Show Summary Details

p. 242. How can we speak of what does not exist?locked

  • Michael Beaney

Abstract

Statements that purportedly refer to something that does not exist, whether fictional or not, have been especially problematic in the history of philosophy. ‘How can we speak of what does not exist?’ suggests that in order to understand existential statements, we need to recall Frege’s claim that number statements are assertions about concepts. Existential statements are really just a type of number statement. When we make an existential claim, we are not attributing a first-level concept to an object, but a second-level concept to a first-level concept. The work of Bertrand Russell (1872–1970) is also discussed along with the Russell Paradox and his Theory of Descriptions.

Access to the complete content on Very Short Introductions online requires a subscription or purchase. Public users are able to search the site and view the abstracts and keywords for each book and chapter without a subscription.

Please subscribe or login to access full text content.

If you have purchased a print title that contains an access token, please see the token for information about how to register your code.

For questions on access or troubleshooting, please check our FAQs, and if you can't find the answer there, please contact us.