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Saturday, July 28, 2012

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>>My claim is that (2) [i.e. "Something does not exist"] is neither a formal-logical contradiction, nor is it semantically contradictory, i.e., contradictory in virtue of the senses of the constituent terms.

But thin theorists say it means "Some thing is not a thing", which is an obvious contradiction. You may disagree with them that this is what it means, but then you need to provide an argument or evidence for this.

>>'Some cat is fat' and 'A fat cat exists' are logically equivalent. But do they have exactly the same meaning (sense)? This is an open question.

Thin theorists say they are semantically equivalent. So it is not an open question.

Or is your argument that if there is any question about whether two terms have the same meaning, then they cannot have the same meaning? That's interesting.

Edward Ockham, you say:

"But thin theorists say it means "Some thing is not a thing", which is an obvious contradiction."

I think a thick theorist would grant that it is logically equivalent to that. But you are saying that thinghood is semantically identical to existence? Does that mean Meinongianism is analytically false? They're simply confused about their language when they say some things do not exist? I find this to be implausible. Surely Meinongianism does not have the same status as a philosophical theory as the Married Bachelors Club does as a fellowship? I.e. it is not a simple contradiction in terms, but a merely false metaphysical thesis.

I could also see the Meinongian saying: Fine, you win, semantically speaking, thing = existent. But then that just shows that 'something is F' is is not of the same logical form as 'some thing is F'. The former would be translatable as '(Ex)Fx', whereas the latter would be something like '(Ex)(Tx & Fx)' where the predicate 'T' denotes thinghood.

The non-Meinongian thick theorist, not believing in non-existent entities, will think the statements these translate are logically equivalent statements. But not semantically identical ones.

Just as an interesting curiosity, E.J. Lowe doesn't believe in Meinongian non-existent objects, so he believes everything exists, but he also believes not everything is a thing. He writes about this in Chapter 2 of 'The Possibility of Metaphysics'.

Ed,

We've been over this before. If the thin theory says what you say it says, then it is not worth discussing. It's a mere stipulation. You can freely stipulate anything you like, but then I can just as freely reject your stipulation.

As I said before, substantive philosophical questions cannot be answered with stipulative definitions. The question What is existence? is a substantive question.

As for your second comment, all you are doing is saying is that 'An FG exists' SHALL MEAN what 'Some F is a G' means, nothing more and nothing less. But again that is a purely arbitrary stipulation. One doesn't argue against a mere stipulation; one merely points out that it is a mere stipulation.

Suppose you stipulate that 'x is a fred' shall mean 'x is either fat or red.' I can't argue that you are wrong, since it is a mere stipulation as to the use of a word.

Alfredo writes,

>>Surely Meinongianism does not have the same status as a philosophical theory as the Married Bachelors Club does as a fellowship? I.e. it is not a simple contradiction in terms, but a merely false metaphysical thesis.<<

Well said! Ed and PvI & Co. face the daunting task of explaining how Meinong et al. could make elementary mistakes in logic.

>>They're simply confused about their language when they say some things do not exist? I find this to be implausible.

I think Meinong said that there are some things such that there are no such things (as translated by Chisholm). To me, that seems a logical contradiction.

On the argument that the thin theory is a mere stipulation we would have to examine the various arguments that they have the same meaning (which this discussion so far has mostly ignored).

I agree about the oddity of having to argue whether two terms have the same meaning.

>>Well said! Ed and PvI & Co. face the daunting task of explaining how Meinong et al. could make elementary mistakes in logic.

That's a very important point. Ockham resolves the problem by saying that ignorance of logic is ignorance of logic, and he writes a book about it to cure the ignorance. Mill says that metaphysics is a 'fertile field of delusion propagated by language'. Wittgenstein invokes the idea of the interesting net that captures clever people, or of the fly in the fly bottle.

Interesting thesis: all positivist and anti-metaphysical theories face the problem of explaining how clever people got misled by metaphysics.

On the wider question, I comment here.

