The Semantics of Existence
Friederike Moltmann IHPST (Paris1/ENS/CNRS) email@example.com
1. Introduction The notion of existence has puzzled philosophers for a very long time, and a great range of views about that notion can be found throughout the history of philosophy. While some philosophers think that existence and ontological commitment can and perhaps should be pursued independently of the linguistic form of the relevant sentences, the linguistic form of statements of existence has also often been taken to be revealing as to the ontological issues themselves. In any case, it is a worthwhile and important project to see what the actual semantics of sentences expressing existence in fact is, and it is what the present paper aims to pursue. This paper explores the linguistic semantics of statements of existence with respect to its philosophically relevant aspects, but it also yields a number of results that are of interest to linguistic semantics as such, for example concerning the distinction between stage-level and individual-level predicates and the semantics of stative and eventive verbs. The verb exist is of course a central expression for making statements about existence. Many philosophers have expressed particular views concerning that expression (or occurrences of it), though at the same time exist has hardly been a subject of study in linguistic semantics, it seems because of its apparent ‘technical’ and thus marginal status. This paper explores the semantics of sentences with verbs of existence, not just with the verb exist, but also other predicates of existence, such as occur or obtain and the somewhat related expression real. It appears that from the point of view of natural language semantics, exist and other existence verbs do not in fact behave that exceptionally, but pattern in a number of respects together with other classes of predicates, in ways that are revealing for the philosophical issues themselves. I will focus on verbs of existence when they occur predicatively, as in (1) and (2): (1) a. The man we talked about exists. b. The golden mountain does not exist.
(2) Electrons exist. These examples illustrate in what ways exist seems so peculiar as a predicate. In (1a), exist appears to apply trivially, stating that an existing man exists. In (1b), exist is said to be false of the subject referent – an object that is said not to exist. In (2), exist seems to not act as a predicate at all, but to express existential quantification While there is a major philosophical tradition according to which existence statements are not semantically subject-predicate statements, more recently a number of philosophers have defended the view that exist is in fact a first-order extensional predicate, at least with singular terms as subjects. In this paper I will explore this view in its full generality. I will argue that existence predicates such as exist and others like occur and obtain have a particular lexical meaning, which matches the particular nature of the entities they apply to. At the same time, exist has certain features that make it applicable independently of the type of entities in particular contexts. I will argue that exist acts as a first-order extensional predicate also in (2), where the bare plural has in fact the status of a kind-referring term rather than being quantificational. Sentences with the verb exist as in (1) and (2) have a very different semantics from certain other sentences that can be used to express existence, in particular there-sentences and existentially quantified sentences. There-sentences and quantificational sentences may involve a significantly greater domain of entities than what exist could be true of. This may suggest that exist is on a par with the adjectival predicate real, but in fact the two expressions are fundamentally different linguistically and carry different ontological implications. I will first point out a range of differences between there-sentences and sentences with existence predicates and propose particular lexical analyses of different existence predicates. I then will give an account of existence statements with bare plurals and mass nouns as involving kind reference. Finally, I will compare the predicate exist to the expression real. 2. Existence statements and there-sentences In philosophy, there are two opposing views on existence. On one view, existence is a univocal concept and closely tied to existential quantification and counting: if there is one thing and there is another thing, even of a very different kind, then there are two things. On the other view, things of different kinds may ‘exist’ in fundamentally different ways. While there have been philosophical considerations put forward for the one view or the other, it
appears that natural language in fact supports both views.1 There are two distinct types of sentences corresponding to the two views: there-sentences as well as sentences with simple existential quantifiers (some) reflect the first notion of existence; existence statements, which may contain a variety of existence predicates (such as exist, occur, take place, obtain), reflect the second notion. While there are different existence predicates for existence statements, exist at the same time has special semantic features that make it suitable as a univocal concept, applying to entities of any sorts. There-sentences and existence statements differ in several linguistic respects: with respect to their syntactic structure, with respect to the ‘ontological commitment’ they carry, and with respect to any constraints on the kinds of entities they may be ‘about’. There-sentences consist in there, followed by a verb (such as the copula be), a weak NP (an NP carrying existential import), and possibly a 'coda', a predicative expression of some sort; in (3a), the coda is empty giving the statement an existential interpretation; in (3b), the coda is a location modifier, giving the statement a locational interpretation:2
(3) a. There are black swans. b. There is [a man] [in the garden]. Existence statements have a very different syntactic structure: they are subject-predicate sentences with a verb of existence as predicate, such as exist, occur, or obtain, and any kind of NP (not just a weak NP) as subject, such as a singular or plural terms or a bare (that is, determinerless) plural or mass noun: (4) a. The president of France exists. b. The students exist. c. Vulcan does not exist. d. Natural numbers exist.
See van Inwagen (1998) for a philosophical discussion of the two views and a defense of the former, and McDaniel (to appear a, b) for a recent defense of the latter. The latter view was also that of Aristotle and Ryle.
There-sentences may also contain an implicit location restriction. Thus (1b) can be understood as in (1a) in a particular context: (1) a. There are exactly three scientists in this laboratory that can solve the problem. b. There are exactly three scientists that can solve the problem. (can be understood as ‘in this laboratory’)
The common view about (4c) is that it is a quantificational statement just like (3a). I will later argue that (4c) is in fact entirely parallel to (4a) (on its most natural reading). There-sentences and existence statements are not just syntactically different; they also display fundamental semantic differences.3 The first difference is one of ‘ontological commitment’: There-sentences can quantify over past, merely possible, and merely intentional objects, objects that exist (or other existence predicates) could not be true of: (5) a. There are historical buildings that no longer exist. b. There are possible buildings that do not actually exist. c. There are imaginary buildings that do not exist. (6) a. There are buildings built in the past that no longer exist. b. There are buildings I might have built that do not exist. c. There are buildings John thought of that do not exist. In these sentences, it is the particular construction and semantic context that enables quantification over such 'nonexistent' objects. In (5), existential quantification over past, possible and intentional objects is made possible by the intensional adjectives historical, possible, and imaginary. In (6), it is made possible by the use of relative clauses containing a modal verb (requiring a relative-clause-internal interpretation of the head of the relative clause buildings). Without such modifiers the sentences could not possibly be true:
(7) ?? There are buildings that do not exist. The contrast between (5a, 6a) and (7) also shows that ordinary sortal predicates like building are existence-entailing, just like exist itself. Exist cannot be true of past and merely possible objects because such objects are not in the domain of the presently actual ones. Exist cannot be true of intentional objects, either. Intentional, ‘nonexistent’ objects are highly controversial and require an in-depth discussion that goes beyond the scope of this paper (McGinn 2000, author, ms). In this paper, I will assume that natural language does permit intentional objects as denotations of noun phrases, as is particularly plausible for sentences like (5c) and (6c), though not too much in the subsequent discussion hinges on this assumption. I will follow McGinn (2000) in taking intentional objects to be the denotations of NPs that fail to have an
Priest (2005) takes there-sentences and exist-sentences to pattern the same semantically and to be distinct from quantification (which for him allows for a grater domain of quantification), erroneously, I think.
different existence predicates (exist.
For a critical discussion of McGinn’s (2000) view see van Inwagen (2008). …). b. intentional objects then are things that essentially do not exist. not the there-construction or quantification as such. Exist generally can apply only to entities that are not events.
A-temporal exist can apply to events.5
actual referent. c. take place. Some imaginary buildings do not exist. and take place in what follows. for which exist is defined. b. and I will turn to it in the next section. but is not true of (unlike of fictional characters (author.4 Ordinary existential quantification shares with there-sentences the ability to quantify over ‘nonexistent’entities: some can be used to quantify over past.
. happen. obtain. but it is a use of exist that is to be distinguished from tensed exist. occur. and intentional objects. The second difference concerns different types of entities. The murder * existed / ok occurred. It is clear from these examples that the ‘ontological commitment’ that may be expressed by there-sentences or existentially quantified sentences has to do with the use of an existenceentailing predicate. happen. I will come to the specific lexical meanings of (tensed) exist and occur later. while stating that they do not exist: (8) a. I will disregard the difference between occur. in particular when it involves a temporal specification (such as past tense). John’s speech * existed / ok took place this morning. ms)). in Section 4. which allow for quantification over any type of entity with the same kinds of quantifiers (some. Some historical buildings no longer exist. Some possible buildings do not actually exist. such as occur. possible. There are instead specific existence predicates for events. remain) are generally restricted to particular kinds of entities. that is. By contrast. and take place:5
(10) a. There-sentences differ from existence statements by allowing quantification over any kind of entity: (9) There were many objects / events / facts / situations / … The same holds for ordinary quantificational sentences. a.
