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Wednesday, March 06, 2013

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Bill,

"Ned Markosian defines presentism as the view that, "necessarily, it is always true that only present objects exist." (here, fn 1) This is not helpful since we are not told how to read 'exist."

Actually Markosian does tell us how to read 'exist': to exist (simpliciter) according to him is to be in the range of the most unrestricted quatifiers:

"...if we were to make an accurate list of all the things that exist – i.e., a list of all the things that our most unrestricted quantifiers range over,..." (A defense of Presentism)

"But in the other sense of ‘x exists now’, which we can call the ontological sense, to say that x exists now is just to say that x is now in the domain of our most unrestricted quantifiers, whether it happens to be present, like you and me, or non-present, like Socrates." (A Defense of Presentism)

So it is clear that Markosian takes untensed existence to be defined in terms of unrestricted quatification. Both Presentism and Non-Presentism must presuppose some untensed notion of existence in order to state their views. If we do not allow a prior understanding of such a notion, then we will not be able to even state the opposing views, let alone debate their respective merits. I do not see how else any philosophical progress can be made on this (and any other) question.

I have no clue what could motivate a demand to give a prior definition of existence unless some other philosophical agenda is lurking in the background. Knowing Ed, the agenda that comes to mind in his case is a meta-philosophical approach to undercut metaphysics even before the main issues can be stated. I don't know about you, but I will not give into this Positivist laced attitude. If someone professes not to understand, at least for the purpose of the initial salvo, certain basic concepts, then they regretfully abdicate their role as participants in the debate. Otherwise, every conversation about metaphysical questions will end up being about a (bankrupt, in my opinion) meta-philosophical agenda.

Peter,

Thanks for filling in some crucial details of Markosian's position. I was a bit unfair to him. But when he gave his definition in the footnote he should have immediately clarified his use of 'exist.'

But this is still obscure. We are told that there are two senses of 'x exists now.' In the ontological sense, something, e.g. Socrates, can exist now even though it is wholly past! What the hell does that mean? Of course it is now true that Socrates existed, but it is not clear what it could mean to say that Socrates himself exists now.

Do you see my point?

>>Both Presentism and Non-Presentism must presuppose some untensed notion of existence in order to state their views. If we do not allow a prior understanding of such a notion, then we will not be able to even state the opposing views, let alone debate their respective merits.<<

True, but if we don't understand what tenseless existence is, then it may be that the whole dispute is a pseudo-problem.

It doesn't seem all that helpful to be told that x exists tenselessly just in case x is now within the domain of our most unrestricted quantifiers. For we can quantify over only what exists, and if the quantifiers are not restricted to present items, then circularity threatens: we are explaining tenselessexistence in terms of tenseless existence.

There is also this concern: if the quantifiers are unrestricted, then they range over what was, what is, and what will be. But this leads us back to what I called Disjunctive Presentism above.

I think Ed's motivation is more Ordinary Language than Positivist.

If he says he has no idea what the dispute is about then either he is feigning incomprehension or he doesn't a have metaphysical bone in his body.

But I am, above, interpeting him in a charitable way as requesting clarification of what tenseless existence is. That is a reasonable request.

Suppose an endurantist and a perdurantist are debating. Would it not be reasonable for the latter to request that the former explain exactly what he means when he says that a thing is wholly present at every time at which it exists? But let's not discuss this issue!

Bill,

Do you believe that the debate between actualists and possibilists - e.g., Plantinga and Lewis - is a substantive one? More to the point, do you believe that an actualist like Plantinga can coherently state his position?

I ask because the sorts of worries that people often raise concerning the statement of presentism have immediate parallels in the case of actualism. Suppose we start with the intuitive claim that only actually existing things exist. We seem to face similar quandaries. What do we mean by 'actually'? Maybe we mean:

Tautological Actualism: Only actually existing things exist in the actual world.

But surely Plantinga's thesis is not trivial. Or maybe:

Or:

Solipsistic Actualism: Only what actually exists exists simpliciter; nothing else could exist.

Like SPM Presentism, this is clearly false.