Ed,

If you had actually read Meinong you would have known that he was consciously adopting -- for stylistic purposes -- a needlessly paradoxical mode of expression.

As far as I can see your whole argument rests on an arbitrary stipulative definition of 'exists.'

It's as if someone were to try to counter Moore's Open Question argument by simply stipulating that 'good' shall mean 'pleasurable.'

I think you and I are at the end of the road. I see no way to proceed further.

>>I think you and I are at the end of the road. I see no way to proceed further.

I agree. The difficulty is that I cannot see what 'a white man exists' means, unless it means 'some man is white'. You claim that I am 'existence blind', and that I simply cannot understand because I do not have the powers of vision. That's reasonable. Some people claim to have a special sense of the Divine.

But then you persist in giving arguments that make up for this blindness. Surely you concede that if it is a matter of my lacking the appropriate 'revelation', then no argument could supply this deficit?

If, by contrast, you believe that our difference can be made up by rigorous argument and analysis, then by all means offer it.

Bill,
Since my answer to your rhetorical

Does 'Some unicorn is angry' require by its very sense that an angry unicorn exists?
is an immediate Yes, I'm rather puzzled. Does this go some way to explaining our difference?

David,

I quickly read through your post, and I have a question. Do you distinguish, as I do, between existence simpliciter and existence at a world? (or at a piece of paper as in your interesting model?)

Suppose that

1. There is a possible world w in which it is true that some cat is fat.

Does it follow that

2. A fat cat exists?

I would say 'no' for the reason that w might be merely possible, i.e., possible but not actual. To validly infer (2) -- in which 'exists' means 'exists simpliciter' -- one needs an auxiliary premise:

1.5 W is actual.

Now do you agree with everything I have said so far?

Ed,

You raise an interesting question: why do I give arguments rather than simply appeal to intuition?

The purpose of my arguments is to show that the thin position is not intellectually mandatory and that the thick position is also rationally acceptable.

Some theists speak of a sensus divinitatis. But if you lack that sense, then I cannot appeal to it in an effort to show you that theism is reasonable. So I have to proceed by (a) showing you that your anti-theistic arguments are not rationally compelling, and (b) showing that my theistic arguments, though not compelling, are free of logical errors and sport premises that are rationally acceptable.

I agree that 'a fat cat exists' does not follow from 'possibly, some cat is fat' but does follow from 'some cat is fat'.

Regarding a distinction between 'existence simpliciter' and 'existence at a world', I'd have to disagree. I see the 'possible world' idiom as a way of expressing truth conditions: if the world were to go this way then sentence p would be true, if it were to go that way then p would be false. It seems quite wrong to 'lift' world-dependence into ordinary predicates. And extravagant---there would be 'greenness simpliciter' and 'greenness at a world' too.

I believe we have made some progress. We started with the question whether the thin definition was circular. We now agree that it is not, because a definition is (by definition) stipulative. We have now moved on to discuss some more interesting and philosophically substantive questions, including:

1. Is the concept of existence something we acquire gradually or by revelation, as Roquentin did, perhaps at a late stage in life?

2. Or is it a concept rather like 'the Good', which we acquire early in life, and which although fixed and definite is one which we struggle to articulate?

3. Or is it a concept that is confused, and neither fixed nor definite, and can only be fixed by stipulation?

The thin theorists are clearly in camp 3. Bill, I am confused whether you are in camp 1 or 2. Your point about Moore's 'Good' question suggests camp 2. By contrast, your earlier quotation of Sartre suggests camp 1.

Another interesting and substantive point raised is the 'Open question question'. Is the following argument valid?

(A) It is an open question whether the meaning of a is the same as the meaning of b.

(B) Therefore the meaning of a is not the same as the meaning of b.

That's a very interesting one.

I have now replied with an almost perfect refutation of the 'open question' argument. I show (1) that the question of the meaning of 'exist' is not an open question. Moreover (2) I show why the thick theorist thinks it is an open question.

Sorry, I see little progress. It was not about definitional circularity, but about explanatory circularity -- a point you never appreciated.

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