Yagisawa, Takashi. A New Argument Against the Existence Requirement
2005, Analysis 65 (285): 39-42.
Added by: Nick Novelli
Abstract: It may appear that in order to be any way at all, a thing must exist. A possible - worlds version of this claim goes as follows: (E) For every x, for every possible world w, Fx at w only if x exists at w. Here and later in (R), the letter 'F' is used as a schematic letter to be replaced with a one - place predicate. There are two arguments against (E). The first is by analogy. Socrates is widely admired now but he does not exist now. So, it is not the case that for every x, for every time t, Fx at t only if x exists at t. Possible worlds are analogous to times. Therefore, (E) is false (cf., Kaplan 1973: 503 - 05 and Salmon 1981: 36 - 40). For the second argument, replace 'F' with 'does not exist'. (E) then says that for every x, for every possible world w, x does not exist at w only if x exists at w. This is obviously false. Therefore (E) is false (cf., Kaplan 1977: 498). Despite their considerable appeal, these arguments are not unassailable. The first argument suffers from the weakness inherent in any argument from analogy; the analogy it rests on may not.
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Comment: A very concise argument against the claim that existence is a prerequisite for having properties. This is a familiar claim, and this paper would be useful when it comes up to show that there is controversy about it. It does presuppose a basic understanding of possible world semantics, so should be reserved for courses where students already have a grasp of such semantics or the instructor wants to teach it beforehand.