UBC Theses and Dissertations

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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Logic and existence Skosnik, Jeffrey Paul


This thesis is a logical/historical inquiry into the concept of being. Relative to this concept, there are (I contend) two great traditions in Western philosophy. According to the one, the predicational use of the verb 'to be' is not independent of its existential use; according to the other, it is. That is to say, the first tradition assumes that 'a is F' entails 'a exists', while the other tradition denies this entailment. There are prima facie problems in both traditions, and the thesis attempts to resolve those arising on the assumption that the entailment holds. The thesis does not assume that either tradition as such is wrong. It is rather maintained that we may adopt either forms of language in which the predicational use of 'to be' is not independent of its existential use, or else forms of language in which the two uses are independent. When we make the first move, the result is a Fregean style of quantification theory in which existential generalization holds as an unconditionally valid form of inference; when we make the second move, the result is a free logic such as we find in the systems of Lambert and van Fraassen. Though I do not attempt to discredit either tradition as a whole, I do criticize specific claims made by the adherents of both traditions. On the whole, however, I am far more critical of those in the tradition to which the free logicians belong than I am of those in the tradition to which Frege belongs. The thesis attempts to show that in Frege's quantification theory we have a satisfactory explication of our concept of existence. The thesis offers some reasons for thinking that in the alternative tradition of the free logicians no such explication has yet emerged. The thesis concludes with a brief account of modality in which it is not assumed that individuals can possess characteristics independently of their existence.

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