's the problem?

>>I can know that one is and the other isn't without knowing which one is and which one isn't.

But of course you can know which is which (assuming you know that what I say is true). If I say that 'the second one was a violinist', you know that the second one, and not the first, was a violinist. I appreciate this will cause you pain, but what more am I expected to know?

>>Suppose that Prudence is the virgin and Roxanne is the non-virgin.

Well you know that the former is a virgin, and the latter not. What you don't know is which one is called 'Prudence'. Nor do you know which one is blonde, and which one brunette, until you have been told.

PS To avoid you thinking I am completely mad, let me forestall this by saying that, according to me, we can have different singular concepts of the same person. I.e. two or more singular concepts that are in fact satisfied by a single person, but which are different concepts and which (crucially) we may not know are satisfied by a single person. For example, the ancients had a singular concept corresponding to 'Hesperus', and another singular concept corresponding to 'Phosphorus'. But they didn't realise these different concepts were satisfied by just one thing.

Hi Franklin, it's been a while. I hope you are well.

>>When God created the world, he knew precisely which individuals he would get. Thus he didn't need to have those very individuals in front of him to know which ones they were. Thus there must be a way to individuate all possible individuals that in no way depends upon their actual existence. Such a thing is by definition a haecceity. Thus there are haecceities.<<

So classical theism requires haecceity properties? This is not at all clear.

Your first 'thus' should be a 'but.' Then you have a very interesting and plausible argument.

I reject your initial premise. You are assuming that creation is the actualization of an individual essence which is fully individualized prior to existence as an individual essence. But it is not obvious that this is what creation is. (See the work of James Ross and Barry Miller). Creation could be construed as a bestowal of existence that also bestows individuality such that there is no individuality prior to existence.

This is a very deep topic that to which separate posts ought to be devoted. The underlying metaphysical problem is the exact relation of existence and individuation.

>>Well, exactly on the lines I suggested. 'I exist' is true iff the singular concept signified by my use of the indexical 'I' is instantiated.<<

But there is no such concept. How can you fail to understand this after all I have written over the years?

>> there is no such concept. How can you fail to understand this after all I have written over the years?

I'm afraid I didn't follow these posts. What is the argument for this? One argument would be that there could be no property corresponding to what is signified by 'I'. I have conceded this, arguing that there does not have to be any property corresponding to a predicate.

So what is the argument? Apologies, but (genuinely) I either missed what you have written on this, or failed to understand.

Edward,

Well, exactly on the lines I suggested. 'I exist' is true iff the singular concept signified by my use of the indexical 'I' is instantiated.

What is this concept, and why does it qualify as an haecceity?

Bill,

I have suggested that Williams can explain the existence of Ed in terms of the instantiation of *some* property; namely, the property of having a certain origin. So far as I can see this view is compatible with the Fregean view of thinking of existence as a second-order conception of existence. As you note in the original post the Fregean view is that

"'exist(s)' functions as a second-level predicate, a predicate of properties or concepts or propositional functions or cognate items, and not as a predicate of individuals."

However, this Fregean view does not require that there exists one and only one property, concept, or propositional function of which existence is to be predicated of. There could be several, even when we are concerned with the existence of individuals.

Therefore, the mere fact that Williams explains the existence of Ed by making essential reference to other individuals (e.g., S and O) need not in and of itself refute the view. Of course, at some point Williams' explanation of the existence of some individual(s) will have to appeal to some property other than the property of origination. Since I do not know his complete views, I do not know whether or not he does so.

My previous comment was addressing your claim: "...what is needed is a property that does not refer to or presuppose any existing individual, a property that somehow captures the haecceity of Ed but without presupposing the existence of an individual."

In the case of explaining Ed's existence, the requirement you impose above is not necessary. The requirement only applies to those individual(s) the existence of which cannot be explained by reference to antecedently existing individuals, since no such antecedent individuals exist. If I am right, you need to show that no such property is available to Williams' account. And this you have not demonstrated in the present post.

Bill,

I'm well. Hope the same is true of you and all here.

On to philosophy. Here's a reductio. Assume that God cannot know which things he will imbue with existence prior to His creation of the world. Though he cannot know this, he can know their intrinsic character, for to create is to make a being in accordance with a prior conception of a certain possible intrinsic character. We must conclude that identity cannot supervene upon intrinsic character, for if it did the closure of God's knowledge (God knows all things entailed by what he knows) would imply that God does in fact know the identity of the things that He will create before He creates them. Likewise we must conclude that identity does not supervene upon the total set of intrinsic characters of all created beings together with the relations in which they stand, for God knows this also before His act of creation.