Or:

Disjunctive Actualism: Only actually existing things do exist or could exist or must exist.

Again, this seems false, for there are some things that could exist but are not actual.

In short, there seems to be at least some prima facie difficulty for the actualist in stating her thesis. But actualism is a legitimate position, and the debate between actualism and possibilism is a real one. A professor of mine suggested to me that the debate ought to be characterized in terms of the validity of the following inference:

(1) Possibly, there exists an x such that x is F.
Therefore, (2) There exists an x such that x is F.

Lewis thinks this inference is valid, while Plantinga thinks it is invalid.

For similar reasons, you might say that although the presentist has some difficulty stating her thesis, the debate between her and the eternalist could be captured in terms of the validity of the following inference:

(3) It was the case that there exists an x such that x is F.
Therefore, (4) There exists an x such that x is F.

An eternalist accepts this inference whereas the presentist denies it.

The thought here is just that, difficult as it may be to characterize presentism, it is a mistake to infer - as some philosophers have - that there is no substantive thesis in the region.

Excellent comments, John, and the analogy with modality is fruitful. I agree with your conclusion: there is a substantive issue here. That has been my claim all along. But being self-critical, I also have to hold open the possibility that I am wrong -- especially if I cannot come up with a satisfying statement of the presentist thesis.

I have never been tempted by Lewis' extreme modal realism. It seems clear to me that only actuals exist and that there are no irreducible mere possibles. The merely possible is not nothing, but to reify it as Lewis does is 'crazy.' So the merely possible has to be understood in terms of actual items. Crudely: all possibilities are grounded in actuality.

I am much less convinced that presentism is false. But then the problems of time are harder than the problems of modality.

>>(1) Possibly, there exists an x such that x is F.
Therefore, (2) There exists an x such that x is F.<<

By my lights this inference is plainly incorrect. Possibly, there is a particle that travels faster than light. Ergo: There is a particle that travels faster than light. Isn't that an equivocation on 'is'?

>>3) It was the case that there exists an x such that x is F.
Therefore, (4) There exists an x such that x is F.<<

This too is invalid in that there is an equivocation on 'exists' as between a tenseless use and a tensed use.

Bill,

Let me try to explain what concerns me with an example. Suppose someone professes not to understand the untensed sense of exists but they understand very well the tensed sense: e.g., x presently exists. So they demand an explanation of the untensed sense of 'exist' that is independent from their understanding of the tensed sense.

But, now, I ask: how exactly do they understand the tensed sense of exist; i.e., x presently exists, given that they profess not to understand the untensed sense? After all, both include the concept of 'exist', and 'tensed' and 'untensed' modify this concept. So how can they understand the tensed sense without understanding the untensed one?

Incidentally, I do not think that those who feign not to understand an untensed notion of exist can eliminate it in expressing the tensed versions. For instance, one might try to replace 'presently exists' with '...is present'. But this won't do because the copula either expresses 'exists' or it is the relational 'is' (as in '...is a cat'). But then to say that x is present really means that x appears or is presented to someone and this fails to imply that x exists at all.

Now, I certainly agree with you that there are plenty of issues to discuss about the concept of existence (tensed and untensed) and about unrestricted quantification as capturing the notion of existence. You have dedicated many posts to this topic. I maintain however that we cannot do both simultaneously while making philosophical progress on either. We must start somewhere and explore the philosophical issues, assuming the concepts we have taken for granted. We can always go back and examine whether the concepts we have taken for granted are intelligible.

I would like an example of a philosophical problem where we can start with concepts that are so clear and free of any difficulties that are not contested by anyone.


What sounds intuitive to me is that:
existence = present + real
real = mind-independent
Common sense is that what we call possibilities, fictional or imagined things, memories are just mind-dependent.
And as far as they are mind-dependent they can be object of our present mental cognition and yet they are not real.

