A perfect refutation
Philosophy, Medieval Logic and the London Plumbing Crisis
It left me breathless. Never, until these last days, had I understood the meaning of 'existence.' I was like all the others, like the ones walking along the seashore, all dressed in their spring finery. I said, like them, 'The ocean is green; that white speck up there is a seagull,' but I didn't feel that it existed or that the seagull was an 'existing seagull'; usually existence hides itself. It is there, around us, in us, it is us, you can't say two words without mentioning it, but you can never touch it. When I believed I was thinking about it, I must [have] believe[d] that I was thinking nothing, my head was empty, or there was just one word in my head, the word 'to be.' Or else I was thinking . . . how can I explain it? I was thinking of belonging, I was telling myself that the sea belonged to the class of green objects, or that that green was a part of the quality of the sea. Even when I looked at things I was miles from dreaming that they existed; they looked like scenery to me. I picked them up in my hands, they served me as tools, I foresaw their resistance. But that all happened on the surface.Omitting the novelistic turn of phrase ('breathless', 'obscene nakedness'), what is left?
If anyone had asked me what existence was, I would have answered, in good faith, that it was nothing, simply an empty form that was added to external things without changing anything in their nature. And then all of a sudden, there it was, clear as day: existence had suddenly unveiled itself. It had lost the harmless look of an abstract category: it was the very paste of things, this root was kneaded into existence. Or rather the root, the park gates, the bench, the sparse grass, all that had vanished: the diversity of things, their individuality, were only an appearance, a veneer. This veneer had melted, leaving soft, monstrous masses, all in disorder — naked, in a frightful, obscene nakedness. (p. 127 tr. Lloyd Alexander, ellipsis in original.)
But obviously the two hobbits don't have existence in the way that the cats do: my cats have actual existence and the hobbits don't and never did.Thus we cannot conflate existence with number.
‘A white man exists’ says all that ‘Some man is white’ says, but it says more: it makes explicit that there are one or more existing items that are such that they are both human and white. The existence-sentence is richer in meaning than the some-sentence. It makes explicit that the item that is both human and white exists, is not nothing, is mind-independently real -- however you want to put it.Will this work? I’m not sure. For the thin theorist, ‘there are one or more existing items’ and ‘there are one or more items’ or equivalent in meaning, by stipulation. The realist has failed to communicate anything.
A presupposition of (1)'s truth is that the domain of quantification -- the domain over which the variable 'A' ranges -- is a domain of existents. Therefore, if I want to know what it is for A to exist, you have not given me any insight by telling me that for A to exist is for A to be identical to something that exists. For of course the A is identical to something that exists, namely the A! Suppose we distinguish between semantic and metaphysical circularity. I am willing to concede that (1) is not semantically circular. But I do maintain that (1) is metaphysically circular: its truth presupposes that the domain of quantification is a domain of existing items.I reply: the fact that the "domain of quantification", i.e. all the items which satisfy 'A is B' is not a presupposition of the definition, but rather a consequence of it, for essentially the same reason I gave above. Let's first define 'satisfy':