Possibilities may obtain or remain: (1) a. Austin (1979) famously disagreed with Strawson (1950) on the ontological status of facts. physical. predicated of a concept denoted by the subject. The possibility that John is no longer chairman obtains. because his not being chairman any longer is not excluded by what the interlocutors are supposed to know. but it may be entirely dependent on concrete objects as well as properties of them and relations among them. and situations might be said to ‘exist’. The possibility that John will become chairman remains.
. Yet another existence predicate is live or be alive. and that is that they are not in the world. but ‘at’ a world. understood as deontic possibility. But there can be no such thing as the possibility that John can lift the table. b. at least primarily. Possibilities are in fact not on a par with possible objects which have being independently of what is actually the case and what is actually known. say. This means that the predicates obtain and remain locate entities at a world. Live applied to biological entities presupposes a body. This tradition includes Kant’s view that existence is not a property as well as Frege’s view according to which exist is a second-order predicate. not. some philosophers tried to do justice to the fact that exist in
This is a view not shared by all philosophers. Thus. existence means validity. Obtain and remain are existence predicates that are restricted to abstract entities of the sort of facts and situations. the possibility that John is no longer chairman exists. in the world (unless used in a derivative way).6
Entities such as facts. but rather it is excluded because of what I know. is that such an entity is an abstraction from objects in the world and properties of them as well as relations among them: it is an abstract entity and thus lacks a location. What are possibilities as the referents of terms like the possibility that S ? Possibilities obviously are only partial possible worlds. or the possibility that we may enter the room. the man still exists). deontic. More recently.7 Another existence predicate applies specifically to laws: a law exists in a state s just in case it is valid in s. or metaphysical possibilities.
This also holds for the possibilities that are the referents of terms of the sort the possibility that S. and the possibility that I do not exist does not obtain because of what is metaphysically possible. but they more naturally ‘obtain’ or ‘remain’. as Strawson (1950) put it.6 A plausible view of what makes an entity be at a world rather than in the world. as characterized by the content of the that-clause. Even though exist in existence statements is obviously a predicate syntactically. however. understood as physical possibility. in the case of laws. and in fact possibilities as referents of terms of the sort the possibility that S can only be epistemic possibilities. possibilities. there is a significant philosophical tradition of proposals according to which the existence verb in such sentences does not have the function of predicating a property of the subject referent. Again. but the biological entity exists just as long as it has a ‘life’. whereas exist locates entities. the predicate exist can somewhat marginally be applied to biological organisms (the horse still exists. Why do obtain and remain not apply to ordinary objects? There is one common property of the kinds of entities that are facts or situations.
the fact that different existence predicates apply to different kinds of entities gives a good piece of further support for the view. Crucially. McGinn (2000)). whereas existential quantification just ‘counts’ entities in whatever way they are. The fact that exist is not true of all the objects one can quantify over or make reference to was a crucial motivation for Salmon to take it to be a predicate. 1998). exist appears to be able to apply to intentional entities of any sort in negative existence statements and questions. as in (11) or. It means that existence predicates have a particular lexical content.
. happen. all other existence predicates are false of entities if they are intentional entities of the presupposed type. it has special features making it in some sense applicable to the larger domain of entities as such. on this use. Does the Third World War exist? (12) The medieval war mentioned in the book exists. live can never apply to non-biological entities.b) exist acts as a predicate also semantically (Salmon (1987. and is valid cannot apply to other things than laws. imposing particular conditions on the objects they can apply to. Other existence predicates cannot apply in this way: occur. This peculiarity of exist manifests itself in three kinds of contexts. 3. This difference is obviously a difference in the presuppositional part of the lexical meanings of the predicates in question: exist is false of entities if they are merely intentional. and applies even to objects in the past without temporal specification. Miller (1986). exist is tensed. First. Yet not all existence predicates are alike in that respect. A secondary meaning of exist Different kinds of existence predicates appear to attribute particular ‘ways of being’ to particular types of entities. The Third World War does not exist. in fact. b. and take place can never apply to enduring objects or facts and obtain can never apply to events or enduring objects. to entities that might have been merely intentional entities.7
existence statements is a predicate linguistically and have argued that at least with singular terms as in (4a. Even though exist occurs as a predicate with a lexical meaning restricting it to entities with no temporal parts. as in (12): (11) a.
Among the other existence predicates only locational or existential remain are possible in there-sentences: (15) a. All other existence predicates do not fare that well in there-sentences: (16) a.
. Three people remained in the garden. ?? There obtains no other possibility. exist differs from other existence predicates in its ability to occur in theresentences: (14) a. Political protests do not exist in Bhutan. Finally.8
Exist is special also in its ability to occur with bare plurals and mass nouns that may describe entities of any sort: (13) a. ? There occurred three murders this morning. b. There remained three people in the garden. b. There are different views of how there-sentences are interpreted and these observations obviously bear on the issue. b. d. There remains no other possibility. There exists a man in Germany that can solve the problem. b. On one view. No other possibility remains. c. There exists a man that can solve the problem. ?? There live still three men of her family. (15a) is interpreted as in (17a) and (15b) as in (17b): (17) a. to replace there. b. discussed in Higginbotham (1987). what follows there is just interpreted like an ordinary existence statement. ?? There took place a protest in this country. Great wars still exist. Thus. in virtue of a movement of the weak NP to sentence-initial position.
Given this generalization. If the verb in there-sentences is a predicate of location. According to Higginbotham. as in (14a). On the locational use. Thus. here the presupposition is simply that the subject stands for a non-intentional or an intentional object. if [NP] is empty. I take this to be a secondary meaning of exist. not the other existence predicates. this can explain its application to objects not satisfying the sortal requirements of exist as an existence predicate. so that the coda is considered a specification of a location in a somewhat extended sense (including a domain of entities sharing a property). One of them is the inability of most predicates of existence to occur after there. acting somewhat pleonastically as equivalent to locational be.
Another argument against the view is that in many languages verbs occur after existential pleonastic pronouns that have no use as existence predicates. [exist]w([NP]) = 0 if [NP] is an intentional object. Rather. or situations. If exist has a secondary meaning as a locational predicate. [exist]w([NP]) = undefined otherwise. also the possibility of remain in there-sentences. in the former case. simply do not occur in there-sentences. it will not require that objects it applies to be enduring objects.9
There are problems for this view. and German geben ‘give’. the location is specified by the overt location modifier or in the absence of a location modifier. it will be the actual world.e. if exist in negative existentials as in (14a) has in fact a locational meaning. exist expresses a relation between entities (of any sort) and locations. in the latter it is not: (18) [exist]w ([NP]) = 1 if [NP] is a non-intentional object. In theresentences. . events. French has avoir ‘have’ in existential sentences. though. exist is true of the object. exist in there-sentences should also be considered locational. with their ordinary meaning. A more plausible view of be in there-sentences than as existential is as locational be (as in John is in Paris). is explained: only remain. has a locational use (John remained in Paris). Also. whether they are existence predicates of objects. exist occurs with its locational meaning and thus does not impose a sortal requirement at all. a meaning available only in a context in which exist cannot occur as a true existence predicate with its usual lexical meaning (which I turn to in the next section). as opposed to other existence predicates.
. be in there-sentences is in fact the be of existence. i. a problematic suggestion because be is hardly used for expressing existence anymore. and exist is entirely exceptional in that respect.8 Ordinary existence predicates.
whereas objects are enduring objects that have only spatial parts. namely the fact
Exist can also apply to a temporal stage of an individual:
(1) The Berlin of the 1920ies does not exist anymore. 4. An object is an entity that is wholly present at each instance of its lifespan. Natural language does not seem to reflect that view.
. (the whole of) x is present at t’ in w. Thus. occur is true of x at a time t in a world w iff for any proper part t' of t. in first approximation. exist is true of x at a time t in a world w iff for any subinterval t' of t. though. not that of an event. The difference between exist and occur indicates that exist does not just locate entities in a world at a time. not the whole of the event. only some proper part of x is present at t' in w.9 Objects and events differ fundamentally in their ability to have temporal parts. By contrast. This means that a temporal stage of an individual still has the ontological status of an object. The primary meaning of exist and the meaning of occur We can now turn to the particular lexical content of exist and occur. at a given moment that is a proper part of an event’s duration. rather it does it in a way that has to do with a fundamental difference between objects and events. though.
