Say Holmes Exists; Then What?
Yablo (Stephen)
Source: Draft of 1st September 2020
Paper - Abstract

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Author’s Introduction

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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, 14 September 2020

In-Page Footnotes

Footnote 1:

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