Existential Import and an Unnecessary Restriction on Predicate Logics

History and Philosophy of Logic 39 (2):109-134 (2018)

George Boger
Canisius College
Contemporary logicians continue to address problems associated with the existential import of categorical propositions. One notable problem concerns invalid instances of subalternation in the case of a universal proposition with an empty subject term. To remedy problems, logicians restrict first-order predicate logics to exclude such terms. Examining the historical origins of contemporary discussions reveals that logicians continue to make various category mistakes. We now believe that no proposition per se has existential import as commonly understood and thus it is unnecessary to restrict first-order predicate logics to non-empty classes. After introducing the problem, we trace some nineteenth century treatments of the issue to locate a source of misconstruing propositional import in misconceptions of ‘implies’ and ‘affirms’ and name the process/product fallacy, along with the translation of categorical sentences using quantifiers and accommodating an empty class. Next we treat some metalogical matters to orient our discussion by which we provide a more precise nomenclature about ‘sentence’ and ‘proposition’ to correct previous misconceptions; here we uncover a common category mistake in respect of a proposition’s efficacy. The semantic distinction between agent and force is helpful in this connection. We conclude by showing that logicians have reinserted existence as a predicate, a position previously excised by Kant, and that the Frege-Russell ambiguity thesis applies only to relationships within a categorical sentence between grammatical predicate and subject.
Keywords No keywords specified (fix it)
Categories (categorize this paper)
Reprint years 2017, 2018
DOI 10.1080/01445340.2017.1376182
Edit this record
Mark as duplicate
Export citation
Find it on Scholar
Request removal from index
Revision history

Download options

Our Archive

Upload a copy of this paper     Check publisher's policy     Papers currently archived: 40,686
Through your library

References found in this work BETA

On Sense and Reference.Gottlob Frege - 2010 - In Darragh Byrne & Max Kölbel (eds.), Arguing About Language. Routledge. pp. 36--56.
Critique of Pure Reason.I. KANT - 1787/1998 - Philosophy 59 (230):555-557.
On Referring.P. F. Strawson - 1950 - Mind 59 (235):320-344.
Function and Concept.Gottlob Frege - 1997 - In D. H. Mellor & Alex Oliver (eds.), Properties. Oxford University Press. pp. 130-149.

View all 33 references / Add more references

Citations of this work BETA

No citations found.

Add more citations

Similar books and articles

The Existential Assumptions of Traditional Logic.Dwayne Mulder - 1996 - History and Philosophy of Logic 17 (1 & 2):141-154.
The Existential Assumptions of Traditional Logic.Dwayne Hudson Mulder - 1996 - History and Philosophy of Logic 17 (1-2):141-154.
Kant on Existential Import.Alberto Vanzo - 2014 - Kantian Review 19 (2):207-232.
The Place of Syllogistic in Logical Theory.Michael Clark - 1980 - Nottingham University Press.
Predicate Modal Logics Do Not Mix Very Well.Olivier Gasquet - 1998 - Mathematical Logic Quarterly 44 (1):45-49.
Kant and Frege on Existence.Toni Kannisto - 2018 - Synthese (8):01-26.


Added to PP index

Total views
30 ( #271,350 of 2,243,713 )

Recent downloads (6 months)
13 ( #74,110 of 2,243,713 )

How can I increase my downloads?


My notes

Sign in to use this feature