Jakesprinter‘s challenge: B/W

Yesterday I clicked on the article Nonexistent objects in the SEP feed:

[…] One of the reasons why there are doubts about the concept of a nonexistent object is this: to be able to truly claim of an object that it doesn’t exist, it seems that one has to presuppose that it exists, for doesn’t a thing have to exist if we are to make a true claim about it? […]

In other words: if it doesn’t exist, you can’t talk about it, so everything you talk about has got to exist. (sigh)
P.S. Don’t talk about the sock-eating monster in the washing machine.
P.P.S. Oops.

The Standford Encyclopedia of Philosophy* is the premier online resource for philosophy. It has the knotty task of chronicling a field in which putting both feet down the same logical trouser leg is all too common, or pondering whether trousers can be said to have legs.

I thought, perhaps we should look at and agree on what we mean by “to exist” before we start arguing about whether nonexistent objects exist. So I skipped to the article on existence.

This is an interesting and well-written article on how many meanings the word “is” can be said to have. Through history and across schools of thought, philosophers have disagreed on whether “to be” is the same as “to be something or other” or “to be equal to another” etc. Aristotle, apparently, even managed to disagree with himself.

There are some nice examples, one involving elephants and mermaids. It’s best to understand the symbols of formal logic and terms like “second order predicate” before you start.

The one question the article doesn’t seem to answer – and I confess I skimmed – is this. What does it actually mean for something to exist? Though it does helpfully explain that philosophers do not agree on whether or not it means anything at all.

What do you think it means for something to exist?

My take tomorrow, in my next Heresy post.

* * *

* The SEP is free and has a cool logo. Anytime you’re bored, read what it has to say on zombies, to find out what philosophers do at work.

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