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Monday, August 02, 2021


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>But you don't buy it do you? Explain why.

The predicate “– does not exist” is equivalent to the predicate “there is no such thing as –”. This predicate cannot be satisfied. Or suppose it is. Then there is some x is such that for all y, not x = y. But ‘all y’ includes x itself, so some x is such that not x = x, which is impossible, QED.

Of course European types say that “– does not exist” is not equivalent to the predicate “there is no such thing as –”, for existence is a predicate, satisfied by existing things, but not by non-existing things. That’s another story.

That is exactly the response I expected from you. If Quine & Co. are right, then Meinong is wrong. Peter van Inwagen, the 'king' of the thin theorists would be proud of you.

Your first paragraph is is an admirably concise and precise summary of the thin theory of existence.

But you make a mistake in your second paragraph. For one could hold to the logical equivalence in question without accepting Meinongian nonentities.

But I fear that nothing good will come from resurrecting our debate about the thin theory.

In most of my many entries on existence, and in my existence book, I abstracted from the intentionality problematic. But it should be clear that each has repercussions for the other.

>>Therefore, some transcendent physical things do not exist.

This is by existential generalisation from

Scollay Square is a transcendant physical thing that does not exist.
But the latter fallaciously lifts 'Scollay Square' out of an intensional context:
Bill thinks that Scollay Square is a transcendent physical thing, a place in Boston, but Scollay Square does not exist.
The best that can be concluded is
Scollay Square is thought to be a transcendent physical thing but no such thing exists.
The example is somewhat obfuscated by the tense issue.

"I fear that nothing good will come from ___________"

Fear is an intentional state, but it also has qualitative side: there is "something it is like" (Nagel) to be feel fear.

Examples like this cause trouble for those divide-and-conquers who want to prise apart intentionality from consciousness with its qualia and work on the problems separately, the first problem being supposedly tractable while the second is called the Hard Problem (David Chalmers). Both are hard as hell and they cannot be separated. See Colin McGinn, Galen Strawson, et al.

Sometimes we just feel elated, but not about anything. Some cite examples like this as cases of non-intentional consciousness. But if mommy is elated that sonny got the job, then the intentional state mommy is in has a qualitative feel -- which again speaks against a clean separation of intentionality from consciousness.

Could the sense that thought reaches out to objects be a kind of qualitative feel?

David B,

Not existential, but particular generalization. If there are nonexistent objects, and 'a' names one, then one can validly move from 'a is F' to 'Something is F' by particular generalization.

>But you make a mistake in your second paragraph. For one could hold to the logical equivalence in question without accepting Meinongian nonentities. But I fear that nothing good will come from resurrecting our debate about the thin theory.<

Probably you are right (that nothing good will come of it).

But I am up for any kind of scrap, being a philosophical bar-room fighter.

And now I remember the scrap, but we were not so far apart as you now suppose. Recall that my theory of proper names is not the standard theory. In Reference and Identity I seek to explain how empty names can be meaningful without resorting to a descriptive theory of proper names. This requires a coherent theory of singular concepts and hence singular meaning.

If I remember right, you agreed that my hypothesis would explain the problem of negative existentials. However you disagreed that singular concepts are possible.

I note you get a mention in the book, p.37 n36 “See Vallicella, A Paradigm Theory of Existence, 97–104 for other compelling arguments against Plantinga-style haecceity properties”.

Hello Bill,

I could have been clearer. Is the following a fair reconstruction of your argument?

1. Bill thinks that there is a certain transcendent physical thing, a louche district of Boston called 'Scollay Square'.
2. There is no such district in Boston.
3. Therefore, Scollay Square is a transcendent physical thing that does not exist.
4. Therefore, some transcendent physical thing does not exist.
I have no objection to the generalisation (3)-->(4). It treats '_ exists' as a predicate but let's not quibble over that. My problem is with the move from (1,2)-->(3). The name 'Scollay Square' is 'lifted' out of the intensional context in (1) without a referent. If the argument were valid so could be a parallel argument with an arbitrary name substituted throughout for 'Scollay Square'.

Brightly's point is good.

Memory is slowly returning. The standard narrative is that “Cats are black” translates into pred calculus as (x) [cat(x) implies black(x) ], whereas “Cats are existent” translates into Ex cat(x).

That is, there is no predicate ‘E’ which signifies the property of existence. Rather, the true grammar of ‘Cats exist’ belies its surface grammar. Or, in brief, ‘exists’ is not a predicate.

However we can’t give a similar account for “Fluffy exists”, ie. we cannot translate it as Ex Fluffy(x). Some early analytic types, including Russell, tried to analyse proper names as disguised descriptions, but Kripke put a lid on that. Thus, on what Devitt calls the Semantic Presupposition, namely that there are no other possible candidates for a name’s meaning other than a descriptive meaning, or the bearer of the name itself, the mainstream analytic position is that the meaning of a proper name is the bearer of the name

The target of Reference and Identity is the Semantic Presupposition.

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