On What There Is Not

1. Epistemic Certainty of the Process – In the Kripkensteinian Truth, I conceived of Recursive Reconstruction: that two agents in language \(L\) can arrive at a shared meaning of signifier \(S_{i}\), i.e. find the signified \(S_{d}\), in the recursive pursuit of the non-shared signifier-signified pairs until a shared signifier-signified pair is reached, as to allow a recursive backtrace, completing the initial aim of the shared meaning.

Let this be coined the Process. Following Truth, Certainty and Language, the Epistemic Certainty of Language, if developed, becomes the Epistemic Certainty of the Process. To formulate a detailed description of it would be useful, however that is another essay.

2. Ontological Dispute: McX and Quine – In On What There Is, Quine discusses the ontological problem, the question in the title: What There Is? The paper explores the problem through the perspective of fictional philosophers who share contrasting views from Quine (Q). 

Start with McX. He and Q are in dispute over the existence of s Pegasus. While McX can formulate his claim coherently, that Pegasus exists, Q confronts a problem in this regard. To claim the non-existence of the Pegasus, that Pegasus doesn’t exist, doesn’t Q presume the existence of a “Pegasus”. As he writes: This is the old Platonic riddle of nonbeing. Nonbeing must in some sense be, otherwise what is it that there is not?1

Therefore, McX holds that the Pegasus exists, in some capacity. Now, Q recognizes that contextually a difference exists, the material existence of Pegasus to be discerned from Pegasus-idea: “We may for the sake of argument concede that there is an entity… which is the mental Pegasus-idea; but this mental entity is not what people are talking about when they deny Pegasus”2.

Here, Wyman (W) enters. He maintains that the Pegasus exists, but is not actual. There are possible, both unactualized and actualized. While the Horse is an actualized possible, Pegasus is an unactualized possible. Now, Q resolves the incoherence of W’s possibles via Russealean Description Theory, still an approach founded in Universals, however as before, that remains a tangent.

3. Non-Existence w.r. Context – As founded in Truth, Certainty and Language, the analysis starts from Language in context, any assumption of Universals non-existent. Context as made certain by the Process.

When a claim is made that Pegasus is not, as Q correctly notes, it is made in the zoological context: that Pegasus doesn’t exist zoologically. However, Pegasus retains existence in other contexts, for instance Fiction. Any claim of existence, and non-existence, has meaning only if the context of said existence, and non-existence, is mentioned.

Hence, the strong atheist claim, God does not exist, can be made. As by its “definition”, God is made to supersede context, an entity entirely described in universals. Thus, its denial becomes trivial.

Non-Existence(X,C): That X cannot exist in (context) C, for the contextual facts that make up C doesn’t allow for the existence of X.

Maximally Non-Existent Entity: Any universal entities, as they “transcend” context in definition. For example, the concept of God.

Further study is needed on what contexts are epistemically valid, which ones make ‘sense’, in the Fregean sense of the term. Moreover, the mechanism that enabled, if any, the creation of contexts.

Now, the analysis of McX-W. In the contextual framework, actuals and possibles become redundant. Actuals, as referred to by McX and W, are replaced by materially existing entities. Possibles as imaginary conceptions of materially existing entities. Whether they have any connection to actual material entities, that their conception can be epistemically justified, is disputed. A genetically engineered Pegasus can epistemically exist, in the context of biology, but a Pegasus that shapeshifts has no epistemic grounding yet. 

3. Analysis of Wyman’s Ontology – Although a lack of information exists about W’s entire ontological system, based on the few details we have, one can arrive at an incoherence in it. A critique of the (apparent) universal ground of W.

First, what entities exist in W’s universe? There are actual possible and unactual possibles, actual synonymous to (materially) existing. Are there unactual impossibles, perhaps a “round square cupola”? “He (W) says that the phrase ‘round square cupola’ is meaningless”3. Note the lack of meaning owing to contradiction, the coexistence of round and square as descriptors.

Therefore, it’s reasonable to assume W’s allegiance to propositional logic grounded in universals. Thus, a variation of the Wittegensteinian observation helps: the meaninglessness of tautologies.

Descriptor Lemma: A descriptor for all objects in a set of nature \(N\), any criteria that groups them in the set, only has meaning if not all objects align with the description prescribed. 

Proof. Assume a descriptor d for all objects in set \(S\),. Then let \(S_{1}\), be all objects in the set \(S\), with descriptor \(d\),. Here \(S_{1}=S\), implying \(S_{1}\), to be a tautology. Hence, the descriptor d has no meaning.

Applying the lemma, the descriptor of “possible” has no meaning. As the set of entities with the descriptor and without contain the exact same members.

How does the resolution of Q’s problem happen? In context, actuality refers to material existence. Thus, in claiming that Pegasus isn’t actual, we claim its material non-existence. Any claim, that X is unactual, is a negation of its existence in materiality. There requires no conception of it to necessitate its non-existence (negation). 

4. Reinventing Kant – In the Critique of Pure Reason, Kant shows how existence fails to be a predicate. The argumentative crux the fact that, to say X exists adds nothing to the concept of X. While in agreement with it, at least in the argumental context, the theoretical development so far offers a new way to conceive existence as predicate: Existence as determination.

Existence: the synthetic process that meta-explicates the context of the concept’s existence. It acts as a predicate in the meta-contextual level, illuminating the contextual grounds of the Sign, referring to the respective Signified. 

For instance –
1. God exists, in biblical fiction. 
2. Unicorns exist in fictional stories.
3. Man exists, in material reality.

Existence without said explication, where an ode to the context is incomplete, holds undetermined meaning. That the predicate of existence only holds meaning in its function as determination, implicitly or explicitly.

Citations

1. Quine. (1948). p. 1
2. Quine. (1948). p. 1
3. Quine. (1948). p. 3

References

Krishna. Niranjan. (2023). The Kripkensteinian Truth.
https://niranjankrishna.in/2023/11/11/the-kripkensteinian-truth

Krishna. Niranjan. (2023). Truth, Certainty and Language
https://niranjankrishna.in/2023/06/03/truth-certainty-and-language

Quine, W. V. (1948). On What There Is. The Review of Metaphysics, 2(5), 21–38.

Kant, Immanuel. (1781). Critique of Pure Reason


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