The Grice Club


The Grice Club

The club for all those whose members have no (other) club.

Is Grice the greatest philosopher that ever lived?

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Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Grice on izzing


The problem of existence is reputed to be one of the oldest and most intractable of philosophy: What do we mean when we say that something exists or, even more challengingly, that something does not exist? Intuitively, it seems that we all have a firm grip upon what we are saying. But how should we explain the difference–if there is any–between statements about existence and other, garden-variety predicative statements? What is the difference between saying that something exists and saying, for instance, that something is red, heavy, soft, etc.? These questions provide the focus of the present study. In the first part, this study addresses those authors that have been most effective and influential at widening the gap between statements about existence and garden-variety predicative statements. These are David Hume, Immanuel Kant, Franz Brentano, and Gottlob Frege. According to this family of approaches, existence becomes something very different from a property of objects. In the second part, this study turns to more recent attempts that have moved in the opposite direction by trying to reduce existence to a–more or less–plain property of objects. The philosophers that are going to be discussed here are Alexius Meinong, Richard Routley, Terence Parsons, William Rapaport, Edward Zalta, and Graham Priest. Between the first and the second part, an extensive chapter is dedicated to the approaches to existence developed under the heading of free logics. Finally, the third part of this study develops a deflationist account of existence: We should abandon the assumption shared by all accounts discussed in this study, namely that the notion of existence adds something to the content of a statement. To the contrary, we should think of existence as a redundant notion. The advantage of this strategy is that it does not make it contradictory to say that something does not exist – a frequent upshot of the approaches discussed in the first part. At the same time, this strategy avoids the epicycles common to the approaches discussed in the second part, which are strictly linked to the reduction of existence to a property of objects

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