[hist-analytic] "Santa Claus does not exist"
Jlsperanza at aol.com
Jlsperanza at aol.com
Thu Nov 5 12:19:31 EST 2009
Empty Names -- and the history of analytic philosophy
D. Frederick writes to R. B. Jones,
"It is not possible to say (truly) in first-order logic that Santa Claus
does not exist."
to which R. B. Jones replies,
"We are back on the "vacuous names" tack here which gave much entertainment
Speranza a while back. There a multiple strategies which enable the
expression in first order logic of
the claim that Santa Claus does not exist, the most famous of course is
Russell's doctrine that "Santa Claus" should be construed as a description
formalised by the method described in his paper "On Denoting". There is a
difficulty in knowing what kind of first order formalisation is
satisfactory, since we have no generally accepted criteria for when sentences
in distinct languages express the same proposition. However, I would
suggest that the principle difficulty here is in deciding what is the meaning of
"Santa Clause does not exist", once that is done finding a
way of saying the same thing in first order logic will be much less
problematic. [And regarding D. Frederick's query, "Do you think that the
claims that Santa Claus is not a name, and that 'Nothing is identical to
Santa Claus' is ill-formed, are as obvious as parts of elementary mathematics?
They seem to me to be obviously false"]. I am inclined to agree with you on
this, though I can't see what bearing this has on the matter at issue
(which is I believe, whether first order logic is
I agree with ... Sant..., er I mean R. B. Jones.
Santa Claus does not exist.
As per the definition of 'exist', I take it, via meaning postulate (cfr.
Aune, "A fake duck is no duck"),
... is a spatio-temporal continuant.
Surely the "concept" of "Santa Claus" exists (if we are materialistic, in
the brain of some children). But, with Frege (re: horses) we can say that
the concept of "Santa Claus" is not a concept.
So, the obvious answer is to say that "Santa Claus" is an _empty_ name. So
is "Socrates". But whereas Socrates once _filled_ "Socrates", agnostics
claim that "Santa Claus" never allowed for a containee.
Grice writes, "We don't want (no) Meinongian jungle", in his "Vacuous
Names", and we don't. To refer to "Santa Claus" as a _full_ (i.e. not empty or
vacuous) name makes the whole vacuous/full distinction ... otiose.
Now, Nicholas of (Alexandria?) is claimed, by some, to have been the real
"Santa Claus", so we should consider here different "dossiers", to use
"Santa Claus, whoever he was, did not exist"
"Santa Claus did not exist, but the person some persons believed to have
filled the empty name, 'Santa Claus' _certainly_ existed."
So, in the second utterance, the dossier (for "Santa Claus") is a 'narrow'
one. As opposed to little Tommy's dossier for which, "Santa Claus is a
bearded good old man who gives gifts to most children in the world, the good
ones, lives in the North Pole, and flies in a rein-moved flying carriage".
J. L. Speranza
-------------- next part --------------
An HTML attachment was scrubbed...
More information about the hist-analytic