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Existence

Edited by T. Parent (Virginia Tech)
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Summary When an ontologist asks "what exists?," a meta-question may soon follow: What is meant here by 'exists'? Quine's influential view is that 'exist' should be regimented as an existential quantifier, so that our ontological commitments are determined by the range of the quantifier, within our best scientific theory. In opposition, Carnap held that some existential statements are not ontologically committing. E.g., the statement 'There is an even prime' (if meaningful at all) is merely true by definition within the "mathematics framework." That is so, even though the sentence may be false in, say, the framework of evolutionary biology. Accordingly, for Carnap to "exist" is a pluralistic affair, relativized to a framework. Beyond the Quine-Carnap debate, other issues regarding existence include the classic question "Why is there anything at all?" as well as the riddle of non-being: "There exist things that do not exist" has the shape of a contradiction, but it also can seem true, thanks to Pegasus, unicorns, etc. Finally, and relatedly, some have suggested that there are different "ways of being," i.e., that there is more than one way to exist. Whether this is tenable is currently receiving much attention in the literature.
Key works The debate between Quine 1948 and Carnap 1950 is essential reading. Also, Sider 2011 is a neo-Quinean who has debated the neo-Carnapian Hirsch 2010. See in addition the neo-Quineanism of van Inwagen 1998, and the neo-Carnapianism of Hofweber 2005. A middle way is forged by Azzouni 2004; Azzouni 2007: His view is that (contra Carnap) 'exist' is not framework-relative, but (contra Quine) 'exist' should be regimented as a predicate and that it ordinarily does not express genuine ontological commitment. Post 1987 is excellent on disambiguating "why does the universe exist?;" see also Parfit 1992 for an overview of possible ways to answer the question. On nonexistence, Meinong 1960 and the response in Russell 1905 are must reads--and more recent pieces include Zalta 1988, Thomasson 1999, Sainsbury 2005, and Kripke 2013. On "ways of being," Spencer 2012 provides a nice overview of the current literature. Two other key works on existence are Salmon 1987, and Lewis 1986 on existence vs. actuality.
Introductions Recommended introductions are Nelson 2012, Reicher 2008, and Sorensen 2008.
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  1. N. W. A. (1982). Dzieje Filozofii Europejskiej W XV Wieku, Vol. III. Review of Metaphysics 36 (1):202-204.
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  2. Stacey Ake (2009). Does God Exist or Does He Come to Be? Philosophy and Theology 21 (1/2):155-164.
    The following is an examination of two possible interpretations of the meaning of the “existence” of God. By using two different Danishterms—the word existence (Existents) and the concept “coming to be” (Tilværelse)—found in Kierkegaard’s writing, I hope to show that two very different theological outcomes arise depending upon which idea or term is used. Moreover, I posit which of these twooutcomes is closer in nature to the more famously used German term Dasein.
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  3. Ilyas Altuner (2012). The Relation of God and Being in Descartes. Igdir University Journal of Social Sciences (2): 33-51.
    Problem of the existence of God and His relation to the world and human being is seen as one of quite old and main problems of philosophy. Though the existence of God and His essence as a knowledge subject is related to a transcendent being over this universe, human being can find rules made by Him in physical world in which stands. The concept of God constitutes one of the most involved points of Descartes’ philosophy. In fact, for Descartes, who (...)
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  4. James F. Anderson (1958). Some Disputed Questions on Our Knowledge of Being. Review of Metaphysics 11 (4):550 - 568.
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  5. James F. Anderson (1955). The Meaning of Existence. Review of Metaphysics 8 (4):624 - 632.
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  6. Jay David Atlas (1988). What Are Negative Existence Statements About? Linguistics and Philosophy 11 (4):373 - 394.
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  7. A. B. (1963). Ways of Being. Review of Metaphysics 16 (3):587-587.
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  8. R. J. B. (1969). The Nature of Existence. Review of Metaphysics 22 (4):759-759.
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  9. Andrew Bacon (2013). Quantificational Logic and Empty Names. Philosophers' Imprint 13 (24).
    The result of combining classical quantificational logic with modal logic proves necessitism – the claim that necessarily everything is necessarily identical to something. This problem is reflected in the purely quantificational theory by theorems such as $\exists xt = x$; it is a theorem, for example, that something is identical to Timothy Williamson. The standard way to avoid these consequences is to weaken the theory of quantification to a certain kind of free logic. However, it has often been noted that (...)
