[SydPhil] University of Sydney Postgraduate Colloquium Aug 13

Tama Coutts Iliketora at rocketmail.com
Fri Aug 10 13:03:57 AEST 2012

Hey All,

The details for our second talk of semester two follow. All are welcome.

Simon Varey

 Title: The Many Problems of Existential Import


logicians have discussed certain apparent contradictions in (at least
some versions of) term logic under the name ‘the problem of
existential import’. What is often unclear in these discussions is
what the ‘problem’ of the problem of existential import is
supposed to be. A contradiction does not a problem make, at least not
in itself. In this talk, I will suggest that there are many problems
that may be thought of as the problem of existential import, but only
some of these problems should be of concern to us. In particular, I
will examine two problems that I believe are particularly important.
One of these is the historical problem: the problem of explaining how
the contradictions in term logic went unnoticed for so long. The
other is the linguistic problem: the problem of explaining why the
premises leading to the contradictions in term logic seem to have the
intuitive appeal they have, while their conclusion seems obviously
wrong. I will suggest that an integral aspect of solving these
problems is P. F. Strawson’s observation in Introduction to Logical
Theory that categorical propositions in natural language presuppose
the non-emptiness of their subject terms. This observation, I will
suggest, is best understood in terms of Robert Stalnaker’s notion
of reasonable inference. Together, these notions will allow us to
interpret term logic as a system of inferences under presupposition,
and within such an interpretation the contradictions surrounding the
problem of existential import will not arise.
3pm, Mon Aug 13

Philosophy common-room, quadrangle building, University of Sydney
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