Peter >>Actually Markosian does tell us how to read 'exist': to exist (simpliciter) according to him is to be in the range of the most unrestricted quatifiers:

Yes I had already noticed that and was waiting for it. Markosian says http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/time “According to Presentism, if we were to make an accurate list of all the things that exist — i.e., a list of all the things that our most unrestricted quantifiers range over — there would be not a single non-present object on the list”. This offers two definitions (the second being in the explanatory 'i.e.' clause). Let's take these in turn. The first is problematic for the reasons already outlined, namely that if the bold 'exist' is tensed, Presentism is trivially true, but if not, it begs a definition of the tenseless use. We are already pretty much agreed on that.

So what about the second implicit definition? If were were to make a list of all the things that our most unrestricted quantifiers range over, Presentism says that only things which are present would be on the list.

This appears superficially to escape the objection but of course it doesn't, which may already be obvious by the bolded verb phrase 'range over'. This is problematic for the same reason as before. Is 'range over' tensed or not? If it is tensed then Presentism is trivially true, since everything that our quantifiers now range over must be that which is present. If not tensed, then it begs a definition of tenselessness. If it means 'have ranged over, range over, or will range over' then Presentism is trivially false. For example, the range of 'man' used to include Caesar, yet Caesar is not present. So what is the definition?

The same objection applies to 'being in the domain'. If it means, 'being in the domain now', then Presentism is trivially true. If it means 'having been or being or going to be' in the domain, Presentism is trivially false.

I should note here a problem with the 'haecceity' defence of Presentism that Markosian fails to spot. Even if we grant that haecceity properties exist, e.g. Caesarness, which is satisfied iff Caesar exists, there is still a problem with saying that it was once satisfied, but isn't any more. For what makes 'Caesarness was once satisfied' true? Or 'for some x, x once satisfied Caesarness'. Presumably, only Caesar himself. But if Caesar himself satisfies '—satisfied Caesarness', does he satisfy it now, or in the past. If now, then Caesar exists now (or at least, falls within the range of some quantifier), which is false. If only in the past, then we have to explain how a no longer existing object can be presently related to Caesarness. (The 'relation' problem that we discussed earlier).

Peter >>I have no clue what could motivate a demand to give a prior definition of existence unless some other philosophical agenda is lurking in the background.

The demand is not for a definition of existence, but for a definition of tenselessness, particularly given that there is an obvious definition there already (namely the disjunctive one).

Peter >>If we do not allow a prior understanding of such a notion, then we will not be able to even state the opposing views, let alone debate their respective merits.

My understanding of tenselessness is the disjunctive one. If you have a different understanding, the rules of philosophical discourse demand that you explain it clearly.

Bill,

In a comment on the 'Can a thing exist...' thread you say

One cannot formulate the issue that divides the presentist and the anti-presentist unless one can somehow abstract from the temporal perspective of the present moment. One has to be able to 'survey' time analogously as one can survey space.
With the idea of surveying in mind, is the following a reasonable suggestion?

Imagine a discrete world in which the only changes take place at midnight. There is a fixed, finite number of predicates in our language and at any time a finite number of objects. We can thus denote time by day number starting on some arbitrary day, give each object a unique reference number on the day it comes into existence, and denote predicates by index numbers. Suppose on day number d predicate number p holds for object number n. We record this in a journal as the triple (d,n,p). This goes on until we reach day t, today. We can check the truth of assertions like 'object n satisfied predicate p' by running a decision procedure on the journal. The procedure for this particular assertion would presumably search the journal for a triple with second and third elements n and p respectively. We could ask presentist P to write procedures to check the truth of assertions of the form 'object n existed' or 'object n no longer exists'. By inspecting these procedures we would gain some understanding of what P means by these language terms. My questions are

1. For anti-presentist A, does the journal capture enough information about the world for this exercise to be useful?

2. If so, what procedure would A give us to check the truth of his statements of the form 'object n (exists)' and 'object n (has) property p'?

3. A could ask P to write a procedure to check that the journal's evidence confirmed his presentism. Would A accept that this elucidates what P's presentism amounts to (even if it turns out to be trivial)?

I should perhaps add that these procedures have to be total in the sense that they give a definite answer when applied to the journal of any possible world that satisfies the above finiteness conditions.

