Disputatio 4 (34):575 (2012)

João Branquinho
Universidade de Lisboa
This paper has a negative and a positive claim. The negative claim is that the Frege-Russell account of existence as a higher-order predicate is mistaken and should be abandoned, even with respect to general statements of existence such as “Flying mammals exist” (where statements of this sort are supposed to be best accommodated by the account). The Frege-Russell view seems to be supported by two ideas. First, the idea that existence is entirely expressed by the existential quantifier of standard predicate logic. Second, the idea that the existential quantifier is a higher-order predicate, a predicate of predicates, not of individuals. I think that both ideas are wrong but will focus on the latter. By construing prima facie first-order statements such as “Flying Mammals exist” as higher-order predications such as “The Fregean Concept Flying Mammal maps at least one individual onto the True”, the Frege-Russell view commits one - merely on the basis of the meaning it assigns to the existence predicate – to abstract objects such as concepts (Gottlob Frege), or propositional functions (Bertrand Russell), or classes (Rudolf Carnap), or properties, kinds, and so on. This cannot be right, I think. The positive claim of the present paper is that, at least in the context of first-order discourse, the existence predicate is just what it seems to be: a bona fide first-order predicate (pace Kant, Hume, Frege, Russell and others). Three important ideas about existence are shared with the Frege-Russell conception of existence, though. (1) Being and existence are one and the same thing: there is no difference between “Unicorns are not”, or “There are no unicorns”, and “Unicorns do not exist”, or “There exist no unicorns”. (2) To be is to be the value of a bound variable, to belong to a domain of quantification (Willard Quine). (3) Anti-Meinongianism, the idea that there are no non-existent objects (Russell). However, we diverge from the Frege-Russell tradition with respect to the following claim. (4) The best concept of existence, in the sense of the one that is best understood and best enables us to formulate ontological disputes, is a purely logical first-level concept defined in terms of existential quantification and identity. First-order statements of existence and non-existence like “Flying Mammals exist” and “Unicorns do not exist” are accordingly taken at face value and analyzed in terms of a logical first-order predicate of existence, the predicate “is (identical to) something”. Reasons are given to prefer this notion of existence to other first-order non-logical notions that have been proposed in the literature, notions characterized in terms of predicates such as “is in space-time”, “is concrete”, “is causally efficacious”, “is actual”, “is real”, etc.
Keywords Existence  Quantification  Frege
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DOI 10.2478/disp-2012-0021
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References found in this work BETA

The Varieties of Reference.Gareth Evans - 1982 - Oxford University Press.
Demonstratives: An Essay on the Semantics, Logic, Metaphysics and Epistemology of Demonstratives and Other Indexicals.David Kaplan - 1989 - In Joseph Almog, John Perry & Howard Wettstein (eds.), Themes From Kaplan. Oxford University Press. pp. 481-563.
Modal Logic as Metaphysics.Timothy Williamson - 2013 - Oxford University Press.
On Denoting.Bertrand Russell - 1905 - Mind 14 (56):479-493.
The Foundations of Arithmetic.Gottlob Frege - 1953 - Evanston: Ill., Northwestern University Press.

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Citations of this work BETA

Ontological Commitment.Daniel Durante Pereira Alves - 2018 - AL-Mukhatabat 1 (27):177-223.
Existência.João Branquinho - 2015 - Compêndio Em Linha de Problemas de Filosofia Analítica.

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