The Grice Club


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Tuesday, June 12, 2018

The null set: the disimplicatures


Graham Priest proposed an argument for the conclusion that ‘nothing’ occurs as a singular term and not as a quantifier in a sentence like (1) ‘The cosmos came into existence out of nothing’. Priest's point is that, intuitively, (1) entails (C) ‘The cosmos came into existence at some time’, but this entailment relation is left unexplained if ‘nothing’ is treated as a quantifier. If Priest is right, the paradoxical notion of an object that is nothing plays a role in our very understanding of reality. In this note, we argue that Priest's argument is unsound: the intuitive entailment relation between (1) and (C) does not offer convincing evidence that ‘nothing’ occurs as a term in (1). Moreover, we provide an explanation of why (1) is naturally taken to entail (C), which is both plausible and consistent with the standard, quantificational treatment of ‘nothing’.

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