Theory and History of Ontology by Raul Corazzon | e-mail:

Selected bibliography on Existence and Predication


  1. "Non-Existence and Predication." 1985/86. Grazer Philosophische Studien no. 25/26.

    Edited by Rudolf Haller.

    Table of Contents: Hector-Neri Castaneda: Objects, Existence, and Reference. A Prolegomenon to Guise Theory 3; William J. Rapaport: Non-Existent Objects and Epistemological Ontology 61; Roderick M. Chisholm: On the Positive and Negative States of

    Things 97; Ruth Barcan Marcus: Possibilia and Possible Worlds 107; Richard Sylvan: Toward an Improved Cosmo-Logical Synthesis 135; John Woods: God, Genidentity and Existential Parity 181; Gary Rosenkrantz: On Objects Totally Out Of This World 197; Czeslaw Lejewski: Logic and Non-Existence 209; Herbert Hochberg: Existence, Non-Existence, and Predication 235; Edgar Morscher: Was Existence Ever a Predicate? 269; Richard E. Grandy: On the Logics of Singular Terms 285; Gerald Vision: Reference and the Ghost of Parmenides 297; Joseph Margolis: Reference as Relational: Pro and Contra 327; Kent Bach: Failed Reference and Feigned Reference: Much Ado About Nothing 359; Nicholas Griffin: Russell’s Critique of Meinong’s Theory of Objects 375: Panayot Butchvarov: Our Robust Sense of Reality 403; Dale Jacquette: Meinong’s Doctrine of the Modal Moment 423; Karel Lambert: Non-Existent Objects: Why Theories About Them Are important 439; Edward N. Zalta: Lambert, Mally and the Principle of Independence 447; Ermanno Bencivenga: Meinong: A Critique From the Left 461; Ernest Sosa: Imagery and Imagination — Sensory Images and Fictional Character 485; Johannes Brandl: Gegenstandslose Gedanken 501; Barry Smith: The Substitution Theory of Art 533; C.J.F. Williams: Kant and Aristotle on the Existence of Space 559; Keith Lehrer: Reid on Conception and Nonbeing 573; Marian David: Non-Existence and Reid’s Conception of Conceiving 585; Roderick M. Chisholm: George Katkov as Philosopher 601-602.

  2. Berto, Francesco. 2012. Existence as a Real Property. The Ontology of Meinongianism. Dordrecht: Springer.

  3. Bottani, Andrea, and Davies, Richard, eds. 2006. Modes of Existence. Papers in Ontology and Philosophical Logic. Frankfurt: Ontos Verlag.

  4. Bradford, Dennis. 1980. The Concept of Existence. A Study of Nonexistent Particulars. Lanham: University Press of America.

  5. Cartwright, Richard. 1960. "Negative Existentials." Journal of Philosophy no. 57:629-639.

    Reprinted in R. Cartwright, Philosophical Essays, Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press, 1987, pp. 21-31.

  6. Castañeda, Hector Neri. 1980. "Some Reflections on Existence." Philosophic Exchange no. 3:21-40.

  7. Chakrabarti, Arindam. 1997. Denying Existence. The Logic, Epistemology, and Pragmatics of Negative Existentials and Fictional Discourse. Dordrecht: Kluwer.

  8. Comorovski, Ileana, and Heusinger, Klaus von, eds. 2008. Existence: Semantics and Syntax. Dordrecht: Springer.

  9. Cournarie, Laurent. 2001. L'existence. Paris: Armand Colin.

  10. Englebretsen, George. 1980. "A Note on Predication." Dialogue no. 19:627-628.

    Reply to: Nicholas Griffin - Do we need predication? - Dialogue, 16, 1977, pp. 653-663.

  11. Everett, Anthony J. 2013. The Nonexistent. New York: Oxford University Press.

  12. Fitch, Frederic. 1960. "Some Logical Aspects of Reference and Existence." Journal of Philosophy no. 57:640-647.

  13. Forbes, Graeme. 1994. "A New Riddle of Existence." Philosophical Perspectives no. 8:415-430.

  14. Fraassen, Bas C.van. 1978. "Essence and Existence." American Philosophical Quarterly no. 12.

    "1. Nominalism and Necessity. The differences between medieval nominalists and realists, which foreshadowed current philosophical disagreements, concerned existence. But the issues were not simple: realists postulated essences or real natures in order to explain the regularities in the actual world. Thus the nominalists, abhorring the existence of such abstract entities, found themselves also in a dispute over necessities: whether some things must, and others could happen, and whether these modal facts do, or are needed to, explain what actually happens.

