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2005 What is Existence?

What is Existence?


Nathan Salmon

University of California, Santa Barbara



Four accounts, three of them Kantian, of true sentences of the form “a exists” are contrasted. Russell’s theory that such sentences are meaningless is contrasted with two other Kantian theories that are analogous to one another: Frege’s semantic-ascent theory and the Frege-inspired ungerade (indirect, “oblique”) theory. Frege’s objection to the semantic-ascent account of identity is applied, ironically with equal force, against his account of existence. A second argument favoring the ungerade theory is offered. The argument is then refuted through an application of a general strategy suggested by Kripke. A fourth theory, the deeply anti-Kantian existence-as-predicate theory, fully accommodates these results.

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