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  10. John Bacon (1967). Syllogistic Without Existence. Notre Dame Journal of Formal Logic 8 (3):195-219.
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  11. John R. Baker (1978). On a Classical Argument That Existence Is Not a Predicate. Southwestern Journal of Philosophy 9 (1):55-60.
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  12. Edward G. Ballard (1978). The Idea of Being. Tulane Studies in Philosophy 27:13-25.
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  13. Francesco Berto (2012). Existence as a Real Property. Synthèse Library, Springer.
    This book is both an introduction to and a research work on Meinongianism. “Meinongianism” is taken here, in accordance with the common philosophical jargon, as a general label for a set of theories of existence – probably the most basic notion of ontology. As an introduction, the book provides the first comprehensive survey and guide to Meinongianism and non-standard theories of existence in all their main forms. As a research work, the book exposes and develops the most up-to-date Meinongian theory (...)
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  14. Francesco Berto (2011). Modal Meinongianism and Fiction: The Best of Three Worlds. Philosophical Studies 152 (3):313-35.
    We outline a neo-Meinongian framework labeled as Modal Meinongian Metaphysics (MMM) to account for the ontology and semantics of fictional discourse. Several competing accounts of fictional objects are originated by the fact that our talking of them mirrors incoherent intuitions: mainstream theories of fiction privilege some such intuitions, but are forced to account for others via complicated paraphrases of the relevant sentences. An ideal theory should resort to as few paraphrases as possible. In Sect. 1, we make this explicit via (...)
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  15. Francesco Berto & Matteo Plebani (2015). Ontology and Metaontology. A Contemporary Guide. Bloomsbury.
    'Ontology and Metaontology: A Contemporary Guide' is a clear and accessible survey of ontology, focussing on the most recent trends in the discipline. -/- Divided into parts, the first half characterizes metaontology: the discourse on the methodology of ontological inquiry, covering the main concepts, tools, and methods of the discipline, exploring the notions of being and existence, ontological commitment, paraphrase strategies, fictionalist strategies, and other metaontological questions. The second half considers a series of case studies, introducing and familiarizing the reader (...)
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  16. V. A. Bocharov (1983). Subject-Predicate Calculus Free From Existential Import. Studia Logica 42 (2-3):209 - 221.
    Two subject-predicate calculi with equality,SP = and its extensionUSP =, are presented as systems of natural deduction. Both the calculi are systems of free logic. Their presentation is preceded by an intuitive motivation.It is shown that Aristotle's syllogistics without the laws of identitySaP andSiP is definable withinSP =, and that the first-order predicate logic is definable withinUSP =.
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  17. Phillip Bricker (2004). McGinn on Non-Existent Objects and Reducing Modality. [REVIEW] Philosophical Studies 118 (3):439-451.
    In this discussion of Colin McGinn's book, 'Logical Properties', I comment first on the chapter "Existence", then on the chapter "Modality." With respect to existence, I argue that McGinn's view that existence is a property that some objects have and other objects lack requires the property of existence to be fundamentally unlike ordinary qualitative properties. Moreover, it opens up a challenging skeptical problem: how do I know that I exist? With respect to modality, I argue that McGinn's argument that quantificational (...)
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  18. Stephen L. Brock (2006). On Whether Aquinas's Ipsum Esse is “Platonism”. Review of Metaphysics 60 (2):269-303.
    Enrico Berti and others hold that Aquinas’s notion of God as ipsum esse subsistens conflicts with Aristotle’s view that positing an Idea of being treats being as a genus and nullifies all differences. The paper first shows how one of Aquinas’s ways of distinguishing esse from essence supposes an intimate tie between a thing’s esse and its differentia. Then it argues that for Aquinas the (one) divine essence differs from the (manifold) “essence of esse.” God is his very esse. This (...)
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  19. Lajos L. Brons (2013). What Does It Mean for Something to Exist? The Science of Mind 51 (1):53-74.
    (First paragraph.) Ontology is often described as the inquiry into what exists, but there is some disagreement among (meta-) ontologists about what “existence” means and whether there are different kinds or senses of “existence” or just one; that is, whether “existence” is equivocal or univocal. Furthermore, there is a growing number of philosophers (many of whom take inspiration from Aristotle’s metaphysical writings) who argue that ontology should not be concerned so much with what exists, but with what is fundamental or (...)