    The firm standpoint taken by the nominalists, as I understand them, was the one that became characteristic of the British empiricists later: the only necessities are those which derive from the connections among terms. As Nicholas of Autrecourt formulated it: there can be no inference from the existence or non-existence of one thing to that of another. In that case, realists held, there is no explanation to be had of the regularities in nature-they are one and all coincidences. This realist criticism was later sharply formulated by Peirce, especially in his remarks on Mill. (1)

    The appearances are certainly all against the nominalists. For we do say that some things must, and others could happen, and in this way explain what does happen. Scientists, far from having a Quinean canonical idiom, speak just that way. The nominalists' first and basic move in this game is to say that all natural necessities are elliptic for conditional verbal necessities. This sheet on which I write must burn if heated, because it is paper-yes. But the only necessity that is really there is that all paper must burn when heated. This is so, but means only that we would not call something 'paper' if it behaved differently. (This is a naive formulation, but I shall not here present the process of sophisticating it.) There are technical difficulties for logicians in making sense of this move; but when sufficiently refined, the position that all non-verbal necessities are ellipses for conditional necessities ex vi terminorum can be held. (2)

    There is however, a special problem, as Quine pointed out very early on, about necessities de re. In the above example, the nominalist really denied that this sheet must burn if heated. He replaced the

    necessity of the consequent by the necessity of the consequence, to use their inimitably concise jargon. What is true only, he asserted, is that this sheet is paper, a contingent fact, and that any paper must burn if heated, a necessary universal conditional which is not peculiarly about this sheet at all. So he denies the necessity de re asserted.

    But we are very accustomed to assert necessities and possibilities de re, and are a bit suspicious of any philosophical position that accuses everyone of habitual and systematic logical error. Could we ever follow the nominalist on this issue and really feel comfortable-at home in the world of Antoine Roquentin, protagonist of La Nausée, who perceives every natural fact and connection as radically contingent?

    In the remainder of this essay I shall examine what I believe to be the main philosophical and logical puzzles in the history of this problem." pp. 1-2.

    (1) C. S. Peirce, "Uniformity" in his Essays in the Philosophy of Science, ed. by V. Thomas (Indianapolis: Bobbs-Merrill, 1957); see especially p. 157; compare also "The Reality of Thirdness" in the same collection, especially pp. 166-167.

    (2) See my "The Only Necessity is Verbal Necessity," The Journal of Philosophy, vol. 74 (1977), pp. 71-85.

  15. Grandy, Richard E. 1985/86. "On the Logics of Singular Terms " Grazer Philosophische Studien no. 25/26:285-296.

  16. Griffin, Nicholas. 1977. "Do We Need Predication?" Dialogue.Canadian Philosophical Review no. 16:653-663.

    "The paper is concerned with the standard distinction between the 'is' of identity and the 'is' of predication. It deals, in particular with attempts by Fred Sommers ("Journal of Philosophy", 1969) and Michael Lockwood ("Philosophical Review", 1975) to show that the distinction is ill-founded since identity statements are predications of singular terms. This proposal is criticized mainly on the grounds that the notion of a singular term depends upon identity and thus can't be used in a program to eliminate identity. An alternative means of removing the distinction between the 'is' of identity and the 'is' of predication, by eliminating predication in favour of relative identities using Geach's suggestion that "x" is "F" is equivalent to "x" is the same "F" as something, is briefly sketched."

  17. Haaparanta, Leila. 2001. "Existence and Propositional Attitudes: A Fregean Analysis." Logical Analysis and History of Philosophy no. 4:75-86.

  18. Hintikka, Jaakko. 1979. "Is, Semantical Games, and Semantical Relativity." Journal of Philosophical Logic no. 8:433-468.

    Reprinted in: Esa Saarinen (ed.), Game Theoretical Semantics, Dordrecht: Reidel, pp. 161-200 and in: J. Hintikka, Paradigms for Language Theory and Other Essays, Dordrecht:, Kluwer, 1998 pp. 71-106.

    "Frege and Russell (followed by most subsequent logicians, philosophers, and linguists) claimed that "is" is ambiguous between identity, existence, predication, and general implication. It is shown that no such ambiguity can be present in Hintikka's game-theoretical semantics. This shows that central semantical notions (e.g., ambiguity) can be relative to the underlying semantical (logical) framework. The resulting "semantical relativity" has several important implications for the methodology of linguistics, telling, e.g., against all reliance on semantical intuitions or on "the language of thought." It is also anachronistic to project the Frege-Russell ambiguity to most pre-Fregean logicians and philosophers."