>>It doesn't seem all that helpful to be told that x exists tenselessly just in case x is now within the domain of our most unrestricted quantifiers. For we can quantify over only what exists, and if the quantifiers are not restricted to present items, then circularity threatens: we are explaining tenselessexistence in terms of tenseless existence.
<<

I just noticed this. Agreed, and see my earlier point. At least, agreed if we hold to the objectual sense of 'quantify' as a semantic relation between linguistic entities (terms) and objects. In a substitutional sense, though, clearly we can quantify over singular terms for non-existing objects. For example, I hold that

(*) Some things no longer exist (or: there were such things such that there are no such things)

This is true because we can substitute proper names for no longer existing individuals. Thus 'Caesar no longer exists' or 'there was such a person as Caesar, now there isn't'. Similarly for 'Mark Anthony', 'Brutus' and so on. And this is part of my overarching theory of the intralinguistic theory of reference. Reference is not a relation between linguistic items and things 'in the world'. How can it be? Clearly 'Caesar' refers to Caesar, and 'Frodo Baggins' to Frodo Baggins. But there is no such person as Caesar, nor Frodo Baggins. What makes these sentences true therefore cannot be a relation between those names and anything.

That is my positive theory. The rest, as Peter notes, is negative.

Peter>> But, now, I ask: how exactly do they understand the tensed sense of exist; i.e., x presently exists, given that they profess not to understand the untensed sense?

I think I understand the untensed sense. For example 'every triangle has three sides'. This means that (in tensed terms) every triangle had, or has, or will have three sides. The 'untensed' statement is simply a disjunction of the three tensed statements. If you say that is not the correct sense, then what is the correct sense?

Ed,

"My understanding of tenselessness is the disjunctive one. If you have a different understanding, the rules of philosophical discourse demand that you explain it clearly."

This suggestion makes my point in my 3/6; 6:16am post. What is the disjunctive account of tenselessness? If I understand you correctly it would be as follows:

(A) x exists tenselelessly =df x existed in the past or exists presently or will exist in the future.

Now look at the right hand side. The word 'exist' appears in all three disjuncts. What does it mean? What contribution does it make to each disjunct? In order to get what you want from (A), the term 'exists' must be uniformly understood in all disjuncts in (A). So you tell me how you define 'exist' in the three disjuncts of (A) so as to satisfy these requirements and make sense of the disjunctive account of tenseless existence.

Moreover, does the disjunctive account presuppose that the past existed? But in what sense do we use 'existed' here: tensed or tenseless?

I suspect that if you try to answer these questions, you will have to presuppose some concepts in order to do so. And then I can turn the tables on you and demand a definition of those concepts and so on...and so on...and so on...
The result: no philosophical discussion can take place; we will be going in circles without much progress; but perhaps this is exactly what you are trying to achieve.

Peter writes, >>But, now, I ask: how exactly do they understand the tensed sense of exist; i.e., x presently exists, given that they profess not to understand the untensed sense? After all, both include the concept of 'exist', and 'tensed' and 'untensed' modify this concept. So how can they understand the tensed sense without understanding the untensed one?<<

You are assuming that present-tensed 'exists' can be split up into 'presently (exists),' where parentheses around an expression de-tenses it. If that were the case, then one could plausibly maintain that to understand the present-tensed 'exists' on has to have a prior understanding of '(exists).' But why can't Ed deny your assumption?

Now what I would like you to do is to give me a definition of presentism that avoids the pitfalls I exposed above. If your definition inclues the term 'tenseless,' then I want to know what that term means. Suppose a student asked you what it means. What would you say?

Also you didn't respond to my point at 10:45.

Ed,

"Reference is not a relation between linguistic items and things 'in the world'. How can it be? Clearly 'Caesar' refers to Caesar, and 'Frodo Baggins' to Frodo Baggins. But there is no such person as Caesar, nor Frodo Baggins. What makes these sentences true therefore cannot be a relation between those names and anything. "

So reference is never a relation between linguistic items and things in the world. (This is better because no one thinks that reference is always such a relation for obvious reasons). A few questions:

1. Is reference a relation at all according to you?
2. If it is, then what are the relata?
3. If it is not, then what is it?
4. Is there such a person as Edward, Bill, Peter, David, etc.,?
5. If so, then what about "'Edward' refers to Edward"?
6. What makes the sentence in quotation in (5) true?


