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Tuesday, November 11, 2008


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Many thanks for that reply, Bill, which has given me a lot to ponder on. I'm delighted you have reopened the discussion from earlier this year.

I agree that to argue that existence, self-identity, property-bearing, etc, are not properties merely because everything possesses them would indeed be to commit a non-sequitur. But it seems to me that there are good Kantian reasons for ruling them out, namely that they are all inter-related ideas that arise together and form a pre-requisite for subject-predicate logic. Referring to your critique of PVI, I'd agree that it's not a formal-logical contradiction to say that some individuals do not exist. Rather, it breaks implicit assumptions that we need before we can begin to do formal logic, or perhaps even speak. I'd be interested to hear of a property possessed by all individuals that does not fit into this category. Greenness in an all-green world doesn't convince me because we can at least conceive of an individual in such a world being non-green, whereas we cannot conceive of a non self-identical individual at all.

You give some positive arguments for a Yes answer.
In (5) I don't see how my understanding "(a) Necessarily, for any x, x exists iff x exemplifies P" implies that I must accept existence as a property. To me, (a) seems yet another Kantian pre-requisite. Can you tease this argument out?

In (6), I'm not sure individuals do have their existence in common. Is my existence identical to yours? 'BV has a beard' and 'DB has a beard' are both true but is my beardedness the same as your beardedness?

In (7) you say "Without existence, the thing is nothing at all". This seems to me to exemplify the danger of thinking of existence as a property. For how can the thing, whatever it is, be nothing at all? Can we not think of a thing having an 'ordinary' property subtracted away, but leaving the thing intact as an individual?

In (10) I agree that existence primarily seems 'to belong to individuals' or 'goes with individuals' but the conclusion I draw from this is that existence and individuality are so closely related that they amount to the same idea. And since we are unable to think of an individual without assigning it a kind the idea is also inseparable from the notion of instantiation of a concept or equivalent formulation.

I'm interested in the possibility that our question has no right answer, that it makes no difference whether we accept existence, etc, as properties or not. This situation arises quite often in maths and physics when we find two or more equivalent representations of a structure or phenomenon. Are there differing consequences to answering Yes and No to our question?

Finally, inverting the question, as it were, we can ask 'Do properties exist?' From the longstanding range of answers on this question is it possible to draw any conclusions about the world or our thinking? I'd be interested to hear your views.

With apologies for hugely broadening the present topic, DB.


We'll have to come back to this later. This post is about to scroll off into archival oblivion, and in any case I am preparing for a conference in Geneva in a few days and so my blogging (apart from reposts) will be concerned with that.

But I appreciate your interest and I will undoubtedly be returning to this topic.

Thanks, Bill, I'll look forward to that. Safe trip to Europe.

Thanks, Bill, I'll look forward to that. Safe trip to Europe.

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