  19. ———. 1983. "Semantical Games, the Alleged Ambiguity of 'Is' and Aristotelian Categories." Synthese no. 54:443-468.

    Reprinted with the title: Semantical Games and Aristotelian Categories in: J. Hintikka, Jack Kulas, The Game of Language: Studies in Game-Theoretical Semantics and Its Applications, Dordrecht: Reidel, 1983, pp. 1-32 and in: J. Hintikka, Analyses of Aristotle, Drodrecht: Springer, 2004, pp. 23-44.

  20. ———. 1984. "Are the Nonexistent Objects? Why Not: But Where Are They?" Synthese:451-458.

  21. Hintikka, Jaakko, and Vilkko, Risto. 2006. "Existence and Predication from Aristotle to Frege." Philosophy and Phenomenological Research no. 73:359-377.

    "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."

  22. Hochberg, Herbert. 1985/86. "Existence, Non-Existence, and Predication." Grazer Philosophische Studien no. 25/26:235-267.

  23. Jadacki, Jacek Juliusz. 2003. "On What Seems Not to Be." In From the Viewpoint of the Lvov-Warsaw School, 19-27. Amsterdam: Rodopi.

  24. Jones, Robert Murray. 1964. "Formal Results in the Logic of Existence." Philosophical Studies no. 15:7-10.

  25. Keating, B.F. 1979. "Lockwood and Mill on Connotation and Predication." Analysis no. 39:183-188.

  26. Lejewski, Czeslaw. 1954. "Logic and Existence." British Journal for the Philosophy of Science no. 5:104-119.

    "I have given my essay this title because it roughly indicates the boundaries of the topic to be discussed and at the same time hints at the method that will be adopted in my analysis. The problem of existence will interest me only to the extent to which it enters the province of logical enquiry and I shall try to disentangle it a little by departing from the generally accepted interpretation of the quantifiers and by bringing in other concepts related to that of existence." (p. 104)


    "I wish to conclude with a brief summary of the results. The aim of the paper was to analyse rather than criticize. I started by examining two inferences which appeared to disprove the validity of the rules of universal instantiation and existential generalization in application to reasoning with empty noun-expressions. Then I distinguished two different interpretations of the quantifiers and argued that under what I called the unrestricted interpretation the two inferences were correct. Further arguments in favour of the unrestricted interpretation of the quantifiers were brought in, and in particular it was found that by adopting the unrestricted interpretation it was possible to separate the notion of existence from the idea of quantification. With the aid of the functor of inclusion two functors were defined of which one expressed the notion of existence as underlying the theory of restricted quantification while the other approximated the term exist(s) as used in ordinary language.

    It may be useful to supplement this summary by indicating some aspects of the problem of existence which have not been included in the discussion. I analyzed the theory of quantification so far as it was applied in connection with variables for which noun-expressions could be substituted and my enquiry into the meaning of exist (s) ' was limited to cases where this functor was used with noun-expressions designating concrete objects or with noun-expressions that were empty. It remains to explore, among other things, in what sense the quantifiers can be used to bind predicate variables and what we mean when we say that colours exist or that numbers exist. These are far more difficult problems, which may call for a separate paper or rather for a number of separate papers." (p. 119)

  27. ———. 1985/86. "Logic and Non-Existence." Grazer Philosophische Studien no. 25/26:209-234.

  28. Lockwood, Michael. 1975. "On Predicating Proper Names." The Philosophical Review no. 84:471-498.

    "Mill's System of Logic is not often turned to by contemporary philosophers as a source of insights regarding the philosophy of language. To be sure, the terms "connotation" and "denotation," which Mill coined, have passed into quite general circulation; and Mill's doctrine of proper names has recently regained a certain popularity-largely as a result of the writings of Kripke. But the notions of connotation and denotation seem generally to be understood in the context of a Fregean or Carnapian scheme of thought which is, to a large extent, alien to Mill's own way of conceiving language; and Mill's views on proper names are usually discussed entirely without reference to what, for Mill, constitutes their theoretical rationale.

    To some, it may come as a surprise to learn that Mill actually had anything amounting to a theory of language. In fact, however, there is to be gleaned from Mill's Logic a theory of quite considerable sophistication -- which I shall attempt, in part, to reconstruct and defend. What will emerge from our discussion is a conception of proper names which combines elements that might seem, at first blush, incompatible with one another. I shall argue that the Kripke-Donnelian conception of proper names as "rigid designators" or purely referential devices is anticipated by Mill to an even greater degree than is generally recognized; but that, curiously, this conception does not prevent Mill from allowing that proper names can function as genuine predicates. We shall find that, even for Mill, there is, after all, a sense in which proper names might be said to connote."