Peter >>I suspect that if you try to answer these questions, you will have to presuppose some concepts in order to do so.

Of course I accept that the process of definition must come to an end at some point, and some things must be presupposed as basic and indefinable. I am presupposing the understanding of how to use verbs in the past, present and future tense. I am also presupposing, although it is not essential to my argument, that we can define the verb 'exist' in terms of the verb 'is'. Thus

Caesar existed = there was such a thing as Caesar
Caesar exists = there is such a thing as Caesar
Caesar will exist = there will be such a thing as Caesar

But the 'tenseless' use can obviously be defined in terms of the tensed use.

>>(A) x exists tenselelessly =df x existed in the past or exists presently or will exist in the future.
Now look at the right hand side. The word 'exist' appears in all three disjuncts. What does it mean?
<<

I take it you are suggesting that there must be something common to all the tenses, a sort of genus to the three species of past, present and future. Perhaps there is. But if you are assuming that this common element must be some fourth kind of tense, that is a horrible category mistake. It would be like supposing, given three species of animal, giraffes, bears or ants, that there is some fourth species of animal which combines the features of giraffe, bear and ant.

>>What contribution does it make to each disjunct?

That is a grammatical question. You have a root, and you form tenses from that root.

<<
In order to get what you want from (A), the term 'exists' must be uniformly understood in all disjuncts in (A). So you tell me how you define 'exist' in the three disjuncts of (A) so as to satisfy these requirements and make sense of the disjunctive account of tenseless existence.
<<

The term 'exists' cannot be uniformly understood, as it only occurs once, namely in the present tense. The root 'exist-' occurs three times, but I suspect it cannot be defined, as it is not a word, but a root.

It's an interesting question as to whether our concept of tense is posterior or prior to our concept of verb use. But does it matter? Suppose there is a tribe somewhere that only knows three kinds of animal: giraffes, bears and ants. Suppose they have no generic word for 'animal' but that they have a disjunctive word such as 'giraffe-bear-ant' which literally means anything that is either a giraffe, a bear, or an ant. In that case the species-word would be prior to the genus-word. But even if it weren't, that is not an argument for an animal itself being a further kind of animal. Category mistake again. Similarly, even if we do have a concept corresponding to the untensed root of a verb, that would not prove that this root was itself a further kind of tense, any more than an animal is a kind of animal. In fact, perhaps a lot of the argumentation here depends on the assumption that the 'untensed' use of a verb is really a fourth kind of tense.

Bill,

Like you I have never been tempted by Lewis' extreme modal realism. But the inference in question does not seem to be to equivocate on 'is'. At least, Lewis seems to think the inference valid. The way he puts his principle of plenitude - at least, before he qualifies it to avoid triviality - is that "absolutely *every* way that a world could possibly be is a way that some world *is*". Your counterexample concerning a particle that exceeds the speed of light, I think Lewis would say, is no counterexample at all. There is a world in which there is such a particle. Such a world is metaphysically (but not nomologically) possible. That world is not actual, but it's there, and it has that particle. That may be *crazy* - here I would agree with you - but it is not (obviously) invalidly inferred from the possibility of such a particle.

Likewise with the counterexample to the other inference. I think eternalists accept that inference. If it was the case that there are dinosaurs, then there are dinosaurs. They are just located in the past. Eternalists think of existing at a time as having a certain kind of location. So they would deny that there is an equivocation on 'is' in that inference.

Although I think that actualists and presentists should deny the validity of those inferences, I'm not sure that they should do so on the grounds that they commit the fallacy of equivocation. But perhaps I'm mistaken.