10 There are also philosophical views. for some crucial difference between the two verbs. for example that of Sider (2001). that is. events are perduring entities with temporal parts. its parts are not temporal. b. only a temporal part of the event is present. at least according to one important view10: according to that view. the conditions on the application of exist may be stated as follows:
(19) a. For an entity x that can have temporal parts.
Stating the content of exist and occur in terms of such application conditions on objects does not yet account.10
The secondary location meaning will also be relevant when specifying the particular meaning exist has with bare plurals and mass nouns. according to which both objects and events can have temporal parts and thus according to which there is no fundamental ontological difference between objects and events. For an entity x that cannot have temporal parts.
an entity e with temporal parts. * The building is currently existing. Given the Davidsonian view on which events act as implicit arguments of verbs. and an interval t.t iff e consists in the presence of (the whole of) x in w at t’ for any subinterval t’ of t. unexpected. The existence of the building clearly describes a state. whereas occur is an accomplishment or achievement verb that describes events that would also be the referents of NPs with the corresponding nominalization. but not to exist: (20) a. exist is a stative verb which describes states that would also be the referents of NPs with the corresponding nominalization. ‘The occurrence of the murder’ is not the same event as ‘the murder’: The latter may have been done with an axe. whereas the occurrence of the protest describes an event. describes a state that is the presence of the whole of x during the time in question. The latter can have typical event properties. by contrast. the event or state that nominalizations stand for is quite simply the implicit event or state argument of the verb from which the nominalization was derived. <e. e’> ∈ [occur]w. such as the occurrence of the murder. the lexical meaning of exist and occur can thus be characterized as below: (21) a.11
that exist is a stative verb and occur an eventive verb. the former cannot be any of that. or early. b. For a world w. such as the existence of the president of France. b. <e. Exist when applied to an object x. occur when applied to an event e describes another event that consists in the transitions among the ‘presences’ of the parts of e at relevant subintervals that belong to the duration of e. The protest is finally occurring / taking place. x> ∈ [exist]w.t iff e consists of transitions from the presence of e’’ in w at t to the presence of e’’’ in w at t’’ for any minimal parts e’ and e’’ of e for which there are subsequent subintervals t’ and t’’ at which e’ and e’’ take place.
. an entity x without temporal parts. This difference is particularly apparent from the possibility of applying the progressive to occur. such as ‘being sudden’. Given that view. though it could be sudden. which the former cannot. it is an event that is entirely constituted by transitions from the temporal location of one part of e to the temporal location of another part of e. and an interval t. An occurrence of an event e in fact is an event that does not have any inherent qualitative properties and in that respect generally differs from e. Thus. The difference is also reflected in the corresponding nominalizations. For a world w. may have been grisly and brutal. With Davidsonian event arguments.
b.?? Several universities exist in this city. * Every cat we talked about exists in this city.12
Thus. c. b.* The man we talked about exists. the lexical content of exist involves mapping an object onto a (non-qualitative) state of the object at a time. * Most people mentioned in this book exist in Germany. such modifiers are completely excluded: (23) a. (to be understood: ‘in this country’).* The man we talked about exists in another city. The lexical content of occur involves mapping an event onto a nonqualitative event that reflects the temporal part structure of the former. By contrast. * Mary does not exist. The difference in the kinds of events that exist and occur describe can explain a further difference between the two existence predicates. location restrictions (modifying the verb or entire sentence. ?? At least five million people exist. ?? At least five million people exist in this country. * Mary does not exist in Germany. b. (to be understood: ‘in this city’). (to be understood: ‘in Germany’).?? Several universities exist. b. With singular terms and strong quantifiers. First. c. namely a difference in location modification. location modifiers are at least marginally acceptable:
(27) a. * The only man who can solve the problem exists in Germany. (26) a. with weak quantifiers as subjects. Exist-sentences with singular terms do not allow an implicit location restriction either: (25) a. There are two exceptions to the constraint against location modifiers in existence statements. Existence statements with occur do allow for location restrictions: (22) The murder occurred in Munich. (to be understood: ‘in another city’). Several / Exactly three hundred / At least ten cats exist in this village
. (24) a. b. not the subject) are generally not possible in existence statements with exist.
. In that construction. One building in this village still exists. exist either does not have an event argument or else its event argument is
Williams (1984) argued that the subject position of there-sentences and the postverbal weak NP are linked by coindexing. There exist three scientists in this city. b. The relative tolerance of location modifiers in (27) can be related to the acceptability of location modifiers in the corresponding there-sentences: (29) a. Wild ponies do not exist in Germany. Pure air does not exist in China anymore. The sentences in (27) in fact arguably are derived from the same underlying syntactic structure as a there-sentence. adverbial modifiers will be predicates of an implicit event argument.13
Second. There exist at least five million people in this country.11 That meaning is also at stake in exist-sentences with bare plurals or mass nouns as subjects. recall. Given a Davidsonian event semantics. exist-sentences with bare plurals or mass nouns as subjects are unproblematic with location modifiers: (28) a. Temporal modifiers are unproblematic in existence statements with exist. b. exist can occur only with its locational meaning. Giraffes exist only in Africa. as I will argue in the next section. Both cases can be accounted for on the basis of the secondary locational meaning of exist. before ‘there-insertion’. The restriction against location modifiers with exist can be explained given recent linguistic work on the semantics of stative verbs. Not all adverbial modifiers are unacceptable in exist-sentences. Since events are generally spatiotemporally located. There is still one building in the destroyed village. c. b. by moving the weak NP in postverbal position into the position that would. just as in there-sentences: (30) a. be spelled out as there. the proposal would be that such coindexing would permit movement of the postverbal NP into subject position. not as a true existence predicate. without movement.
o. events are implicitly defined in terms of their existence and identity conditions. Two events f(P. stand. and know do not allow for location modifiers or manner adverbials. following Kim’s (1980) conception of events. or sleep take concrete states as arguments (‘Davidsonian states’. Mary saw John sit in the corner. namely for states. t’) are identical iff P = P’. o. John sat in the corner. t = t’. but no such properties as location or duration. * Bill saw John resemble Mary. c. I will follow Maienborn (2007) in distinguishing two kinds of stative verbs. b. resemble. with one modification. John sat awkwardly. o = o’. o’. Moreover. Such verbs allow for location modifiers. * John resembles Mary with effort. By contrast. as well as manner modifiers. an object o and a time t. but ‘at’ the world. 2007) according to whom also stative verbs have an implicit event argument position. the event f(P. rather than exist and thus are just as abstract as facts. is also suited for states. t) exists if Pt(o). c. stative verbs such as own. b. But it is a definition that. and they can act as infinitival complements of perception verbs: (31) a. States are like facts in that they naturally 'obtain'. For a property P. not being
. (33) a. Whereas some semanticists such as Katz (2003) propose that stative verbs in general lack an event argument (but perhaps have a time argument instead). (33a. properties and times. Kimian events are abstract. they are in fact obtained by abstraction in a Fregean sense. b. It is generally agreed that the conditions in (33) actually define facts rather than events. on the basis of individuals. and they cannot act as infinitival complements of perception verbs: (32) a. According to that conception.14
of a sort that would not be spatially located. Stative verbs such as sit. wait. I will follow Maienborn (2001. Maienborn calls the state arguments of such verbs ‘Kimian states’. belong. * John resembles Mary in Germany.b) are abstraction principles that provide identity conditions for events. Kimian events are thus not ‘in’. t) and f(P’. as Maienborn calls them).