  29. ———. 1979. "A Question of Connotation: An Answer to Keating." Analysis no. 39:189-194.

  30. Mares, Edwin D. 1997. "Who's Afraid of Impossible Worlds?" Notre Dame Journal of Formal Logic no. 38 (4):516-526.

  31. Mill, James. 1829. Analysis of the Phenomena of the Human Mind. London: Baldwin and Cradock,.

    Two volumes.

    Reprinted Ildesheim, Georg Olms, 1982 and Bristol, Thoemmes, 2001.

    See Vol. I, Chapter IV. Naming § 4 Predication.

  32. Miller, Barry. 1981. "Strawson on Existence as a Predicate." Philosophical Papers no. 10:93-99.

  33. Morscher, Edgar. 1985/86. "Was Existence Ever a Predicate?" Grazer Philosophische Studien no. 25/26:269-284.

  34. Munitz, Milton K. 1974. Existence and Logic. New York: New York University Press.

  35. Nakhnikian, George, and Salmon, Wesley C. 1957. "'Exists' as a Predicate." Philosophical Review no. 66:535-542.

  36. Orenstein, Alex. 1978. Existence and the Particular Quantifier. Philadelphia: Temple University Press.

  37. ———. 1995. "Existence Sentences." In The Heritage of Kazimierz Ajdukiewicz, edited by Sinisi, Vito and Wolenski, Jan, 227-236. Amsterdam: Rodopi.

    "Ajdukiewicz noted that singular existentials were regarded as meaningful in the Lesniewskian -- existentials as copula claims -- tradition but as meaningless within the Frege-Russell -- existentials as quantifier claims -- tradition. By utilizing identity ("=") in the Frege-Russell tradition and noting that it shares features with the Lesniewskian copula (both are sentence forming functors that take nouns as arguments), one can criticize the arguments for meaninglessness that were originally given. Nowadays it is quite common to use identity to express singular existentials. The paper's conclusion is that neither identity nor the copula provide the right basis for understanding existentials, but some feature they share in common."

  38. Price, Robert. 1970. "'Existence' as a Predicate." In Essays in Metaphysics, edited by Vaught, Carl G., 175-180. University Park: Pennsylvania University Press.

  39. Przelecki, Marian. 1981. "On What There Is Not." Dialectics and Humanism no. 8:123-129.

  40. Rosenkrantz, Gary. 1990. "Reference, Intentionality and Nonexistent Entities." Philosophical Studies no. 58:183-195.

  41. Salmon, Nathan. 1987. "Existence." Philosophical Perspectives no. 1:49-108.

  42. ———. 1998. "Nonexistence." Noûs no. 32:277-319.

  43. Santayana, George. 1915. "Some Meanings of the Word Is [First Version]." Journal of Philosophy, Psychology and Scientific Method no. 12:66-68.

  44. ———. 1924. "Some Meanings of the Word Is [Second Version]." Journal of Philosophy no. 21:365-377.

    Expanded version of the article published in 1915 (reprinted in Justus Buchler and Benjamin Schwartz, eds., Obiter Scripta. Lectures, Essays and Reviews by George Santayana, New York: Scribner's Sons, 1936, pp. 189-212).

    Reprinted also in: Martin A. Coleman (ed.), The Essential Santayana: Selected Writings, Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2009, pp. 138-148.

    "This selection first appeared in The Journal of Philosophy (21 [1924]: 365-77), A shorter version with the same title was published in 1915 (The journal of Philosophy, Psychology, and Scientific Methods, 12 (1915 1:66-68). As early as 1914 Santayana had intended the article as the first chapter of his Realms of Being. The 1924 article was republished in Obiter Scripta, and in a letter to the editors of that volume Santayana wrote: "I am also glad that you have rescued the 'Meanings of the Word "Is" '.On re-reading that article, I feel that it contains my whole philosophy in a very clear and succint form; I was dissuaded by a friend from putting it into The Realm of Essence, and also by my own feeling that it covered too much ground to go into that volume. Here [in Obiter Scripta] it is in its place." (The Letters of George Santayana, Book Five, 1933-1936: The Works of George Santayana, Volume V, Book Five, Cambridge: The MIT Press, 2003, p. 158). The seven meanings of the word "is" that Santayana distinguished demonstrate different realms of being that make up his ontological system." M. Coleman, p. 138 of the 2009 reprint.

