Friday, December 09, 2011

On an existential problem suggested by Anthony

I am beginning to appreciate more the comments provided by Anthony (if only he would think before commenting, and not endlessly comment and delete - bear in mind that any comment whether deleted or not comes through my email box).

I suggested earlier that some things used to exist, but no longer exist.  Given my acceptance of Brentano's equivalence - that "some A is B" is equivalent to "Some A that is B exists", Anthony has spotted that this entails that some things are no longer things, and are thus not things (although, to be sure, they were things).  And indeed some men (e.g. Caesar) who were a man, are no longer a man.  Ergo, some men are not men.

This has the distinct whiff of paradox, which I will investigate later.

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16 Comments:

Blogger J said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

2:56 pm  
Blogger David Brightly said...

We have been here before, and probably more than once!

2:33 pm  
Blogger J said...

St. Thomas hisself, between his mystic generation discussion (su leche es sacro, hermano!) asserts
relation is a quantity, ie geometric (as Russell treats it). Temporality...another issue.

3:47 pm  
Blogger Anthony said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

10:25 pm  
Blogger Anthony said...

Some past-events are past-events? No?

10:25 pm  
Blogger Edward Ockham said...

>>We have been here before, and probably more than once!

Yes, and did we come to any conclusion?

10:52 am  
Blogger Edward Ockham said...

>>Some past-events are past-events? No?

Hmm. Perhaps we can say that to be a past event, is to have been a present event. Thus, some present events are no longer present, in the same way that some living men (Socrates) are no longer living. Solved.

10:58 am  
Blogger Anthony said...

>> Perhaps we can say that to be a past event, is to have been a present event.

If we're going to do that, we might as well say that to exist-simpliciter is to have existed in the past, to exist-presently, or to exist in the future, no?

3:26 pm  
Blogger Edward Ockham said...

>>If we're going to do that, we might as well say that to exist-simpliciter is to have existed in the past, to exist-presently, or to exist in the future, no?
<<

Interesting. Is your point that 'exist-simpliciter' is a verb in the present tense?

3:57 pm  
Blogger Anthony said...

>> Is your point that 'exist-simpliciter' is a verb in the present tense?

That wasn't my point. And whether or not [to] exist-simpliciter is a verb in the present is a good question. I'm going to take your suggestion and give it some thought before I attempt an answer.

4:22 pm  
Blogger David Brightly said...

>> and did we come to any conclusion?

No agreement, at any rate. As usual the discussion petered out in mutual incomprehension. One of the stumbling blocks for the Phoenicians was the question of a relation between an existing thing and a no longer existing thing.

>> Perhaps we can say that to be a past event, is to have been a present event.

Sure. I see no problem in saying with the present tense 'Caesar's crossing the Rubicon is a past event.' The 'past' takes precedence over the 'is'. Equally we could say 'Caesar's crossing the Rubicon was an event in the past.' Compare 'Socrates is dead' or 'Socrates is one of the philosophers we talk about'.

>> Thus, some present events are no longer present, in the same way that some living men (Socrates) are no longer living.

Yerwot?!?!

4:34 pm  
Blogger Edward Ockham said...

EB >> Thus, some present events are no longer present, in the same way that some living men (Socrates) are no longer living.
<<

DB>> Yerwot?!?!

Why not? We agreed that 'Caesar is not a man' is true, although Caesar was a man. So why not 'some man is not a man'. Here, the first 'man' means something like 'someone who was a man'. So, if you accept that, you can't quarrel with 'some present event is not a present event', meaning, something which was a present event (Caesar crossing the rubicon) is not a present event.

4:58 pm  
Blogger Anthony said...

>> We agreed that 'Caesar is not a man' is true, although Caesar was a man. So why not 'some man is not a man'.

Because if Caesar is not a man, then Caesar is not some man.

>> Here, the first 'man' means something like 'someone who was a man'.

You mean it means "someone who was, is, or will be a man", right?

Otherwise, "Some man is a man" is false.

>> So, if you accept that, you can't quarrel with 'some present event is not a present event'

Well, personally I think I see what you're getting at, but I can't say I accept it.

But my question was about whether or not "Some present event is a present event" is true, not about whether or not "Some present event is not a present event" is true.

Though, after this explanation, I'm also wondering whether or not you agree that "Some man is a man" is true.

6:17 pm  
Blogger David Brightly said...

I'll buy 'Someone who once was a man in now no longer a man'. Likewise 'Some event that was a present event is now no longer a present event.'

But:

>> We agreed that 'Caesar is not a man' is true
Hmm, I think you merely stipulated this in the post.

>> So why not 'some man is not a man'
Because 'Caesar is not a man' implies 'Caesar is not one of the men'. You haven't produced the someone among the men who is not a man. It's certainly not Caesar.

>> Here, the first 'man' means something like 'someone who was a man'
Fair enough, but unless we can make this quite clear on all occasions (which will be messy and ugly) we will drown in equivocation.

Surely we have a choice. In this instance where we are focusing on issues of past and present either

1. We take 'some man' to mean 'someone who was a man or who now is a man'
Or
2. We take 'some man' to mean 'someone who is now a man.'

More generally we just stipulate in advance which men we propose to quantify over and this bounds what 'some man' may refer to. It could be men alive, dead or alive, living in Midsomer, ever been married, whatever is appropriate, as long as we make it explicit and make appropriate adjustments elsewhere. Example: if we quantify over all men dead or alive then 'Caesar is a (ie, some) man' comes out true; if over inhabitants of Midsomer then false.

1:37 am  
Blogger David Brightly said...

I'm a bit puzzled that Brentano is formulated in terms of two concepts, A and B. I suspect that some of the present confusion arises because it's not clear what things fall under the concept 'man', which fills in for 'A'. Can we not simplify Brentano as 'some individual is a B' <---> 'some individual that is a B exists'? If we are being careful about tense we need to augment Brentano with a past tense version: 'some individual was a B' <---> 'some individual that was a B existed'. Otherwise we need to read the is/exists rendering as tenseless, and I think the notion of 'tenseless existence' just adds more chaos and confusion. Applying this to the present example we get 'some individual, viz Caesar, who was a man now no longer is a man'. By augmented Brentano we get 'some individual, viz Caesar, who once existed now no longer exists.' Does this not dissolve the problem?

12:50 pm  
Blogger Anthony said...

>> And whether or not [to] exist-simpliciter is a verb in the present [tense] is a good question.

I have concluded that it is. X exists-simpliciter is a statement about our present state of knowledge.

It is similar, it seems, to Brentano's "All A are B", which can apply even when no A presently-exist (e.g. "All dinosaurs are animals").

4:18 pm  

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