Exist clearly classifies with abstract state verbs. b. c. will not allow for particular manifestations. given the definition in (34)? The property on which the abstract state argument of a stative verb should be based cannot be the property expressed by the stative verb itself. The incompatibility of location modifiers with exist thus follows from exist taking abstract states as event arguments. from what sort of property would they be obtained. A state s(P. Exist moreover cannot be used in an infinitival complement of perception verbs: (36) * John saw the house exist for a long time. This can be captured by taking states to be obtained just from a property and an individual. which holds
See Maienborn (2007) for the possibility of coercion of state verbs into an eventive reading. otherwise there would be a circularity: the argument of the verb would then in fact be dependent on the content of the verb itself. Given their abstract status. but ‘at’ the world. unless exist is coerced into a ‘concrete way of being’ reading (on which exist would also take location modifiers):12 (35) a. and are not possible objects of perception.?? The man we talked about exists quietly / discretely / secretly. o’) are identical in case P = P’ and o = o’. More precisely this holds for ‘Kimian states’. Besides not permitting location modifiers. as entities implicitly defined by the conditions in (34). Pt(o). states will fail to have a location. as in (34c): (34) a. But what kinds of abstract states would these be. o). the property should be a time-relative property -. o) obtains just in case for some time t.or a relation between properties and times. States have a duration. For a property P and an individual o. the state s(P. o) obtains at a time t just in case Pt(o).15
‘in’. exist does not allow for manner adverbials. s(P’. though. In the case of exist. b. Two states s(P. with an additional condition specifying the duration of a state. which I will now call abstract states to distinguish them from concrete states. ?? The animal exists peacefully in the forest.
they are still concrete. they can be the object of perception: (39) John saw the murder occur this morning. as transitions among concrete states. Occurrences may also seem abstract: they are not qualitative. occurrences can be viewed as transitions from compositions of event parts with the temporal feature ‘being at a particular time’. t1)). perceivability. If we take c to be the relevant composition function. x>∈ [exist]t iff e = f(P(t). en are relevant temporal parts. still can be located in space: (38) John’s murder occurred / took place in Germany. with t1. with a spatio-temporal location. An event argument of exist relative to a time and an individual will then be as in (37b): (37) a. and as we have seen. By contrast. r’> ∈ [occur]t iff e = transit(c(e1. <e.
. tn as their duration. Occurrences need to be conceived of as qualitatively 'thin' but still concrete events. I suggest that events in general should be construed in terms of the notion of a concrete state. Qualitatively thick events will generally be transitions among concrete states composed of individuals and qualitative features. as being obtained from properties and objects by abstraction. x) We can now turn to occurrences. an event e and an individual x. to other compositions of this sort. in the sense of being 'in' the world. t2)). t’)] b. Moreover. do not permit manner adverbials or instrumentals. Concrete states in turn may be conceived of as being composed of individuals and particular features of those individuals. <e. like basically all events. as in (37a). c(e2. P = λtλx[∀t’ < t AT(x. For a time t. Thus occurrences cannot be conceived of as abstract states. Even if occurrences cannot have a range of qualitative features. then the occurrence relation can be characterized as follows: (40) For events e and e’ and a time t.16
of a time t and an object x in case at any subinterval of t (the whole of) x is present. …. However. and causal efficaciousness. λx[AT(x. …) and e1. λx[AT(x. occurrences. ….
The object position of have is. subject to the indefiniteness effect. and that is that of dependent existence. recently discussed by McDaniel (to appear a. that is. Bare plurals and mass nouns as kind-referring terms Let us now turn to existence statements with bare plurals or mass nouns as subjects: (43) a. whereas theresentences express location-bound existence (in the broadest sense). like there-sentences.17
Given this account. Natural languages appear in fact to display a particular construction expressing dependent existence. Existence statements with bare plurals and mass nouns 6. they will just involve less qualitatively specified concrete states. This suggests that the have-construction expresses dependent existence. entities constituted by the absence of material. occurrences are as concrete as other events. such as possession and kinship (John has a car. John has intelligence / fear / joy. b). Other modes of existence The different kinds of verbs of existence with their restrictions to particular kinds of entities support the old philosophical view according to which there are different modes of existence for different kinds of entities.1. Another form of dependent existence involves entities like holes. such as the have-construction in English. (Though of course the have-construction is polysemous and in addition expresses other dependence relations than ontological ones. 5. John has a child)). (42) The box has a hole.
. There is one other mode of existence that is interesting to consider in relation to natural language. Giraffes exist. Both properties and tropes according to Aristotle involve a notion of ‘existence in’. and the have-construction can express both the particular relation between a substance and a property or trope and that between a substance and a hole: (41) a. b. 6. a two-place notion of existence that holds between substances and dependent entities (on Aristotle’s view). John has the property of being happy.
widespread. bare plurals and mass nouns trigger existential quantification over the instances of the kind. episodic predicates express properties perceived as temporary. Rather they are kind terms in the sense of Carlson (1977). and characterizing predicates properties perceived as permanent (and thus in particular essential properties). whereas with characterizing predicates. Carlson (1977).18
b. b. they trigger generic or universal quantification. or extinct. There are two classes of predicates that are particularly important in that respect: so-called stage-level or episodic predicates on the one hand and individual-level or characterizing predicates on the other hand (Carlson 1977. giraffes in (43a) stands for the kind whose instances are particular giraffes and white gold in (43b) for the kind whose instances are particular quantities of gold. Kratzer 1995). (1995)). There is a range of evidence that shows that this view is mistaken. expressing existential quantification. That is. The general view in the philosophical literature is that such sentences have a fundamentally different logical form from those with singular terms in that they are quantificational sentences. as in (46):
. It appears that with the verb exist bare plurals and mass nouns are not (or at least not generally) quantificational NPs. Roughly speaking. Giraffes are rare. Thus. With exist. whereas individual-level predicates were so-called because they can be understood only as predicates predicated of an individual as such. exist in such sentences would contribute to the expression of existential quantification rather than acting as a predicate of individuals. called the first class ‘stage-level’ because they are predicates that when predicated of an individual can be taken to be predicated of just a temporal stage of the individual. The two classes of predicates characteristically exhibit different readings with bare plurals and mass nouns. instance-distribution predicates: (44) a. White gold exists. With episodic predicates. that is. who introduced the distinction in the context of the semantics of bare plurals and mass nouns. bare plurals and mass nouns are kind-referring terms just as with kind predicates such as rare. as in (45). Carlson (1977) had argued that bare plurals and mass nouns are in fact always kindreferring. The terms ‘episodic predicate’ and ‘characterizing predicate’ avoid making a distinction between individuals and their temporal stages (Krifka et al. but that they trigger different readings with different classes of predicates. Dinosaurs are extinct.
the various arguments for kind reference do apply to bare plurals and mass nouns with the predicate exist. characterizing predicates do not allow for an existential reading. x does not exist anymore)
. They in (48a) stands for the entire kind. But they once did exist. By contrast. Water is nearby. 1995): (47) a. a view I will turn to further below. Firemen are available. the denotation of dinosaurs. Three dinosaurs do not exist.19
(45) a. The logical form of (45a) would thus be as in (47a) and the one of (45b) as in (47b). Dinosaurs do not exist anymore. thus establishing bare plurals and mass nouns are kind-referring in that particular context. Carlson’s view according to which bare plurals and mass nouns are always kind-referring is not universally accepted. First. bare plurals and mass nouns may also have an interpretation on which they express existential quantification (with episodic predicates). ∃x (x I [firemen] & available(x)) b. bare plurals and mass nouns in exist-sentences do not take wide scope over negation or other quantifiers: (49) a. b. Gn x (x I [apples] healthy(x)) It is also generally held that bare plurals and mass nouns allow for a generic (habitual) reading with episodic predicates. Apples are healthy. Krifka et al. b. which is unsuitable for the predicate once did exist. but they in (48b) can only stand for particular instances of the kind. Water is transparent. Furthermore. (46) a. thus (45a) also has the reading: for any firemen x. definite anaphora behave with bare plurals differently from NPs that clearly express existential quantification. More common in fact is the view that in addition to being kindreferring. * But they (three dinosaurs or other) once did exist. However. where I is the instantiation relation and Gn is a suitable generic quantifier (cf. x is available. whatever view one may adopt. Dinosaurs do not exist. b. such as three dinosaurs: (48) a. (* for some dinosaurs x.
Dinosaurs no longer exist. x does not exist any more) If dinosaurs in (49a) stands for a kind. Another piece of evidence for kind reference with exist is that bare plurals and mass nouns in the subject position of a sentence with exist can be modified by a relative clause whose predicate is an instance-distribution predicate: (50) Dinosaurs. Still and no longer in (51a. Dolphins still exist. do not exist anymore. then not can only deny the holding of the predicate of the entire kind. which. recall. b. two dinosaurs in (49b) can take scope over not. are possible in exist-sentences with bare plurals or mass nouns as subjects. By contrast.
