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Tuesday, July 17, 2012


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Here I am more inclined to agree with you. My objection to your 'circularity' argument was that circularity has a precisely defined logical sense, and the thin conception is not circular in that sense.

The difficulty of expressing the 'existence' thought using 'thin' linguistic resources is a well-recognised one, however.

Thank you for the quotes from Wittgenstein and Magee. On the latter, it is an interesting question of whether a nominalist can explain why anything exists, given that the most economical state of things is where nothing exists at all.

Greece was a powerful tonic. It is all light and rainbow, existence in the fullest sense. No wonder the ancients thought of death as some dark unlit cavern. London is in a halfway state, a sort of twilight between the Hellenistic day and the darkness of nonentity.


You never quite understood me because I was not arguing that thin explications of 'exists' amounted to circular definitions but that they amounted to circular explanations.

But I was, and am, presupposing that there is such a thing as metaphysical explanation and that it is sui generis. You are free to disagree with that, as many intelligent philosophers do.

Well-recognized? Whom do you have in mind?

You're welcome.

Geography is destiny, perhaps. It is interesting that philosophy first arose in the sunny Mediterranean, and not in the foggy British Isles or in Iceland.

Hello Bill,

I agree that the Quinean attempt to define existence through identity is hopeless. But for me, the intuition at the heart of the thin conception is that in singular existentials like 'Socrates exists' the 'exists' is redundant. All the work is done by the proper name 'Socrates'. Hence the thin can express himself by simply saying 'I wonder at Socrates', or 'I wonder before God', or 'I wonder at everything'. What does 'I wonder at Socrates's existence' add that is not already present in 'I wonder at Socrates'?

Well, when I wonder at Socrates I might be wondering at his ugliness, or his dialectical skill, or his physical hardiness, or at all his quidditative properties taken together. But when I wonder at his existence, I am wondering at his being there in the first place, not his being this or that (ugly or hardy, etc.) but at his b-e-i-n-g . . . . As opposed to his being nothing at all.

What are you saying, David? That in a concrete contingent individual there is no distinction between the individual's nature and its existence?

If the wonder lies in appreciating the contrast between a world in which Socrates exists and one in which he doesn't, then it seems we must be able to grasp what a world that lacks Socrates is like. For this we need some conception of Socrates. But then the contrast comes down to whether or not this concept is instantiated. To avoid this conclusion I think we have to say that the wonder is at the man himself.

I do struggle to see the difference between Socrates and his existence. Take away the man and you lose the existence. Take away the existence and you lose the man.

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