But this is bizarre. If identity does not supervene on the intrinsic character of things and their relations, then there could be a world exactly similar to our that yet contained beings different than the ones in our world. Identity would, as it were, float free.

Thus ends the reductio. The assumption that God cannot know the identity of things before he creates them leads to absurdity. Thus God can know this. But for God to know this is for him to grasp haecceities. Thus there are haecceities.

I suspect that the argument can be run without any mention of God. The point is that if their are no haecceities, a total world-description cannot pin down the identity of the things within it, and this had the implication that there can exist indistinguishable worlds that contain none of the same beings.

Perhaps the denier of haecceities should just give up on the idea of identity. Perhaps there are just no facts of the matter of the form this is identical to that.

>>What is this concept, and why does it qualify as an haecceity?

I have a whole series of posts about such concepts here http://ocham.blogspot.com/search/label/relativity%20of%20reference .

Briefly, a singular concept is one which can only be satisfied by a single thing, and which has no other (descriptive) content. For example, the name 'Frodo', as it occurs in LOTR, simply tells us that the sentence in which it occurs is true - if it is true - of the same individual that any other sentence containing that name is true of (if true). Thus the term 'a' is singular iff the truth of

a is F
a is G

implies the truth of

Some F is G

The function of the indexical 'I' is to signify that the same person is speaking. That does not rule out that 'I' can signify a different singular concept (when uttered by a different person, e.g.). But that is because indexicals are inherently ambiguous, their signification depending on context.

Ed,

"...,the name 'Frodo', as it occurs in LOTR, simply tells us that the sentence in which it occurs is true - if it is true - of the same individual that any other sentence containing that name is true of (if true)."

Several problems. First, the phrase "the name 'Frodo' ...simply tells us..." makes no sense. Names do not tell things; people tell things by using names.

Second, the above threatens to be viciously circular. Let S be a sentence in which the name 'Frodo' occurs. The above account suggests that the name 'Frodo' refers to an individual o just in case the following clause holds:

S is true of o iff there exists another sentence S* such that 'Frodo' occurs in S* and S* is true of o.

But under what conditions S* is true of o? If S is true of o or there is another sentence S**, etc? The former is viciously circular and the later leads to an infinite regress.

Third, the "any other sentence" in the above quotation is overly general. Consider the sentence: the name 'Frodo' contains five letters. Are we to count this sentence as well? In other words you need to exclude sentence that mention the name, but not use it. And how is this distinction to be made according to your ac count?

I don't get it!!!

Leo,

The other commenters don't get it. I'd be interested to know whether you understand my argument. What do you take me to be arguing?

Franklin,

Thanks for the comments. They need to be addressed in a separate post. First I need to write a post responding to you on hypostatization and plural reference.

I saw your other two sites. Very interesting, but I think you are making a mistake when it comes to diet and exercise. But if it works for you then I respect your liberty and autonomy. And therein resides a key difference between liberal and conservative. Liberals want to use the power of the state to tell people what light bulbs to use, what food to eat, etc.

Peter:

The sentence "the name 'Frodo' contains five letters" does not contain the name 'Frodo'. For the name 'Frodo' refers to Frodo, whereas the name "the name 'Frodo'" refers to a name. The name must be used in the same sense, i.e. it must signify the same singular concept. On whether the definition is circular, well, I am defining 'singular concept'. And I say if that the two occurrences of 'a', in e.g.

a is F
a is G

signify the same singular concept then they imply

some F is G

I don't think that's circular. I am using the concept of implication to define the concept 'singular concept'.

Peter, on your other comment (which is an old bone of contention between us all), do you agree that the term 'hamburgers' signifies hamburgers? Or do you claim that this makes no sense, since it is only a person using the term 'hamburgers' who signifies hamburgers? Insisting on the second seems overly pedantic.

Dr. Vallicella,

I took your argument to run roughly thusly:

1. A popular account of existence takes all claims about existence to reduce to second-order claims about the exemplification of properties, instantiation of concepts, satisfaction of predicates, etc. Thus, existence does not "belong" to individuals, but to some higher-order entity like a property, concept, or predicate.

2. A challenge to this view is the sensibleness of propositions like, "I could have not existed," or "It could be the case that I have not existed," which seem to involve the predication of existence of an individual, viz. myself.