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  20. Lajos L. Brons (2012). Bare and Indexical Existence: Integrating Logic and Sensibility in Ontology. In S. Watanabe (ed.), Logic and Sensibility. Keio University Press.
  21. Edward P. Butler (2008). The Gods and Being in Proclus. Dionysius 26:93-114.
  22. Edward P. Butler (2005). Polytheism and Individuality in the Henadic Manifold. Dionysius 23:83-103.
  23. G. C. (1979). The Question of Being. Review of Metaphysics 33 (1):207-209.
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  24. G. C. (1979). The Question of Being. Review of Metaphysics 33 (1):207-209.
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  25. J. D. C. (1972). Existence, Existenz and Transcendence. Review of Metaphysics 25 (4):767-767.
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  26. J. D. C. (1972). Philosophy of Existence. Review of Metaphysics 25 (3):557-557.
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  27. V. C. C. (1955). El Sér Absoluto. Review of Metaphysics 9 (1):164-164.
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  28. V. C. C. (1955). Introduction to the Philosophy of Being. Review of Metaphysics 9 (1):161-161.
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  29. Antonio Calcagno (2011). Edith Stein's Philosophy of Community in Her Early Work and in Her Later Finite and Eternal Being. Philosophy and Theology 23 (2):231-255.
    Edith Stein’s early phenomenological texts describe community as a special unity that is fully lived through in consciousness. In her later works, unity is described in more theological terms as participation in the communal fullness and wholeness of God or Being. Can these two accounts of community or human belonging be reconciled? I argue that consciousness can bring to the fore the meaning of community, thereby conditioning our lived-experience of community, but it can also, through Heideggerian questioning, uncover that which (...)
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  30. Arkadiusz Chrudzimski (2007). Gegenstandstheorie und Theorie der Intentionalität bei Alexius Meinong. Springer.
    The thought of Alexius Meinong (1853–1920) has a distinguished position within the conceptual space of ontology. He was the first philosopher who tried systematically to develop a quasi-ontological discipline which was intended to be much more general than the metaphysics in the traditional sense. Metaphysics investigates being qua being; and this constitutes only a small part of the domain of the theory of objects (Gegenstandstheorie) as Meinong conceived of it. For – so reads one of Meinong’s most frequently cited theses (...)
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  31. Arkadiusz Chrudzimski (2007). Meinong’s Version of the Description Theory. Russell 27 (1):73-85.
    Around 1904 Meinong formulated his most famous idea: There are no empty (non-referential) singular terms. Each singular term refers to an object. Some of these objects do not exist but all of them enjoy status of Außersein. Russell also did not accept non-referential singular terms. But in his paper “On denoting” (1905) he claimed that all singular terms that are apparently empty could be reinterpreted as apparent singular terms. In short, Meinong expands his universe, while Russell narrows the category of (...)
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  32. Arkadiusz Chrudzimski (2006). The Young Leśniewski on Existential Propositions. In Arkadiusz Chrudzimski & Dariusz Łukasiewicz (eds.), Actions, Products, and Things: Brentano and Polish Philosophy. Ontos.
    It was one of Brentano’s central ideas that all judgements are at bottom existential. In his Psychology from an Empirical Standpoint he tried to show how all traditionally acknowledged judgement forms could be reinterpreted as existential statements. Existential propositions, therefore, were a central concern for the whole Brentano School. Kazimierz Twardowski, who also accepted this program, introduced the problem of the existential reduction to his Polish students, but not all of them found this idea plausible. In 1911 Stanisław Leśniewski published (...)
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  33. Arkadiusz Chrudzimski (2005). Drei Versionen der Meinongschen Logik. Zeitschrift für Philosophische Forschung 59 (1):49-70.
    Alexius Meinong nimmt in der Geschichte der Ontologie eine ausgezeichnete Stellung ein. Er war der erste Philosoph, der in systematischer Weise eine quasi-onto¬logische Disziplin entwickelte, die im Vergleich zu der Disziplin, die man traditionell Metaphysik oder Ontologie nennt, viel allgemeiner sein sollte. Die Metaphysik untersucht das Seiende als Seiendes, und die seienden Entitäten bilden – so die These Meinongs – nur ein kleines Fragment dessen, was man unter dem Namen „Gegenstands¬theorie” untersuchen kann. Die Gegenstände als solche sind „außerseiend”, d.h. sie (...)
