Singular Propositions and Modal Logic

Philosophical Topics 21 (2):113-148 (1993)
According to many actualists, propositions, singular propositions in particular, are structurally complex, that is, roughly, (i) they have, in some sense, an internal structure that corresponds rather directly to the syntactic structure of the sentences that express them, and (ii) the metaphysical components, or constituents, of that structure are the semantic values — the meanings — of the corresponding syntactic components of those sentences. Given that reference is "direct", i.e., that the meaning of a name is its denotation, an apparent consequence of this view is that any proposition expressed by a sentence containing a name that denotes a contingent being S is itself contingent — notably, the proposition [S does not exist]. Assuming that an entity must exist to have a property, necessarily, [S does not exist] must exist in order to be true. It seems to follow that, necessarily, [S does not exist] is not true and, hence, that S is not contingent after all. Past approaches to the problem — notably, those of Prior and Adams — lead to highly undesirable consequences for quantified modal logic. In this paper, several solutions to this puzzle are developed that preserve actualism, the structured view of propositions, the direct theory of reference, and the intuition that [S does not exist] is indeed possible without the adverse consequences for QML of previous solutions.
Keywords actualism  quantified modal logic  singular propositions  Arthur Prior
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