Friday, January 20, 2012
We often say that certain things don't exist. Santa, unicorns, Sherlock Holmes, and Atlantis are a few examples. But consider the sentence "Unicorns do not exist." This sentence seems to have a subject-predicate form in that there is a subject--unicorns--to which a predicate or property--non-existence--is being attributed. Consider other subject-predicate sentences: Sarah is tall. John doesn't like mushrooms. Liza does not have a car. By saying that these various people have these various properties, we are implying that these people exist. But aren't we then doing the same thing when we say of unicorns that they do not exist. Aren't we saying that unicorns have a certain property; namely, the property of non-existence? If so, then what are we talking about that have this property but unicorns? There has to be a subject of the sentence. Here's another way to put this: To be able to truly claim of an object that it doesn't exist, it seems that one has to presuppose that it exists, for doesn't a thing have to exist if we are to make a true claim about it?