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  34. Arkadiusz Chrudzimski (2003). Quine, Meinong und Aristoteles. Zwei Dimensionen der ontologischen Verpflichtung. Metaphysica 4 (1):39-68.
    Quine claimed that to be is is to be a value of a bound variable. In the paper we assume that this claim contains an important philosophical insight and investigate its background. It is argued that there are two dimensions involved in Quine’s slogan: (i) the distinction between existing and non-existing objects and (ii) the question of the systematic ambiguity of being that can be traced back to Aristotle. At the first sight it is tempting to construe Quine’s criterion according (...)
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  35. N. Cooper (1953). Does the Logical Truth (Existx) (Fx V Fx) Entail That at Least One Individual Exists? Analysis 14 (1):3-5.
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  36. John Corcoran (2015). Review Of: Hodesdon, K. “Mathematica Representation: Playing a Role”. Philosophical Studies (2014) 168:769–782. Mathematical Reviews. MR 3176431. MATHEMATICAL REVIEWS 2015:3176431.
    This 4-page review-essay—which is entirely reportorial and philosophically neutral as are my other contributions to MATHEMATICAL REVIEWS—starts with a short introduction to the philosophy known as mathematical structuralism. The history of structuralism traces back to George Boole (1815–1864). By reference to a recent article various feature of structuralism are discussed with special attention to ambiguity and other terminological issues. The review-essay includes a description of the recent article. The article’s 4-sentence summary is quoted in full and then analyzed. The point (...)
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  37. Sam Cowling (2014). No Simples, No Gunk, No Nothing. Pacific Philosophical Quarterly 95 (1):246-260.
    Mereological realism holds that the world has a mereological structure – i.e. a distribution of mereological properties and relations. In this article, I defend Eleaticism about properties, according to which there are no causally inert non-logical properties. I then present an Eleatic argument for mereological anti-realism, which denies the existence of both mereological composites and mereological simples. After defending Eleaticism and mereological anti-realism, I argue that mereological anti-realism is preferable to mereological nihilism. I then conclude by examining the thesis that (...)
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  38. Michael E. Cuffaro (2012). Kant and Frege on Existence and the Ontological Argument. History of Philosophy Quarterly 29 (4):337-354.
    I argue that Kant's and Frege's refutations of the ontological argument are more similar than has generally been acknowledged. As I clarify, for both Kant and Frege, to say that something exists is to assert of a concept that it is instantiated. With such an assertion one expresses that there is a particular relation between the instantiating object and a rational subject - a particular mode of presentation for the object in question. By its very nature such a relation cannot (...)
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  39. Alain de Libera & Olivier Massin (2014). Qu'est-ce qu'une fondue ? [What is a fondue?]. In Massin Olivier & Meylan Anne (eds.), Aristote chez les Helvètes. Ithaque.
    We review the history of the philosophy of fondue since Aristotle so as to arrive at the formulation of the paradox of Swiss fondue. Either the wine and the cheese cease to exist (Buridan), but then the fondue is not really a mixture of wine and cheese. Or the wine and the cheese continue to exist. If they do, then either they continue to exist in different places (the chemists), but then a fondue can never be perfectly homogenous (it is (...)
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  40. Lieven Decock (2002). Trading Ontology for Ideology. The Interplay of Logic, Set Theory and Semantics in Quine's Philosophy. Kluwer/Springer.
    The Interplay of Logic, Set Theory and Semantics in Quine's Philosophy L. Decock. In philosophy of science Quine's name is linked to the so-called Quine- Duhem thesis. The discussion of this thesis still continues even after several decades.9 ...
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  41. Boris DeWiel (2013). An Incomplete Definition of Reality. Cosmos and History: The Journal of Natural and Social Philosophy 9 (1):50-72.
    A reality may be defined incompletely as a perpetuating pattern of relations. This definition denies the name of reality to an utter and totalistic patternlessness, like a primal patternless stuff, because a patternless all-ness would be indistinguishable from a patternless nothingness. If reality began from a chaos or patternless stuff, it became a reality only when it became patterned. If there are orders of reality with perpetuating relations between them, as in Cartesian interactive substance dualism, the definition allows us to (...)
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  42. Heather Dyke (2007). Words, Pictures and Ontology: A Commentary on John Heil's From an Ontological Point of View. SWIF Philosophy of Mind Review 6:31-41.