. Only the entire kind can be said to continue or cease to exist. Further evidence comes from temporal modifiers. (ok: for two dinosaurs x. Yet another argument for kind reference with exist comes from location modifiers. b. not of just some instances. Syphilis does not exist in Europe anymore. I will come to an explanation for the possibility of location modifiers on the basis of kind reference at the end of this section. Dinosaurs ceased to exist. The same point is made by aspectual predicates such as continue and cease: (52) a.20
b. which used to be widespread in Europe. b. Two dinosaurs do not exist anymore. Dinosaurs continued to exist. b) are understood so as to qualify the entire lifespan of the kind and not that of particular instances: (51) a. This is again seen below: (53) a. Giraffes exist only in Africa.
not about giraffes as such. see the end of this section. an instance-distribution predicate. in (54a) and (54b). definite plurals and mass nouns are used as kind terms (les giraffes ‘the giraffes’. often both options are possible:
One exception is Geach (1968). who suggests that exist can apply to bare plurals as well as singular terms for the same reason that a predicate like disappear can apply to the two kinds of terms: (1) a. Dinosaurs disappeared. That is. (Jean a acheté des livres ‘John has bought books’.13 There is some evidence that bare plurals and mass nouns may also sometimes act as existential quantifiers even in exist-sentences. l’or ‘Gold’). In French and Italian. b. In exist-sentences. b. Jean a bu du vin ‘John drank wine’). The view that bare plurals or mass nouns in existence statements are kind-referring has almost never been pursued in the philosophical literature. and NPs with de are used for existential quantification. which generally takes those NPs to be quantificational (somehow merging their semantic contribution with that of exist). ∃x(giraffe(x) & exist(x)) b. ? Some giraffes exist. It does not just say that there are giraffes or that giraffes exist. The logical form of (54a) would thus be as in (55a).
. whereas the logical form of (54a) would be as in (55b). Intuitively. (54a) is about the existence of a single giraffe.21
A final piece of evidence that bare plurals are kind-referring with exist is that singular indefinite NPs and other existentially quantified NPs are significantly less natural as subjects of exist-sentences: (54) a. exist(k) We can thus conclude that bare plurals and mass nouns in exist-sentences are kind terms. similarly (54b) states that for some x that are giraffes. coming from languages such as French and Italian which do not have bare plurals or mass nouns. x exist. Disappear in (1b) is a typical kind predicate. John disappeared. ? A giraffe exists. for the kind of giraffes k: (55) a. a and some and exist do not merge into a single ‘existential quantifier’. there is somewhat indirect evidence. First of all. but rather exist is predicated of entities that a giraffe or some giraffes quantifies over.
when the nominal does not describe a ‘natural class’ or kind (that is.2.’ In that case. the second option is better: (57) Des nombres primes entre 10 et 15 / ?? Les nombres primes entre 10 et 15 existent. rather than as kind-referring. There is also evidence from English that bare plurals in such contexts are existentially quantified. Natural numbers exist. as indicated in the translation of (57). ‘Natural numbers exist. namely precisely those for which the descriptive content of the NP would make kind reference implausible. Electrons exist.14 6. as illustrated below: (58) a. Existential quantification is clearly involved in cases like the following: (59) a. ‘Prime numbers between 10 and 15 exist. I did not think that they would exist. exist holds of a kind (as denoted by a bare plural or mass noun) just in case there are instances of the kind that ‘exist’.’ However. Kind reference of bare plurals and mass nouns with exist In general.22
(56) a. b. I did not think that they would exist. Les nombres naturels existent. Thus. b.
See also Chierchia (1998) on conditions on bare plurals and mass nouns to be interpreted by existential quantification rather than kind reference. some bare plurals or mass nouns with exist are in fact used as existentially quantified NPs. Kind referring they as in the second sentences cannot take existentially quantified bare plurals as antecedent. Des nombres naturels existent. English would also use the bare plural.
. * Prime numbers between 10 and 15 exist. rather than kind-referring. a maximal collection of resembling particulars). and that is that simple bare plurals such as natural numbers and bare plurals such as prime numbers between 10 and 15 behave differently with respect to anaphora support.
and do not just have a theoretical status in science’. as would be expected for stage-level predicates. However. True justice exists. (60a) appears to claim the existence of every integer. namely that statements of ontological commitment in general involve universal quantification and thus require exist to act as a predicate roughly equivalent to real. and these are mathematical examples. as roughly in ‘any electron predicted by theory really does exist. exist has to be a predicate. statements of ontological commitment in fact involve a domain of entities which may or may not be real and state which ones in them exist. the generic quantifiers here is naturally restricted contextually. White gold exists. let us consider whether exist can also display a generic reading. Integers exist. on the view on which existence statements express existential quantification.
. (60b) claims the existence of only every natural number. who points out that the statement in (60a) is intuitively stronger than that in (60b): (60) a. c. The existential reading obviously classifies exist as an episodic predicate. Mathematical examples figure prominently in a recent paper by Fine (to appear). and indeed the reading seems to be possible with suitable examples. are real. By contrast. as (60a) and (60b) appear to be. If there are statements of ontological commitment that are universally quantified. the converse holds: (60b) would make a stronger statement than (60a). For that reason. b. e. Unicorns exist. Natural numbers exist.23
b.’ There is another class of examples that naturally display a universal reading with exist. Prime numbers exist. That is. that is. Fine’s use of such examples was to make a general point about ontological commitment. Thus (59a) can also be read: ‘electrons really exist. Such a reading generally goes along with focusing the predicate. not just some integer (which may in fact be a natural number). Before discussing why exist should classify as episodic. d. as Fine argues. a kind exists in virtue of there being actual instances. in fact a predicate roughly synonymous with real. then.
Exist also occurs with definite plurals:
(1) The integers exist. For every x (integer(x) real(x)) (Later I will argue that the semantics of real is in fact fundamentally different from that of exist. Note that the same effect seems to be displayed by the corresponding there-sentences: (62) a. not universal quantification. on which (1) is equivalent to (2): (2) Every integer exists. But the logical form of (1) does not consist in universal quantification. Such sentences have only a universal reading. and that it in particular triggers a different reading with bare plurals. The universal reading displayed by (61a. it appears to be the only reading available. There really are integers. In such examples. the universal reading in fact seems to be a secondary effect of what the sentences actually mean. (1) consists in a plural description and a predicate that when applied to the plurality denoted by the description automatically applies to each instance. P(y).
. exists(x) iff for every member y of x. A predicate P is obligatorily distributive iff for any plurality x. There really are natural numbers. or equivalently as in (61b): (61) a.24
Statements of ontological commitment to kinds thus presuppose a domain of ‘light entities’ and involve predication of a property of existence of such entities. is then as in (61a). Fine argues. accepting one simply means accepting all.15 The logical form of (60a). For every x (integer(x) x exist) b. exist(y). For a plurality x. That is. b. a meaning that would involve existential quantification. Also (62a) seems to make a stronger statement than (62b). The universal reading in (60a) and (60b) appears to be a pragmatic effect of the particular kind of entity the bare plural stands for: in the case of clearly defined mathematical sequences. b. b) corresponds to an entirely neutral intonation and moreover. Rather it involves plural reference and an obligatorily distributive reading of exist: (3) a.) It does not seem that the universal reading of the examples in (61) is exactly the same phenomenon as the generic reading which exist as an episodic predicate is predicted to display. P(x) iff for any member y of x.
Thus. The universalquantification effect in (63a. Some integer exists. John believes in integers.
. b. Some natural number exists. John is right in his belief if there are some unicorns. but rather asks for an example of a geometrical form with a particular specification. does not answer a sufficiently plausible question of mathematical ontology concerning the ontological nature of a geometrical form. Given (2). The reason is that (63c). whereas for John to be right in his belief according to (1b) and (1c) all integers / natural numbers need to exist. According to (1a). Note. whereas with mathematical ‘kinds’ a universal reading appears to be a pragmatic effect rather than a matter of interpretation. c. With non-mathematical kinds. that believe in does not always require the existence of all or some instances of the kind for the agent to be right in his belief.
