'The roles of convention and experience in a unified theory of existence statements'

Senior, Michael (1991). 'The roles of convention and experience in a unified theory of existence statements'. PhD thesis The Open University.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.21954/ou.ro.00010160

Abstract

Statements are made both in philosophy and in other disciplines about whether or not an item exists. Attention is normally focused on the answer, and therefore on the item posited, rather that on what is meant by the statement. Possibly as a result of this there seems to have developed a range of possible meanings to the assertion, denial or question of existence, and this in turn has given rise to various philosophical problems. An attempt is made here to simplify the situation. It is proposed that all existence statements carry the same import, and that if this were understood both confusions and disagreements would disappear. The investigation to this end proceeds (in Section I) by identifying the problems in the sphere of existence statements by means of historical examples, which in turn will show that in spite of attempted solutions residual problems remain. With these in mind a clarification of the subject is undertaken by considering (in Section II) a range of existence statements and the methods used for disputing and determining them. The conclusion reached is that the meaning of existence statements always depends both on convention or agreement on the one hand. and on experience or observation on the other, as opposed to being exclusively related to either: that both are necessary factors In the Identification of their meaning while neither is sufficient. The third Section then clarifies these terms, and finally the fourth states and tests the theory.

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