Bill,

1. "You are assuming that present-tensed 'exists' can be split up into 'presently (exists),' where parentheses around an expression de-tenses it. If that were the case, then one could plausibly maintain that to understand the present-tensed 'exists' on has to have a prior understanding of '(exists).' But why can't Ed deny your assumption?"

The assumption is based on the Compositionality Principle. Ed is welcome to deny it, although the manner in which he attempted to deny it in his response to me is completely off the mark for reasons I will convey to him. For suppose that we cannot decouple 'presently exists' into (exists) and 'present'. (I follow your convention where parenthesis de-tenses an expression). Then we cannot do the same for 'exists in the past'; 'will exist in the future'. Then the three disjuncts in his definition of untensed existence will be three unconnected clauses that have nothing in common: more like the accidental occurrence of 'c-a-t' in 'cattle', 'catch', and 'catapult'. Such occurrences have no semantic significance. This is not the case for the three disjuncts; the reason the three disjuncts are present in the definition is because they all modify exists in temporal terms.

2. "If your definition includes the term 'tenseless,' then I want to know what that term means. Suppose a student asked you what it means. What would you say?"

The concept of tenseless existence is a concept of existence that does not include tense as an essential component. Of course, this is a negative definition insofar as it does not give a full account of existence. But, as I have been repeatedly saying, a comprehensive and positive account of existence is a different topic that would divert our focus from the present topic which is Presentism.

So applying the concept (exist) to a concrete object is applying to it a concept that leaves out the temporal dimension altogether. This is not to say that the concrete object does not have temporal properties; it may (e.g., The Statue of Liberty) or it may not (e.g., the number two). Rather it means that no such temporal properties are attributed to it in virtue of attributing to it (existence).

We can now define presentism as follows:

Presentism: x (exists) only if x presently-exists.

where ‘presently’ modifies (exists) so as to yield an expression which expresses the concept of (existence) temporally qualified.

Ed,
1. “I am presupposing the understanding of how to use verbs in the past, present and future tense.”

Well, this may or may not be an innocuous assumption. The question is not whether competent speakers know how to use verbs; the question is what is involved in their use and what follows from such use.

2. “I am also presupposing, although it is not essential to my argument, that we can define the verb 'exist' in terms of the verb 'is’:”

Which meaning of ‘is’? There are three: identity, predication, or existence.

“Thus
Caesar existed = there was such a thing as Caesar
Caesar exists = there is such a thing as Caesar
Caesar will exist = there will be such a thing as Caesar””

Seems to me that you wish to define ‘exist’ in terms of the verb ‘is’ (temporally modified) which in turn is to be understood as existence. Looks like a circular definition and a vicious one at that.
It should be quite obvious that one cannot understand what “there was such a thing as Caesar” means unless one already understands what “Caesar existed” means. For suppose someone fails altogether to understand what “existed” means. Then what is it that they understand by your RHS expression? That a thing such as Caesar was? Was what?

3. “But if you are assuming that this common element must be some fourth kind of tense, that is a horrible category mistake. It would be like supposing, given three species of animal, giraffes, bears or ants, that there is some fourth species of animal which combines the features of giraffe, bear and ant.”

So now you ask me to deal with this old Rylean move which has been long refuted. OK; there we go!

3.1. First, may I ask you what exactly do you mean by a ‘category mistake’?

3.2. Your giraffes-bears-ants example is not even closely analogous to my argument against your three disjuncts: hence, it misses the point altogether. My argument is based on the fact that ‘exist’ appears in every one of your disjuncts. Thus it is more like this: ‘black cat’, ‘white cat’, and ‘gray cat’ all have ‘cat’ in common. But unlike in ‘cattle’, ‘catch’, and ‘catapult’ all of which feature ‘c-a-t’ but merely accidentally, one cannot understand what the former expressions state unless they understand what ‘cat’ means independently of what ‘white cat’ etc., means.

Thus, you example has nothing in common with my argument and, hence, it is totally besides the point.
3.3. And I do think that there is fourth thing in giraffes-bear-ant example; namely, the universal *animal*. But this is a whole different discussion.

4. “That is a grammatical question. You have a root, and you form tenses from that root.”