The universal-quantification effect shows up also with believe in. John can be right in his belief even if there is in fact no actual instance of true justice: (2) John believes in true justice. c. If the sentence explicitly quantifies over instances only and claims that at least one exists. b. (1) a. b) do. Geometrical figures exist.25
The universal-quantification effect shows up also with certain kinds of mathematical sets or classes: (63) a. the universal quantification effect is less strong. though. John believes in unicorns. The universal effect is somewhat less obvious in (63b) and still less obvious in (63c). What then about the generic reading that is available with exist? Such a reading does seem to be of the kind Fine envisioned: here a domain of ‘light’ entities in the domain of discourse is presupposed and exist states that they really exist. an existential reading is clearly the natural reading.17 Fine certainly is wrong in maintaining that exist always triggers a universal reading with bare plurals. b) should thus be traced to a pragmatic implication rather than the logical form of the sentences themselves. the sentences below do not differ in the way (40a. and perhaps (63b). Triangles exist.
The universal quantification effect is particularly strong if the sentence states that a kind exists in virtue of there being an instance. John believes in natural numbers. a predicate expressing objectual ontological commitment (Szabo 2003): (1) a. Equilateral triangles exist. b.
happy. ?? Gold coins have disappeared. The question then is. a generic reading. This is particularly clear when using the anaphora test for kind reference. with some effort. audible. They were not visible yesterday night. many predicates that one might classify as characterizing predicates may trigger existential readings at least in object position. Whether such verbs should be considered characterizing or episodic. such as belong. b. The anaphora test indicates that with ‘standard’ episodic predicates such as buy or disappear no kind reference is involved: (65) a. clearly the object position of such predicates goes along with an existential reading. Mary bought them too. which contrast thus with predicates like available. This also holds for the ‘paradigmatic’ episodic adjectives available and visible: (66) a. and include. ? Firemen are available.3. Shells contain pearls. Very rich men own expensive cars. b. or visible. There are many predicates that seem to express temporary properties but that do not trigger an existential reading of bare plurals. ? Stars are visible in the sky. b. the existential reading that many episodic predicates seem to trigger does not seem tied to a kind-referring use of a bare plural.
. exist classifies as an episodic predicate. but rather an existentially quantified use. Nervous. ?? John bought apples. contain. own. Moreover. whereas the subject position goes along with a generic reading: (64) a. They were not available yesterday. They have never disappeared before. 6.26
By displaying an existential reading as well as. or sick are examples. which do trigger an existential reading. In fact. The individual-stage level distinction and exist The characterizing-episodic distinction is known to be a notoriously problematic distinction. what sense can one make of the classification of exist as an episodic predicate.
b. 1995). is a philosopher). which is indicative of an interpretation as existential quantification rather than kind reference (whereas with exist stress was on the predicate) (cf. The same observation about anaphora can be made for the object position of own and contain: (67) a. but they need not have existed. would come out as episodic. Existence could not be an
Another criterion may take into account the entire period during which a predicate could be true of an individual. Mary has tasted black beans. But also predicates expressing essential properties. such as the time of the individual’s influence. a correlation between episodic predicates and an interpretation of the bare plural involving existential quantification. Joe lived from them too.27
In fact. Mary lived from black beans. b. and it is just one of a range of lexically specific readings that predicates may display with kind-referring bare plurals. such as taste and live from: (68) a. ?? Very rich men own expensive cars. Yet there is. existential readings with kind-referring bare plurals appear significantly more limited than is often assumed. Exist then comes out a predicate that may apply to only a subinterval of such a period. Krifka et al. But how can exist classify as an episodic predicate when its application obviously is never limited to a temporal stage of an individual. though. except for those relating to the individual’s influence (for example. but applies to the individual’s entire life-span? There is one obvious criterion classifying exist as an episodic predicate in the case of concrete individuals. though 200 years ago they could not own them. it has been observed that the existential reading of such examples goes along with stress on the subject. including the time after the individual’s existence.18 Concrete individuals must have the essential properties they have. ?? But actually they do not always contain them. in such a more restricted range of cases. Joe has tasted them too. Identifying episodic predicates with those expressing accidental properties and characterizing ones with those expressing essential properties is not unproblematic. and that is that exist expresses an accidental property. Shells contain pearls.
. Yet there are also cases of episodic predicates that involve kind reference and trigger an existential reading. Thus.
6. for exist it is concrete objects that exist only accidentally. Laws and institutions may be other cases. they are false because only a universal reading is available: (69) a. which exist necessarily (if they exist). Thus (69a) and (69b) could not be true in virtue of an existential reading. it appears that they do not express simple existential quantification over instances with the predicate exist applying to some instances.
. Moreover. not an existential reading with color adjectives. predicates in general do not seem to change their classification as episodic or characterizing depending on the type of object they apply to (see below). For red the type of object on the basis of which the classification as episodic or characterizing is made are essentially red objects. The formal semantics of existence statements with bare plurals or mass nouns Turning now to the logical form of exist-sentences with bare plurals or mass nouns. but not others (tables). Paint is red. primary objects to which it applies and then the classification is carried over to other objects to which the predicate may also apply. that is. Red always classifies as a characterizing predicate. Tables are red. then. However.19 20 However. not when applied to one sort of object as opposed to another. colors are properties that are essential with some entities (paint). Rather a predicate appears to be classified as episodic or characterizing on the basis of certain kinds of.28
accidental property of abstract objects (such as mathematical objects). it appears that in general a predicate is classified as either episodic or characterizing not on the basis of whether the property it expresses is an essential property of the object in question or not. let’s say. Predicates appear to decide whether they are characterizing or episodic on the basis of one type of object and then carry over their classification also when applied to other types of objects. predicates classify either as episodic or characterizing as such. Thomasson 1999). For example. abstract objects that exist only accidentally. I found that speakers generally have the intuition of a primarily existential reading. not abstract objects. (70a) is not quite equivalent to (70b):
There are also. it has been argued. namely fictional characters conceived of as abstract artifacts (cf. possibly with an extended meaning.
One might argue that that exist classifies as a characterizing predicate with abstract objects and that this is in fact the source of the universally quantified reading that exist exhibits with mathematical objects. In general.4. with the universal understanding being a secondary effect. yet bare plurals and mass nouns always display a universal. b.
such as discover or recognize: (71) a. With spatial modifiers. and as such they allow for spatial restrictions: (73) a. b. b. Dinosaurs are extinct. express properties concerning the spatial distribution. In such cases it is also obvious that exist cannot just apply to the kind in virtue of applying. Electrons exist. Ants are widespread in Europe. Syphilis does not exist in Europe anymore. Given this observation and the fact that the existential reading of kind predicates with episodic predicates is much more restricted than generally supposed. That the kind-related application of an episodic predicate is not entirely reducible to the application of the very same predicate to some instance can be observed with other predicates as well. b. Instance-distribution predicates. Some electrons exist. but rather that of an instance-distribution predicate. to an instance of the kind: exist does not apply to particulars with a spatial modifier. it is not surprising that the kind-related interpretation of exist is not derived by simple existential quantification over instances. b. Giraffes exist only in Africa. To identify the kind-related interpretation of exist.29
(70) a.in virtue of coming across some instances. or extinct. Rather. Joe discovered white gold -. with its primary meaning. the derived meaning of exist is not that of an episodic predicate. John recognized tuberculosis (by examining an instance of it). as should be the case for episodic predicates in general. rare. let us recall that spatial modifiers are possible in exist-sentences with kind terms: (72) a. for example widespread. the kind-related interpretation may be derived in some other way.
. (70a) claims the existence of a kind and not just the existence of some individual instance – though a kind ‘exists’ in virtue of there being instances.
the kind-related meaning of exist can be given as below. namely that there are no instances at all. For example. If bare plurals and mass nouns are kind-referring in exist-sentences. then it is clear why temporal modifiers and aspectual predicates apply in the way they do when exist applies to a kind term. existk(k. i I k.21 In the case of disappear. where I is the instantiation relation: (75) a. but rather it expresses a condition on the distribution of the instances as a whole. it does not have a derived meaning consisting of existential quantification over instances and application of disappear (or a closely related condition) to them. disappear is a predicate that also applies to individuals and kinds: (74) a. ‘Dinosaurs have disappeared. English disappear also displays the derived meaning of an episodic predicate in sentences such as: (2) John gets upset when books disappear. rather by generic quantification over instances (for characterizing predicates) or existential quantification over instances (for episodic predicates). verschwinden ‘disappear’ fails to act as an instance-distribution predicate with bare plurals: (1) Dinosaurier sind verschwunden. b.’ (1) has only the reading on which for some dinosaurs x. x has disappeared. exist2(i). l) iff for some i.
