- Singular (non)existence claims are mystifying. There seem to be three main reasons for this. It is mysterious what Vulcan does not exist could possibly be about, if it is true. Not the planet Vulcan presumably, for if it is true, then there is no such thing. This – the Problem of Aboutness, call it – has led philosophers to postulate alternative subject matters: the term Vulcan, or the concept of Vulcan-hood, or an abstract artifact of some sort (a “failed posit”). Vulcan does not exist says on such views either that
- the term lacks a referent
- the concept lacks instances
- the artifact is not a planet,
- or, Walton1’s view...a certain type of referring attempt misfires.
- Now we run into a second problem, that of explaining how our subject-matter intuitions could be so mistaken. Vulcan does not exist certainly does not seem like it ascribes emptiness to a name, or non-planethood to an abstract object. Call this the Problem of Indirection.
- The third problem is that n exists (n does not exist) ought to say the same thing — express the same hypothesis — whether true or false. Suppose that Vulcan does not exist turns out to be false; there really is such a planet. It is false, in that case, not because it misdescribes a name as non-empty or a concept as lacking instances, but because it misdescribes an existing concrete object v as non-existent. How can people disagree, then, about whether Vulcan exists? The proposition (that v exists) whose truth would vindicate the one is not the proposition (that, say, Vulcan refers) whose falsity would vindicate the other. Normally when there is no shared proposition to which disputants want to assign different truth- values, we say they are talking past each other. Call this the Problem of Equivocation.
Retrieved from Academia.edu, 14 September 2020
- This is Kendall L. Walton.
- Yablo references “Existence as Metaphor” from Empty Names, Fiction and the Puzzles of Non-Existence, by Anthony Everett and Thomas Hofweber (2000).
- This book has a solitary review on Amazon, which describes it as very specialist and showing how confused the subject is.
- The blurb from the University of Chicago Press Website is: Philosophers and theorists have long been puzzled by humans’ ability to talk about things that do not exist, or to talk about things that they think exist but, in fact, do not. Empty Names, Fiction, and the Puzzles of Non-Existence is a collection of 13 new works concerning the semantic and metaphysical issues arising from empty names, non-existence, and the nature of fiction. The contributors include some of the most important researchers working in these fields. Some of the papers develop and defend new positions on these matters, while others offer important new perspectives and criticisms of the existing approaches. The volume contains a comprehensive introductory essay by the editors, which provides a survey of the philosophical issues concerning empty names, the various responses to these issues, and the literature on the subject to date.
Much Ado About Nothing - Anthony Everett and Thomas Hofweber
I: Empty Names
1. Pleonastic Fregeanism and Empty Names - Stephen Schiffer
2. Emptiness without Compromise - Kenneth A. Taylor
3. Referentialism and Empty Names - Anthony Everett
4. On Myth - Avrom Faderman
5. Existence as Metaphor? - Kendall L. Walton
6. Negative Existentials - Fred Kroon
7. Pretense Theory and Abstract Object Theory - Edward N. Zalta
8. Making up Stories - Harry Deutsch
9. Real People in Unreal Contexts - Stacie Friend
10. Semantic Pretense - Mark Richard
11. Quantification and Fictional Discourse - Peter Van Inwagen
12. Quantification and Non-Existent Objects - Thomas Hofweber
13. A Paradox of Existence - Stephen Yablo
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