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Tuesday, January 23, 2018


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I am having a hard time following the argument following from 'In plain English ..'.

I can half see it.

Reading this again, I take it you mean the following make no sense unless we understand ‘exists’ in a broader sense than the Quinean one.

Quine exists =df Quine is identical to something that exists
Pegasus does not exist =df nothing that exists is such that Pegasus is identical to it
Picky point: you have ‘exists’ on both sides of the definition, so it is not a definition, but I understand what you mean.
Reply: we often say that some things could exist outside the domain. Or that there could be things outside the domain. But isn’t that equivalent to the claim that some things, e.g. Pegasus, are outside the domain of the space-time continuum. This would be consistent with the Quine definition.

>> The point, which many find elusive, is that the items in the domain of quantification must be there to be quantified over, where 'there' has not a locative but an existential sense.

Yes and No! No, because quantification---how the words 'some' and 'all' operate---works perfectly well in fiction and in history, and there is a definite sense in which the things of fiction are not there, or the things of history are not here now. Yes, because the words 'some' and 'all' make sense only relative to some assumed or understood context or 'domain' of things taken to be the extants that 'are there' in the context. In everyday dialogue there is a default context, namely the actual world or some part of it, though there can be some ambiguity as to whether this includes its past and/or future or not. I suggest it's this context-sensitivity of 'some' and 'all' that make it impossible to capture actual world existence in purely logical terms. After all, the Quine equivalence holds in all contexts. It fails to single out the actual world in any way.

Unfortunately, the context-sensitivity of 'all' and 'some' invades the sense of 'being there' and 'exists'. These words make perfect sense in fictional contexts. One(*) can't define a term that 'breaks out', as it were, from its context and becomes absolute. In a fiction such a term would remain relative to the fictional context. All it seems one can do is say, I'm now talking about the actual world, and hope one's interlocutor switches context. But a character in fiction can say this too, of course.

Having agreed that the wretched Quine formula is useless, how does its failure justify the distinction between a thing and its existence? And the existence of its existence...?

(*) Unless one is Borges, perhaps.

Still no glimmer of understanding from you gentlemen, but thanks anyway.

Then it is up to you to make it clearer, Bill. My first comment was 'having a hard time following [your] argument'. The second was an attempt to play your argument back, so you could confirm.

>>Ex nihilo nihil fit

Not for some x, not some y was before x

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