. For a kind k and a location l. exist2(i. For a kind k.30
It appears that predicates in general may obtain a meaning extended to kinds which is that of an instance-distribution predicate. John has disappeared. l). Another such case is the verb disappear in English. in German. Disappear should be an episodic predicate. the kind interpretation is obviously derived by applying the ordinary lexical meaning of disappear to the entire collection of the actual instances The kind-related interpretation of exist can obviously not be obtained by applying exist with its primary meaning to the kind. Dinosaurs have disappeared. Rather the kind-related interpretation appears to be obtained from the locational secondary meaning of exist. As noted by Geach (1968). b. Temporal modifiers and aspectual predicates shift the time of evaluation for exist
Having a derived kind meaning as an instance-distribution predicate is a lexically idiosyncratic property of particular episodic predicates in particular languages. It cannot mean that dinosaurs are extinct. existk(k) iff for some i. Using the secondary meaning. i I k. But with a bare plural as in (74b).
Electrons are real. This is illustrated by the contrast between (76a) and (76b) as well as the contrast between (77a) and (77b): (76) a. then real would be a characterizing predicate. Electrons exist. is a predicate of individuals that holds of an individual if the individual is a presently persisting one.31
as a kind predicate. real should not really apply to past object. But if real applies to entities whose nature is in some way different from that of merely possible objects (the latter being conceptual entities of some sort. Obviously. The two expressions differ fundamentally linguistically and in the kinds of ontological notions they involve. not an episodic predicate like exist. 7. If what distinguishes a real from a merely possible object is that real objects belong to the actual world whereas merely possible objects belong to other possible worlds. b. real classifies as a characterizing predicate. Whereas exist generally triggers a reading involving existential quantification. Prime numbers are real. Existence thus is not a feature of certain entities. allowing at each time different instances of the kind to satisfy the relevant condition. but the nature of past objects is not different from the nature of
. it is not obvious at all that it should classify as a characterizing predicate. At the same time. (77) a. and it is false of past and merely possible objects as well as intentional objects. One major linguistic difference between the predicate exist and the predicate real consist in their different readings with bare plurals and mass nouns. but rather it has to do with the relation of entities to time and with their quasi-representational status. or exist for that matter. b. The adjective real Exist. real should be as episodic a predicate as a predicate of location. It would depend on the philosophical view. let’s say). we have seen. and the lack of existence does not consist in the absence of such a feature. real goes along with universal quantification. This is also evident when comparing exist to the adjective real. Prime numbers exist. But how can real be a characterizing predicate and differ from exist? If real is contrasted with the adjective possible.
d. Real is an adjective that is in fact not very felicitous on its own. then x is not something such that it is possibly a house. C is an intentional object. thus providing a uniform semantics of intensional adjectives. D is a real solution. If x is an intentional object. d. when an object x is a ‘mythical dragon’. x is an object. b. B is a mythical dragon. In the last two cases. and similarly for fictional. If x is a possible house. real competes with ‘intensional’ adjectives such as intentional. x must be an object that has the status of a fictional character: the operator here serves to permit ascription of properties as attributed in the story or myth. this means that really (in reality). x is not such that it is ‘intended’ to be an object. which also naturally occur as modifiers of sortal nouns: (79) a. and possible. The intensional-functor analysis in fact can be applied to (79a) and (79b) as well. Some of those adjectives appear to have the semantic status of operators: if an object x is a ‘real object’. c. It naturally occurs only as a modifier of a sortal noun: (78) a. b. D is a possible house. x is a dragon. rather. In that function.
presently existing objects. c. A is a real object. x belongs to some possible world in which it is a house. Thus. mythical. A is a fictional person. A simpler explanation for the status of real as a characterizing predicate can be obtained when taking a closer look at its linguistic behavior. when an object x is a ‘fictional person’. this means that in some piece of fiction. x is a person. Intentional and possible are better analysed not as operators but as intensional functors mapping a sortal noun onto an intentional or possible object. then x is constituted by intentionality alone. this means that according to some myth. Mythical would be a functor mapping a sortal N to a mythical character x constituted by some myth. such that according to that myth x has N. fictional. using philosophical considerations alone does not seem to get us a clear classification of real. C is a real witch. B is a real person.
as was pointed out to me by Richard Kayne: (1) John denies the reality of witches.24 The reality of a witch acts as a term referring to a feature of an individual whose existence is presupposed. a trope. Entities for Avicenna are possibilia defined by their ‘essence’. John denies the reality of a witch. In that respect it is just like any other term referring to a ‘feature’ or ‘trope’.
Apparently. (80a) has only the reading on which for some witch x. for example the qualification of a candidate. Nonetheless real teacher and real passenger classify as characterizing predicates in that they trigger generic quantification with a bare plural: (1) Employees of this organization are teachers. not on a given feature that a witch may or may not have. the existentially quantified complement of reality takes obligatory wide scope. for Avicenna existence was an accidental ‘feature’ of entities.33
The explanation of the status of real as a characterizing predicate is then obvious: real in general is followed by an explicit or silent sortal noun N and the resulting complex predicate a real N is a characterizing predicate because N is: sortal nouns are always characterizing predicates.22 The difference between exist and real is also reflected in the corresponding nominalizations: in (80a). the denial targets a feature of a given witch. and (80b) has only the reading on which John denies that a witch exists. The characterizing status of real teacher or real passenger thus should be traced to the sortal content of the head noun. Thus real would rather make an ‘episodic’ contribution to the complex nominal. b. such as teacher or passenger? In real teacher and real passenger. not the contribution of real.
There is no obligatory wide scope of the complement with the bare plural. John denies the existence of a witch. whereas ‘existence’ is something that goes along with the entity itself. the denial focuses on there being a witch. not someone that really is a person and teaches). real obviously targets the ‘phase content’ of the noun. John denies the reality of x. which contrasts in the same way with the existence of a candidate below:
What if N is a phase sortal. that of its reality.
. whereas in (80b) the existentially quantified complement of existence can take narrow scope:23 (80) a. in (80b). In (80a). ‘Reality’ is something only an entity can have that already has some form of being. though. not the sortal content (a real teacher is a person that really is a teacher. that is.
Thus. or so natural language tells us.
. While a function of definite descriptions as
Similarly. Russell takes exist to be a predicate of ‘propositional functions’. Conclusion The predicate exist has puzzled philosophers for a long time. The semantic analysis of exist (and other existence predicates) that was proposed explains the various semantic peculiarities of exist as quite systematic. 8. Miller 1986). John denies the qualification of a candidate. I will restrict myself here simply to the question of the linguistic plausibility of the view.34
(81) a. The purpose of this paper was to indicate how much linguistic semantics can contribute to illuminate the semantic behavior of exist as well as other existence predicates. Exist as a second-order predicate For Frege exist is a second-order predicate: it takes a predicate or concept-denoting expression and states that its extension is nonempty. For the view to be plausible linguistically.
The linguistic plausibility of views on which exist is not a first-order extensional predicate 1. there should be independent motivations that a predicate such as exist can go along with a concept-denoting expression as subject and moreover that definite descriptions can act as concept-denoting. existence and reality are fundamentally different notions. exist would state that the extension of king of France is nonempty:25 (1) The king of France exists. This view has been criticized extensively by philosophers (Salmon 1987. in (1). John denies the existence of a candidate. Thus. b. as falling within independently established generalizations about predicates of particular sorts.
To the philosophical objections that have been raised against the analysis of exist as a secondorder predicate with singular terms. the question to ask is: are there other second-order predicates in natural language that go together with concept-denoting subjects or complements. exist as in (1) would apply to the intension of the subject.35
predicates and thus as concept-denoting is plausible (Graff 2001). That is. Men exist. with complements that could qualify as predicates. c. such as indefinite singular NPs. There is a man. The question thus is. namely copula verbs: (2) John became a man. Exist as an intensional predicate The second view takes exist to be an intensional predicate.