    The title of John Heil’s book From an Ontological Point of View is, of course, an adaptation of the title of Quine’s influential collection of essays From a Logical Point of View, published fifty years earlier in 1953. Quine’s book marked the beginning of a sea change in philosophy, away from ordinary language, armchair philosophising involving introspective examination of concepts, towards a more rigorous, analytical and scientific approach to answering philosophical questions. Heil’s book will, I think, mark the beginning of (...)
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  43. Hector Ferreiro (2012). La encrucijada de la metafísica tomista: la circularidad de la tesis de la causalidad recíproca entre el ser y la esencia. Studium 29:173-183.
    Tomás de Aquino diferencia como dos principios metafísicos diferentes la suma de de-terminaciones que especifican como tal a un ente y el hecho de que dicho ente efecti-vamente exista en la realidad. Ahora bien, al definirse como lo otro de la esencia el ser tiende a devenir él mismo una especie de esencia que requiere, al igual que la esencia propiamente dicha, ser puesto a su vez en la existencia. Este corolario fue derivado de la tesis de la distinción real (...)
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  44. Hector Ferreiro (2007). La superación de la antítesis clásica entre ser y devenir en la Lógica de Hegel. In Sergio Cecchetto & Leandro Catoggio (eds.), Esplendor y miseria de la filosofía hegeliana. Suárez. 263-270.
    El cambio suele ser, según una larga tradición filosófica, concebido como incompatible con la noción de ser en cuanto tal. Dicho de otro modo: si acaso existe un ser que sea en un sentido más propio y auténtico que las cosas de este mundo, el mismo deberá necesariamente excluir de sí toda forma de cambio y movimiento. Ser y devenir serían en cuanto tales nociones contradictorias y mutuamente excluyentes. Así, por ejemplo, Parménides elimina del Ser el movimiento y el cambio, (...)
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  45. Akiko Frischhut & Alexander Skiles (2013). Time, Modality, and the Unbearable Lightness of Being. Thought 2 (1):264-273.
    We develop a theory about the metaphysics of time and modality that combines the conceptual resources devised in recent sympathetic work on ontological pluralism (the thesis that there are fundamentally distinct kinds of being) with the thought that what is past, future, and merely possible is less real than what is present and actual (albeit real enough to serve as truthmakers for statements about the past, future, and merely possible). However, we also show that despite being a coherent, distinctive, and (...)
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  46. William Godfrey-Smith (1977). Beginning and Ceasing to Exist. Philosophical Studies 32 (4):393 - 402.
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  47. Tyron Goldschmidt (ed.) (2013). The Puzzle of Existence: Why Is There Something Rather Than Nothing? Routledge.
    This groundbreaking volume investigates the most fundamental question of all: Why is there something rather than nothing? The question is explored from diverse and radical perspectives: religious, naturalistic, platonistic and skeptical. Does science answer the question? Or does theology? Does everything need an explanation? Or can there be brute, inexplicable facts? Could there have been nothing whatsoever? Or is there any being that could not have failed to exist? Is the question meaningful after all? The volume advances cutting-edge debates in (...)
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  48. Reinhardt Grossmann (1992). The Existence of the World: An Introduction to Ontology. Routledge.
    The final section of the book considers two features of the world which transcend the categories, existence and negation.
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  49. Matthew C. Halteman, Ontotheology. Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy.
    This article aims to serve as an accessible introduction to the idea of "ontotheology" and to the so-called "ontotheological critique of Western metaphysics" for which the twentieth-century German philosopher Martin Heidegger is especially well known. I begin by distinguishing two uses of "ontotheology" employed respectively by Kant and Heidegger, and go on to develop the Heideggerian interpretation and critique of ontotheology under three main headings: The Onto-theo-logical Constitution of Western Metaphysics; Ontotheology's Problematic Legacy: Anxiety, Calculation, Oblivion; and Ontotheology and God. (...)
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  50. Xiaoqiang Han (2009). Feature-Placing Sentences and the Canonical Scheme. Abstracta 4 (2):30-42.
    Feature-placing sentences are often confused with the general sentences in the canonical predicate calculus. The confusion is largely caused by their perceived commonality that both lack the subject-predicate form. In this paper, I offer some clarification of the fundamental differences between the two: the general sentences of the canonical predicate calculus contain predicates and variables which take individual objects as their values, and it is the sense of predication implied by the existence of predicates in these general sentences that is (...)
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