Philosophy Lexicon of Arguments

Non-existence, philosophy: non-existence is not simply expressible for the classical predicate logic which attributes properties through quantification in the form of (Ex)(Fx) "There is at least one x, with the property F" (in short "There is at least one F"), since existence is not a property. The form "There is at least one x that does not exist" is contradictory. See also existence predicate, "There is", existence, unicorn example, pegasus example, round square, proof of God's existence.

Annotation: The above characterizations of concepts are neither definitions nor exhausting presentations of problems related to them. Instead, they are intended to give a short introduction to the contributions below. – Lexicon of Arguments.

Author Item Excerpt Meta data

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Hintikka I 103
Non-existence/not well-defined/HintikkaVsMontague: Montague's semantics does not allow the question of existence or non-existence to be meaningless because an individual is not well-defined in a world. ((s) Because in Montague the domain of individuals is assumed to be constant).
Individual domain/solution/Hintikka: we have to allow that the individual domain is not constant. But there is a problem:

Quantification/belief context/existence/truth/Hintikka: in the following example we must presuppose existence so that the proposition can be true:
(11) John is looking for a unicorn and Mary is looking for it, too. ((s) the same unicorn).
Range/quantifier/Hintikka: in the only natural reading of (11) one has to assume that the range of the implicit quantifier is such that "a unicorn" has a wider range than "looks for".
((s) That is, that both are looking for unicorns.) Problem: how can one know whether both subjects believe in the same individual?).
I 103
Existence/W-Question/Unicorn/Hintikka: nevertheless the example (11) shows that the way of reading should not oblige us to accept the existence of unicorns.
Non-existence/epistemic context/intensional/belief/Hintikka: it is obviously possible that two people can look for the same thing, even if it does not exist.
Solution: We allow that well-defined individuals do not exist in some worlds. For this, only a slight modification is necessary.
Problem: with more complex sentences, all problems come back:
I 104
John does not know whether unicorns exist, yet he is looking for a unicorn because Mary is looking for it.
Problem: here John must be able to recognize a special unicorn. (Otherwise the sentence that uses "it" would not be true), although he is considering the possible non-existence.
World line/Hintikka: in order to extent the Montague semantics, we must allow more or less unnatural world lines.

Explanation of symbols: Roman numerals indicate the source, arabic numerals indicate the page number. The corresponding books are indicated on the right hand side. ((s)…): Comment by the sender of the contribution.

Hin I
Jaakko and Merrill B. Hintikka
The Logic of Epistemology and the Epistemology of Logic Dordrecht 1989

J. Hintikka/M. B. Hintikka
Untersuchungen zu Wittgenstein Frankfurt 1996

> Counter arguments against Montague

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Ed. Martin Schulz, access date 2017-09-22