. on the relevant interpretation. let’s say an individual concept. proper names do not seem to generally be able to be reinterpreted that way. that is. does the subject of a sentence with exist have the same predicative status as the complement of a copula verb? The answer is clearly negative. a (partial) function from possible worlds to individuals: (4) The king of France exists. Thus (3a) does not just claim the nonempty extension of the concept denoted by man. A man exists. we can thus add that exist as a second-order predicate is implausible also linguistically. in the way (3b) and (3c) do: (3) a. adjectives or predicative NPs. and does exist behave like those predicates? A second-order predicate in natural language would be a predicate that requires predicates as complement or subject. 2. Turning then to the predicate exist. There is an important class of predicates in natural language that act that way. b. Exist does not occur.
b. Another peculiarity of intensional verbs of the second type (shared by the first type in fact) is the possibility of the complement being substituted by a ‘special quantifier’. exist is not subject to the restriction to weak quantifiers.the king of France. an indefinite is required for the intensional reading (Moltmann 1997): (5) a. Something / * someone is urgently needed – a plumber. and we have seen that exist does not pattern with those. ?? John needs his wife. The latter constraint manifests itself in that even if uniqueness were to be fulfilled (in the relevant worlds). The question then is. does exist really classify as an intensional predicate? When it comes to the notion of an intensional verb. (6) a. It is easy to see that exist does not pattern with intensional verbs in that respect. The second type of intensional verb includes need. Such verbs are thus second-order predicates of another sort than copula verbs. a quantifier such as something. ?? The institute needs the director. 2008).36
Exist on this account is true of an individual concept I at a time t in a world w iff I is defined at t in w. different types of intensional or apparent intensional verbs need to be distinguished. look for. b. or the pronoun that (Moltmann 1997. and they can replace the complement of an intensional verb even if that complement is not neutral: (7) a. Obviously. 2008). John needs a wife. Special quantifiers are neutral in gender. Such verbs are characterized by a certain nonspecific reading of the complement and a general restriction to weak quantifiers as complement. simply takes predicative complements. verbs like resemble or compare to. One type of intensional verb. I will make use of distinctions introduced in Moltmann (1997.
. John needs something / * someone – a wife. and own. namely not when the subject fails to be neutral: (8) * Something / Someone does not exist anymore -. The institute needs a director. The subject of an exist–sentence cannot generally be replaced by a special quantifier. recognize. b. nothing.
First. verbs that apply to the intension rather than the extension of an argument. though in fact even in those cases exist applies in fact to something else. Thus. is rising. the predicates change and is rising have been taken to apply to individual concepts in the sentences below:26 (9) a. (meaning ‘there is always some director or other’) b. and is elected every four years can apply to: (10) a. ?? The director exists. but only replacement by the non-neutral pronoun he is: (2) The president is elected every four years. The director changed. exist cannot apply to the kinds of entities that change. in fact stands for a particular type of entity. exist does not classify as an intensional verb like need. There is another type of potential intensional verbs that exist is more likely to pattern with. This is an indication that the subject in (9a) – (9c). that is. rather than denoting its intension. There are some cases where exist appears to apply to the intension of an NP. though. However. The verbs would then be extensional predicates with a derived meaning applying to entities with variable manifestations. as denoted by certain definite NPs (Montague 1973). He / * That is not elected every three years. ?? The director always exists.
. an entity with variable manifestations at different times (such as different people). ask for. Something is elected every four years. The subject of sentences with such verbs as predicate cannot generally be replaced by a special quantifier. What John needs exists. though he did not exist before the election a few days ago. Thus (1b) as a continuation of (1a) is infelicitous: (1) a. replacement of the subject by the special pronoun that is not acceptable. ?? The president now exists. c. The temperature is rising. b. The president is elected every four years. Moreover. The president is elected every four years. exist apparently applies to the intension of the complement of an intensional verb like nee.37
Thus. namely verbs that have been taken to apply to individual concepts. (Montague 1973) c. b. that these are truly cases of intensional verbs. and see in cases such as the following: (11) a. he did not exist for a few years.
It is not very clear.
As Grosu/ Krifka (2008) argue for (13a) and Moltmann (2008) for (13b). It is just as bad as (12d). and so it is the kind and not the intension that exist applies to. then in fact the verb does not take an intension as argument. c ?? What John is looking for exists. What John is looking for exists. partial functions from possible worlds or situations to individuals. that is. Everything John asked for exists. A singular indefinite is much less acceptable with exist than the bare plural. b. exist in (12b) applies with the meaning with which it applies in (12e). Tigers exist. exist in fact applies to the corresponding intentional object. d. John is looking for a tiger. (12c) is not.38
b. There is another type of relative clause with intensional verbs that one might think requires exist to apply to an individual concept. There is evidence that the subject in (11a-c) in fact does not stand for the intension of an NP. Thus. not an individual concept. these definite descriptions are best considered definite descriptions referring to individual concepts. I will argue. as in (13b) (Moltmann 2008): (13) a. but rather for a kind. what a bare plural or mass noun stands for. and it is undefined otherwise. The assistant John needs must speak French. Thus. c. In this case. in (11a) what John needs better stands for a kind rather than an intension. this partial function maps a situation s onto John if John is a gifted mathematician in s. As Carlson (1977) argued. while (12b) as a continuation of (12a) is perfectly fine. e. in an existence claim about a kind. as denoted by the bare plural or mass noun. In
. The construction in question consists in definite descriptions formed with a relative clause containing either a copula verb as in (13a) (Grosu / Krifka 2008) or an intensional verb. ?? A tiger exists. b. whereas (12b) is just as good as (12e): (12) a. when an intensional verb takes a bare plural or mass noun as complement. but rather a kind. The gifted mathematician John claims to be could solve this problem in five minutes. namely a tiger. Thus. What John saw exists. In (13a).
John wants to marry the ideal woman. crucially. b.b) are derived. b. Definite NPs with intensional relative clauses as in (13a) and (13b) might seem good candidates for cases of reference to and predication of individual concepts. John claims to be an x-much gifted mathematician. But again. This type of definite description. There is also a difference in how (13a. they require a suitable modal attributing a property to an object in a circumstance for which the function is defined and that is accessible for the modal.39
(13b). Thus. b. blonde. (13a. This modal compatibility requirement is satisfied by the presence of could in (13a) and must in (13b) (note that the sentences would be unacceptable without the modal).b) and (14a. is not subject to the modal compatibility requirement: (14) a. John needs an assistant that speaks French. it appears that exist is not truly applicable to such individual concepts. we do not in fact have reference to an individual concept.b) are derived from (15a. let us contrast the definite descriptions in (14) to another type of definite description that can be formed with an intensional verb. rather than individual concepts. possibly undefined for the actual circumstance. Given that the individual concepts are partial functions.b). takes a definite NP as complement: (16) a. The mountain John is looking for is golden. Intentional objects depend on particular intentional acts of attempted
. This indicates that the denotations of the definite NPs in (14a) and (14b) are fundamentally different from those of the definite NPs in (13). By contrast (14a) and (14b) are derived from sentences in which the intensional verb. John is looking for the golden mountain. The ideal woman John wants to marry is tall. exceptionally. with an indefinite as complement: (15) a. and intelligent. To see this. it maps a situation s onto a person d such that d is an assistant of John’s and s is a satisfaction situation of John’s needs. and when exist seems to apply to them. such NPs are not subject to the restriction to weak NPs imposed by intensional verbs. namely that they are intentional objects.
L. Kit (2009): ‘The Question of Ontology’. the former does not. the intentional object in fact corresponds to a relatively well-established mythical object. or the object has been established as an intentional object via a historical chain. Carlson. (1977): ‘A Unified Analysis of the English Bare Plural’. b. The explanation of this difference is that exist can apply to intentional objects but not to individual concepts. Chierchia. Chicago. Definite ‘non-referring’ NPs thus allow for a systematic switch from standing for an intentional object to standing for a corresponding fictional or mythical object. In D. G. b. Pelletier (1995): The Generic Book.): Meta-Metaphysics. are mindindependent. J. G. References Austin. Philosophical Papers. G. Vol. like possible objects. (1998): ‘Reference to Kinds across Languages’. Carlson. ? The gifted mathematician John claims to be does not exist. Supp. / J. Geach. whereas individual concepts. OUP.: Grundlagen der Arithmetik. G. Oxford University Press. ?? The assistant John needs does not exist. Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society. (1979): ‘Unfair to Facts’. Obviously there are conditions on when the denotation of a definite NP can be an intentional object: either some particular agent has conceived of the object in a particular way (rather than having a generic attitude satisfiable by anything fulfilling a particular condition). The observation that is crucial in the present context is that exist applies much better to the definite NPs in (17) than to those in (18): (17) a. P. Natural Language Semantics 6. The latter may exist. Frege. 339-405. The mountain John is looking for does not exist. Chicago UP.
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