Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Analytic vs European

There is a further installment from the Maverick in the dispute about the thin conception of existence. Maverick asks whether I think the notion of a non-existent object is self-contradictory. I reply: we need to be shown that it is self-contradictory. The thin conception of existence is first and foremost a definition, and you can't argue against a definition as such. The only way of progressing is to show how the defined term in its ordinary (or perhaps philosophical) use is not consisent with the definition. But I am not seeing that in any of Maverick's arguments, and particularly the 'circularity' argument, which I entirely fail to understand.

One of his arguments, for example, is that there is an inbuilt assumption that the domain of quantification contains only existing things. But in what sense is he using the italicised 'existing' here? If in the sense that the Brentano defines it, then the domain does contain only existing things, but in the most trivial and non-circular way, for the word 'thing', by definition, means 'existing thing' or 'thing which is a thing'. If in some stronger sense, Maverick needs to explain what that sense is. Those of us trained in the analytic method are taught to give examples. Find a use of the verb 'exists' that is not consistent with the definition set out by Brentano. But I am not seeing that.

Maverick ends:
Ed begs the question against me by simply stipulating that the meaning of the verb 'exists' shall be identical to the meaning of 'Some ___ is a --.' That is what I deny.
Not at all. I am questioning his arguments to show that 'exists' has any meaning stronger than that. I would like to see an argument with numbered steps, with assumptions clearly labelled, with any deductive steps clearly identified. All I am seeing is European 'novelistic' gestures at an argument, with laboured repetition of the same point, and without logical justification of that point. Like CJFW, who I mentioned in an earlier post, I don't do Continental.

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