3. C. J. F. Williams argues, however, that a proposition like "I could have not existed," does admit of Fregean analysis: it should be parsed as "Some property P essential to me and instantiable by none but me could have not been exemplified." As a candidate for P, Williams offers "having sprung from ovum O and sperm S," invoking the essentiality of origins.

4. A property like "having sprung from ovum O and sperm S," however, merely pushes the problem back further: we can sensibly say of S or O that it could have not existed. So either we embark on a viciously infinite regress by defining S and O in terms of their originating individuals and so forth ad infinitum, or we reach some individual A whose essential and unique property P*, whereby we can say that A could have not existed, is not defined in terms of other individuals.

5. An haecceity property looks to be the only plausible candidate for P*, but, as you have argued, haecceity properties are creatures of darkness. So Williams' response to the challenge you describe to a Fregean account of existence fails, thus vindicating said challenge.

Is that roughly it?

Exactly right, Leo. Thanks. Now if you, a freshman, had no difficulty in understanding my argument, why are Edward and the others having difficulty? (You don't have to answer this.)

But I would like to know whether you are persuaded by my argument.

More needs to be said about haecceitism in relation to Mason's objection. Today, I hope, in a separate post.

>>why are Edward and the others having difficulty?

I am having a difficulty in seeing why you think I have a difficulty. I accept Leo's summary of the argument. I concede the whole argument, up to step 4 and even step 5. I concede that haecceity properties - i.e. individuating properties - are 'creatures of darkness'.

However, this does not address my point that there is a distinction between haecceity properties and haecceity predicates (predicates that signify singular concepts). I claimed that it is logically possible for the indexical 'I', when used in the proper context, to signify a singular concept. You did not reply, except to say "But there is no such concept. How can you fail to understand this after all I have written over the years?"

It is not enough to claim there is no such concept. You need to supply clear reasoning, and also to take into account the many vigorous arguments I have given in support of such concepts, over the years. I would appreciate such a reason, if you could give it, briefly.

Bill, Leo,

Leo: a concise and clean account of Bill's argument. Nice!

Is the argument decisive against Williams' position? As it stands, I do not see it. Why? Let Ed be the nth member of a series of contingent existents. Williams explains Ed's existence in terms of uniquely instantiating the property of *originating from O and S*, where O and S are two contingent individuals appearing before the nth member: you could say they are (n-1) and (n-1)*. Of course, Ed (or anything else for that matter) could have not instantiated this property. Bill maintains that this merely pushes the problem back to give an account of O and S (Leo's #4). Suppose it does. Is this an insuperable problem for Williams? I do not see a decisive argument. Here is why.

Leo nicely states the alleged problem as follows:

"So either we embark on a viciously infinite regress by defining S and O in terms of their originating individuals and so forth ad infinitum, or we reach some individual A whose essential and unique property P*, whereby we can say that A could have not existed, is not defined in terms of other individuals."

Suppose Williams opts for the first horn of the dilemma: i.e., there is an infinite series of individuals the existence of each is defined as instantiating the property of originating from one or more individuals existing prior in time, and so on. Is there a problem with this? Only if such an infinite series makes no sense. Where is the argument against this possibility? I have not seen one.

Suppose Williams opts for the second horn of the dilemma. There are two possibilities: Either A is a necessary existent or A is not a necessary existent. If A is a necessary existent, then its existence cannot be defined in terms of origination. Hence, there is no infinite regress. Is there a problem with this possibility? Well, Williams will have to explain the notion of necessary existence. But so does any theist and anyone who accepts that mathematical objects such as numbers, sets, etc., exist necessarily.

Suppose Williams does not appeal to an individual that exists necessarily. Is there a problem with this option? Well, then, A is contingent (i.e., A could not have existed). Is there a property P* such that A instantiates P* uniquely and A could not have instantiated P*. Sure there is; we can define such a property as follows:

P*=df being the one and only object from which all other contingent object originate.

Suppose z is the one and only contingent individual that instantiates P*. Does it make sense to say that z could not have existed in the sense that z could have not instantiated P*? Sure! If z would have not instantiated P*, then no contingent objects would have existed. Is there a problem with this possibility? I for one do not see the problem.

Thus, there is no infinite regress and contingent existence can be defined in general as follows, where 'x' is a variable over objects:

CE =df for every x, x exists iff either x instantiates the property of originating from one or more already existing individuals or x instantiates P*.

