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Grazer Philosophische Studien

Volume 51, 1996

Frederick Kroon
Pages 163-193
DOI: 10.5840/gps19965121

Characterizing Non-existents

Consider predicates like 'is a fictional character' and 'is a mythical object'. Since their ascription entails a corresponding Negative Existential claim, call these 'NE-characterizing predicates'. Objectualists such as Parsons, Sylvan, van Inwagen, and Zalta think that NE-characterizing properties are genuine properties of genuinely non-existent objects. But how, then, to make room for statements like 'Vulcan is a failed posit' and 'that little green man is a trick of the light'? The predicates involved seem equally NE-characterizing yet on the surface fail to mark a genuine property o f things. Instead, the truth of such predications strongly supervenes on types of referential failure. Kendall Walton's anti-objectualist account of talk about fiction provides a neat solution to this supervenience problem by invoking special games of make-believe. The present paper claims that while Walton's view thereby gains an important advantage over objectualism, the solution faces problems of its own. The rest of the paper desribes another solution, one that assigns a large role to the idea of metaphor.

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