Philosophy and Phenomenological Research

Volume 73, Issue 2, September 2006

Risto Vilkko, Jaakko Hintikka
Pages 359-377

Existence and Predication from Aristotle to Frege

One of the characteristic features of contemporary logic is that it incorporates the Frege-Russell thesis according to which verbs for being are multiply ambiguous. This thesis was not accepted before the nineteenth century. In Aristotle existence could not serve alone as a predicate term. However, it could be a part of the force of the predicate term, depending on the context. For Kant existence could not even be a part of the force of the predicate term. Hence, after Kant, existence was left homeless. It found a home in the algebra of logic in which the operators corresponding to universal and particular judgments were treated as duals, and universal Judgments were taken to be relative to some universe of discourse. Because of the duality, existential quantifier expressions came to express existence. The orphaned notion of existence thus found a new home in the existential quantifier.