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Saturday, May 30, 2020


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Bill, I enjoyed the post (and comment thread) on haecceity properties; do you have a link to your argument that existence as a second-order property requires such properties?

I would have thought it does not because existence as a second-order property seems to naturally accompany a theory of reference in which the meaning of a name is a concept that involves beliefs about the thing named and/or a historical chain of reference to the thing named. For example, the meaning of "Socrates" is something like "the man who lived 2500 years ago, who taught Plato, who was condemned to death, who is the original referent of the historical chain of references culminating with the current use of 'Socrates'". According to this notion of reference, "Socrates exists" would mean that the above concept is instantiated, not that some abstract haecceity property is instantiated.


Note that there is a difference between general and singular existentials, the difference, e.g., between 'Cats exist' and 'Max exists.' No haecceity properties are needed for the analysis of general existentials. The property of being a cat is not a haecceity. The reason, of course, is that it is multiply instantiable.

But if 'Max' is a proper name, as opposed to a definite description in disguise, then haecceities are needed.

Suppose that Max is the wimpiest cat in Arizona. The property of being the wimpiest cat in Arizona, although it has exactly one instance in the actual world, has other instances in other possible worlds. It is therefore not an haecceity property. But if 'Max' is a proper name, then it is a rigid designator: it picks out the same item in every possible world in which the item exists.

From what I have said you should be able to see that the second-level analysis of 'Max exists' requires an haecceity property. One can then render the sentence as 'Maxity is instantiated' where Maxity is the property of being identical to Max.

I'm still reading, but there is something "off" about the claim that Lowe is trying to explicate existence in terms of presentness. Here is a quote from page four of More Kinds of Being:

Now, this still leaves one other important use of ‘is’ to which I have not yet alluded: the ‘is’ of existence, as in ‘The Dodo is no more’. I take this use of ‘is’ also to be logically primitive, but I do not follow current orthodoxy in identifying its role with that played in symbolic logic by the so-called (but in my view misnamed) existential quantifier, ‘∃’. That is to say, I do not regard ‘is’, in the sense of ‘exists’, as being a second-level predicate, although relatively little in this study depends crucially on my taking it to be a first-level one. One thing that I should especially stress in this connection, however, is that I most emphatically do not wish the title of this study to convey the impression that I postulate different kinds of existence, as opposed merely to different kinds of thing that exist. ‘Exist’ is univocal. This, it should be noted, is not inconsistent with my acceptance, a few moments ago, that individuals and kinds may enjoy different manners of existing, for this was not intended to imply any ambiguity in the term ‘existence’. Rather, what I intended to accede to was such relatively uncontroversial claims as that concrete individuals exist at specific times and places, whereas kinds, being universals, are not spatiotemporally localized in their existence.

However, Lowe includes and argues for abstract propositions in his ontology.* Hence, prima facie Lowe believes in non-temporal existents as well as present existent. Hence, since Lowe thinks there is only one kind of existence, prima facie he must think the relationship between presence and existence more complicated than your post suggests (e.g. "existence . . . does exist as this primal Presencing").

*Here is Lowe's definition of abstract:

The next thing I want to do is to return to a distinction that I touched on earlier, to see how it bears on the range of application of the concept of an object: this is the distinction between concrete and abstract entities. To be precise, there is more than one such distinction to be found in works on metaphysics, but I am at present exclusively concerned with the sense of the term ‘abstract entity’ in which it is supposed to denote something which does not exist in space or time, paradigm examples being such putative entities as numbers, sets, and propositions. (The Four-Category Ontology, 81)

See 11.2 of The Four-Category Ontology for examples of Lowe claiming abstract propositions for his ontology.

But if 'Max' is a proper name, then it is a rigid designator: it picks out the same item in every possible world in which the item exists.
But you are just insisting on your own (somewhat controversial) theory of reference. To put it another way, your argument establishes that a theory of reference in which a name is a direct extensional reference to an object is incompatible with a theory of existence in which existence is a second-order property. But that was always obvious, wasn't it? In order for existence to be a second-order property, it must be the case that in any sentence of the form "X exists", X must have an intensional meaning so that "X exists" can be interpreted as "the intensional meaning of X has an extension".

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