The Monist 53 (2):310-319 (1969)

From Parmenides to the present, philosophers have been attracted by characterizations of being as being uttered or utterable, formulated or formulable. But what for Parmenides was presumably a valid co-entailment between antecedently understood concepts reappears in contemporary thought as a proffered explication of what it is to be. Without presuming to discredit Parmenidean views in general, my purpose here is to examine certain members of a modern family of theories of existence that fall into place around Quine’s. Depending on the methodology of explication espoused, the theories in this family are either semantic commentaries on ideal languages, or they are themselves interpreted formalized languages. The former may be called, after Quine, theories of ontological commitment. The theories of the latter sort I wish to consider are called, after Karel Lambert, free logics, i.e., logic systems the singular terms of which are free of existential import. My conclusion about theories of both kinds is that, while unexceptionable on their own terms, from a broader point of view they beg the question of what it is to be. In arguing that these theories thus fail to clarify the concept of existence, I believe I am not so much propounding a new insight as articulating an objection many thinkers have felt in the face of views akin to Quine’s.
Keywords Analytic Philosophy  Contemporary Philosophy  General Interest  Philosophy of Mind  Philosophy of Science
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ISBN(s) 0026-9662
DOI 10.5840/monist19695324
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