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s. g. williams

Subject Philosophy » Metaphysics

Key-Topics existence

DOI: 10.1111/b.9780631199991.1995.x


Perhaps the most fundamental questions about the concept of existence are what sort of concept it is, whether it can be analysed or elucidated, and what falls under it. We shall here concentrate on the first two of these questions, with primary emphasis being placed on the first. In so doing, we shall inevitably pay some attention to the third question; but it will only be considered in detail elsewhere in the volume (for detailed discussion see fictional truth, objects and characters ; hypostasis, reification ). Here attention has been focused chiefly on the question whether existence is a property. Since Kant many philosophers have thought this question crucial to a proper assessment of the so-called Ontological Argument for the existence of God. But in order to avoid the question whether properties themselves exist, and to help clarify the logical grammar of existence claims, it is often held to be convenient to concentrate instead on the linguistic analogue of this question. This is whether the word ‘exists’ is a predicate , i.e. whether it is an expression which is true or false of things. Examples of predicates are expressions like ‘is an author’ or ‘is triangular’ as they occur in such sentences as ‘Goethe is an author’ and ‘France is not triangular’. So why should ‘exists’, as it occurs in such sentences as ‘Kangaroos exist’, ‘Dodos don’t exist’, ‘Goethe exists’ ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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