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Saturday, August 11, 2012


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Pardon me if I'm wrong, but doesn't Quine actually advocate assimilating English proper names to general terms? That, presumably, would give "Something is Harry" the translation "(Ex)(Hx)".

Hi Leo,

I see you are up late. Me, I'm up early.

In "Existence and Quanitification" in Ontol. Rel. Quine explicates 'a exists' as '(Ex)(x = a).' (pp. 94-95)

'a' is an individual constant not a predicate connstant.

Of course. one could argue that there is a property expressed by '= a,' the haecceity-property identity-with-a. But this is a metaphysical monstrosity as I have repeatedly argued. There is no such property as the property of being identical to Harry.

However, if there were such properties, then one could assimilate identity to predication and uphold univocity.

To put it in a slogan: the price of univocity is haecceity. But the price is more unpayable than the U. S. debt.

Thanks for the comment.

Here is one of my posts against haecceities: https://maverickphilosopher.typepad.com/maverick_philosopher/2010/06/my-difficulty-with-haecceity-properties.html

I'm not sure how coherent this is, but could you analyze the two as follows?

1. Harry is.
2. Something is a horse and it is.

(There's an implicit predication in the second sentence but not in the first, and "is" in the sense of "exists" is univocal throughout.)

>>the price of univocity is haecceity

As you know, I agree entirely with you here.


I put forward the following as counterexample to the claim that we cannot have univocity of 'exists' without the monstrosity of haecceities.

Consider the cubic polynomial p(x)=x**3-7x+6 over the real numbers. p(3)=12 and p(-4)=-30 so by the intermediate value theorem p has a real root: ∃x.p(x)=0. Denote this root by 'a'. Now 'a exists' is surely true. But this, despite the proper name 'a', has to be understood as a general existential claim---the concept 'real root of p' is instantiated---since this is all we know about a. So we have univocity of 'exists'. Yet we don't pay the price of a haecceity property that uniquely captures a-ness. There can be no such haecceity because a could be any of -3, 1, or 2.


What I don't understand is why you think 'a' is a proper name if it refers to -3, 1, or 2.


Perhaps by analogy with the following dialogue.

A: I met one of the Beverley Sisters last night.
B: Really! Which one?
A: I forget. Let's call her 'Bev'.
B: OK.
A: Bev said she was born in 1927.
B: Ah. Bev must have been Teddie or Babs.
The logical constant 'a' seems to play the same role as 'Bev' in the dialogue as argument to predicate functions/subject of predicates. And though we never find out exactly which Sister A met, it's clear that 'Bev' is essentially singular. A met only one woman that night.

Hey Bill,

I have a professor whose pet peeve is the claim that there is an 'is' of identity and an 'is' of predication. I don't know his arguments for thinking so, but his view is that 'is' is univocal and what differs is the content of the copula. If he's right, that would be a problem for you here. Do you know more about this position than I do?

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