A grammatical question? Which level of grammatical you mean: Elementary, high school, or grammar studied in colleges or universities? What is a root? And what all of this has to do with the question of whether there is a coherent notion of tenseless existence. Do you really believe that elementary or high school grammar decides this question?

5. The rest of your response is incomprehensible to me or relies once again on a Rylean notion of a *category mistake* that is itself unclear.

Peter >>
1. Is reference a relation at all according to you?
2. If it is, then what are the relata?
3. If it is not, then what is it?
4. Is there such a person as Edward, Bill, Peter, David, etc.,?
5. If so, then what about "'Edward' refers to Edward"?
6. What makes the sentence in quotation in (5) true?
>>

1. Reference is a relation, but not between terms and non-linguistic items
2. Reference is a relation between a singular term, and a set of texts in which it is embedded.
3. n/a
4. Evidence suggests there are such people, yes.
5. The sentence "'Edward' refers to Edward", where the name 'Edward' has the sense that it has in the Maverick philosopher set of texts, would be true whether or not there were such a person.
6. What makes it true is a linguistic-semantic relation between the name and the text in which it is embedded.

We have slightly strayed from the subject of this post by Bill, although not from the topic which began it. (We began with a question about a predicate being 'satisfied' by an object. As with reference, I hold that satisfaction is not a relation between terms and linguistic items).

Peter: >>It should be quite obvious that one cannot understand what “there was such a thing as Caesar” means unless one already understands what “Caesar existed” means.

Other way round. The verbs ‘to be’ and ‘to exist’ are etymologically distinct. Intuitively the verb ‘to be’ is more fundamental, and prior. I.e. a language could easily dispense with ‘exist’, but not with ‘to be’. It’s the same in Latin.

>> may I ask you what exactly do you mean by a ‘category mistake’?

Assigning the significate of a word to one category, when it belongs to another. In this case, supposing that a genus (e.g. animal) is the same thing as its species (kind of animal).

>> My argument is based on the fact that ‘exist’ appears in every one of your disjuncts.

I have already pointed out that it doesn’t. I concede that the 5 letters e-x-i-s-t appear in that order in each of the examples. See below.

>> Thus it is more like this: ‘black cat’, ‘white cat’, and ‘gray cat’ all have ‘cat’ in common. But unlike in ‘cattle’, ‘catch’, and ‘catapult’ all of which feature ‘c-a-t’ but merely accidentally, one cannot understand what the former expressions state unless they understand what ‘cat’ means independently of what ‘white cat’ etc., means.<<

In the words ‘existed’, ‘exists’, ‘will exist’, the sequence ‘e-x-i-s-t’ appears in each one. This is quite unlike the ‘white cat’ - ‘black cat’ example where the word ‘cat’ appears separately.

In your reply to Bill, the example you give is different. You appear to identify ‘existed’ with ‘exists in the past’. This gives the triad ‘exists in the past’, ‘exists in the present ‘ , ‘exists in the future’. Here I concede we have separate words (‘exists’). But what the sentences mean here is quite confusing. How does ‘Caesar exists in the past’ differ from ‘Caesar existed in the past’? If it’s not different, then clearly ‘in the past’ is modifying the tense of the verb, so it’s really a tensed sentence after all, and there is no common concept corresponding to the three words.

Ed,

"1. Reference is a relation, but not between terms and non-linguistic items
2. Reference is a relation between a singular term, and a set of texts in which it is embedded."

So reference is a relation between terms (including other than singular terms?) and "a set of texts" in which the term occurs. Consider 'Socrates'. According to (2) 'Socrates' refers to a set: i.e., a set the members of which are texts, presumably in which the term 'Socrates' occurs. But this makes no sense whatsoever.

First, while Socrates is a concrete objects, sets are abstract.

Second, consider the pair: 'Socrates' and 'the set of all texts in which 'Socrates' occurs'. According to you these two expressions are co-referential: i.e., they refer to the same thing. But this also makes no sense. The referent of 'Socrates' has the property of being a philosopher. A set of texts cannot have this property (this would really be a *category mistake* if there is one). Therefore, 'Socrates' and 'the set of all texts in which 'Socrates' occurs do not have the same referent.