Is there a problem with CE or P*? I do not see it. Of course, the concept of existence is now defined in terms of instantiating at least two different properties. But so what? The Fregean view maintains that existence is a second level property: i.e., the property of being instantiated by some property. It need not insist that the existence of all contingent individuals is to be defined in terms of instantiating *one and the same* property.

Peter says:

Suppose Williams opts for the first horn of the dilemma: i.e., there is an infinite series of individuals the existence of each is defined as instantiating the property of originating from one or more individuals existing prior in time, and so on. Is there a problem with this? Only if such an infinite series makes no sense. Where is the argument against this possibility? I have not seen one.

Some regresses are vicious. Some are not. This one appears vicious (or at least it should from Williams' point of view.)

Williams set himself this task: give an account of singular existentials, e.g. Bill exists, on which an apparent attribution of existence to an individual is revealed to be the exemplification of a pure property (or some such thing). Now, at each stage of the account suggested, we say of some individual (or individuals) that it exists. One singular existential is traded in for another. Thus at no stage have we discharged our task. The problem is never solved. It is only pushed back.

In some regresses, we achieve the task set us at each stage of the regress, but find that we can never rest. (I've long thought that infinite causal regresses invoked to explain the existence of a thing might be like this. What does A exist? B brought it about. Now, what about B? Well, B was brought about by C. And so on. At each stage we have a genuine explanation of something. Real explanatory work has been done.) But in others, at each stage nothing is ever really accomplished. The regress of analysis of singular existentials before us seems like one of these. We never see how a singular existential can be analysed as pure property exemplification.

Dr. Vallicella:

Sorry for the long delay. Provisionally, at least, I accept your argument.

Peter:

I am confused as to your second possible manner of accepting the second horn. (I have problems with your first, too, but these are still cloudy.) You propose that A has the haecceity-property of P*, as defined by you, but it is unclear that A would really satisfy P*.

Firstly, there is no assurance that only A could exemplify P*; why couldn't it be that, possibly, there is a contingent individual x such that A originates from x? In other words, A could be merely the contingently first originator. So P*, as it stands, does not satisfy the "only exemplifiable by one particular individual" condition for an haecceity.

Secondly, why could there be only one contingent individual that stands as an unoriginated origin of other contingent individuals? Why could there not be a set of three contingent individuals A, A', and A'', all of which together stand as mediate or immediate origins of all other contingent individuals, and none of which are originated in turn by any other individuals?

Franklin,

"In some regresses, we achieve the task set us at each stage of the regress, but find that we can never rest."

First, let me say that I do not endorse the infinite-regress view: I merely stated it as an option that needs to be ruled out by a conclusive argument. So far I have not seen such an argument.

Second, it seems to me that our task here is not to *explain* the existence of an individual object, say A. Ultimately, such an explanation belongs to science, particularly when A is a contingent existent. The philosophical task is to *explicate* what it is for any individual contingent object to exist.

Third, so far as I can tell there are only two ways of explicating the existence of individuals: either the existence of a contingent individual is explicated in terms of a bundle of qualities (Idealism) or its existence is explicated in a manner that presupposes in some form the existence of some other individuals.

The later path, in turn, seems to me to be divided into three possibilities: (i) Necessary Existent: there is an ultimate individual being who exists necessarily (e.g., God) and it is the source of all contingent existents; (ii) Infinitary-Solution: there is an infinite sequence of contingent individuals each of which causes the existence of another individual; (iii) Brute-Fact-existence: the existence of some individual is a matter of a brute-fact.

It appears that you reject the infinitary-solution on the grounds that it seems to push back an account of any individual existent to a prior stage. But this is precisely the point of this solution. The question is why it is unacceptable. The same problem arises regarding one of the objections against the causal version of the Cosmological Argument. It is not enough to merely point out that we can never enumerate the members of such a chain and arrive to a terminal point. After all, the point of such regressive chains is to avoid any such terminal point. The primary question is why such an account is unacceptable.

Leo,

1) "Firstly, there is no assurance that only A could exemplify P*;"

You are right that there can be several possibilities: there could be one contingent originator; there could be two or three, etc. But all that Williams needs is that it is possible that there is one, a contingent being whose existence is a matter of brute fact.

2) "Secondly, why could there be only one contingent individual that stands as an unoriginated origin of other contingent individuals?"

Same answer as above. All that Williams needs is that it is possible that there there exists a contingent individual who is not originated by any other individual and it is the prime-originator. Such an individual's existence is a matter of brute fact. Of course, it is also possible that there should be two or three etc. So we adopt the most parsimonious possibility and select the possibility which postulates only one contingent prime-originator.

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