Third, suppose that the set of all texts in which 'Socrates' occurs happens to be the set of all texts in which 'Aristotle' occurs. Then according to you the following holds:

i. Socrates = the set of all texts in which 'Socrates occurs.
ii. Aristotle = the set of all texts in which 'Aristotle' occurs.
iii. the set of all texts in which 'Socrates' occurs = the set of all texts in which 'Aristotle' occurs.
Therefore,
iv. Socrates = Aristotle.

But (iv) is obviously false.

Fourth, suppose T is a text in which the term 'Socrates' occurs only once (used not mentioned). What is the referent of this single occurrences of 'Socrates' in T? According to (2) the referent of 'Socrates' in T is a set S of texts a member of which is T itself. Thus, the referent of the single occurrence of 'Socrates' in T is S. But now imagine that the single occurrence of 'Socrates' in T is in the following sentence:

(*) Socrates is not identical to the set of all texts in which 'Socrates' occurs'.


(*) seems to be true. But look what follows from (*) and your theory of reference: it follows that Socrates is not self-identical or that the set S is not identical to S. How? Simple:

i. Socrates = the set of all texts in which 'Socrates' occurs = S
ii. Socrates = S (from (i))
iii. Socrates is not identical to S (from (*) and substitution of identicals)
iv. (ii) and (iii) yield a contradiction.
v. S = Socrates. (from (i))
vi. S is not identical to the set of texts in which 'Socrates' occurs. (from (*) and substitution of identicals).
vii. S is not identical to S. (contradiction).

Since (*) seems to be true the culprit must be your theory that occurrences of 'Socrates' refer to a set of texts.

These are just some of the arguments against your theory of reference as outlined by your (1)-(6).

Peter: on reference you entirely misunderstand me - but then I had very little space to explain what you asked. Let's try not to derail this thread!

Ed,

"Let's try not to derail this thread!"

I have been urging that from way back in Bill's first post on Presentism.

Bill,

3/6/13: 10:45

" We are told that there are two senses of 'x exists now.' In the ontological sense, something, e.g. Socrates, can exist now even though it is wholly past! What the hell does that mean? Of course it is now true that Socrates existed, but it is not clear what it could mean to say that Socrates himself exists now.

Do you see my point?"

I do and I think I can answer it now.

I am assuming here the account of tenseless existence I have proposed in a previous post. That is, (exist) is a concept which does not include as a constituent any temporal properties. Thus, attributing (exist) to x is not thereby attributing to x any temporal properties even if x is a concrete object which does have temporal properties.

The occurrence of ‘now’ in sentences such as ‘x exists now’ is a temporal modifier. But such sentences are systematically ambiguous (according to Markosian). We can get at what Markosian means here by asking the following question: What does the expression ‘now’ (or ‘presently’) modifies in such sentences?

It appears there are two alternatives: ‘now’ (or ‘presently’) could modify a sentence (or proposition-although some serious issues must be resolved regarding the later) or the untensed property (exist). Call the former ‘wide-scope temporal modifier’ and the later ‘narrow-scope temporal modifier’. Thus, in the wide-scope sense, the expression ‘now’ in ‘x exists now’ modifies the whole sentence (or proposition), such as:

(WS) At present (or now), it is true that x (exists).

This is what I take to be Markosian’s *ontological* sense.

In the narrow-scope, ‘now’ modifies the property (exists), as in:

(NS) It is true that x now(exists). (or-it is true that x presently(exists))

This is what I take to be Markosian’s *temporal* sense.

Thus, a Presentist denies that (WS) can be true of any x (e.g., Socrates) for which (NS) is false; whereas the Non-presentist holds that (WS) can be true for some x (e.g., Socrates) for which (NS) is false.


Peter: does 'Caesar existed' imply 'Caesar (exists)'? I.e. is it impossible that the first could be true, and the second false. If I understand you right, we should have to read the first as something like 'Caesar (exists) in the past'.

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