  45. Stegmüller, Wolfgang. 1977. "Language and Logic." In Collected Papers on Epistemology, Philosophy of Science and History of Philosophy. Vol. Ii, 203-240. Dordrecht: Reidel.

    Engllish translation of: Sprache und Logik, Studium Generale, 9, 1956, pp. 57-77.

    "The subjects discussed in the following sections are to a certain extent scattered in text-books of modern logic. Some of the equivocations dealt with were already known to Aristotle and the Scholastics. Most of the inspiration for my observations comes from the logical and philosophical works of Prof. Willard van Orman Quine." (note 1 p. 239).

    See in particular the § 2. The Functions of 'Is' pp. 204-215.

  46. Trapp, Rainer. 1976. Analytische Ontologie. Der Begriff Der Existenz in Sprache Und Logik. Frankfurt am Main: Vittorio Klostermann.

  47. Vallicella, William. 1983. "A Critique of the Quantificational Account of Existence." Thomist no. 47:242-267.

  48. Vander Laan, David. 1997. "The Ontology of Impossible Worlds." Notre Dame Journal of Formal Logic no. 38:597-620.

  49. Vilkko, Risto. 2006. "Existence, Identity, and the Algebra of Logic." In Foundations of the Formal Sciences. The History of the Concept of the Formal Sciences, edited by Löwe, Benedikt, Peckhaus, Volker and Räsch, Thomas, 255-265. London: College Publications.

    "One of the most interesting open problems in the history of philosophy concerns the genesis of contemporary logic epitomized by the Frege-Russell theory of quantifiers. One of the cornerstones of this theory is the distinction between the allegedly different meanings of ordinary-language verbs for being. According to the received view, such verbs are multiply ambiguous between the is of predication, the is of existence, the is of identity, and the is of subsumption. This assumption (a.k.a. Frege-Russell ambiguity thesis) is built into the notations that have been used in logic since Frege and Russell, in that the allegedly different meanings are expressed in the usual logical notations differently. It turns out that no philosopher before the 19th century assumed the Frege-Russell thesis.

    It can be shown that Aristotle considered the Frege-Russell distinction but rejected it. He treated existence as a part of the force of a predicate term. Some people have ascribed it to Kant. However, it is false to say that Kant created, or maintained, the Frege-Russell thesis. His discussion of existence is often said to include a criticism of the idea that existence is a predicate. Strictly speaking it includes a stronger criticism, viz. the rejection of the idea that existence could be as much as a part of the force of a predicate term. Hence, after Kant the notion of existence became an orphan, as far as the logical representation of different propositions in syllogistic logic was concerned.

    The next main development in logical theory was the algebra of logic that originated in England around the mid-19th century. The following two ideas came to the forefront: (1) the operators corresponding to our universal quantifier and existential quantifier were treated as duals; (2) universal quantifier expressions were taken to be relative to some universe of discourse, and was inevitably taken as the non-existence of exceptions in that domain. Because of the duality, existential quantifier expressions came to express existence. The orphaned notion of existence thus found a home, no longer in the predicative is but in the existential quantifier. This helps to explain the independent discovery of quantifiers by Frege and by Peirce.

    This paper concentrates on what happened to the notion of existence after Kant and before Frege. Particular attention is paid to the English developments around mid-19th century and to the work of George Boole and Augustus De Morgan in particular."

  50. Vision, Gerald. 1985/86. "Reference and the Ghost of Parmenides." Grazer Philosophische Studien no. 25/26:297-326.

  51. Wolenski, Jan. 1995. "Ways of Dealing with Non-Existence." Grazer Philosophische Studien no. 50:113-127.

    "Non-existence provides big problems for ontology and modest for logic. Logical problems of non-existence consist in licensing inferences in which sentences with empty terms arc involved. The standard predicate logic solves this question by presupposing that every individual constant has an object to which it refers. This means that empty domains are excluded from semantics for the first-order logic. However, there is a temptation to consider logic without existential presuppositions.

    The ontological problem of non-existence leads to the question of the meaning of ‘nothing’. We encounter “various conceptions of nothing” in the history of philosophy from Parmenides to our times. However, nothing (or nothingness) is always a negation of being.

    Since we have distributive and collective (mereological) concepts of being, we also should distinguish nothing in the distributive and mereological meaning. This difference is important because only the former leads to the paradox of nothing of all nothings, analogical to the paradox of all sets. A closer analysis of the nothing in the distributive sense shows that any meaningful talk about non-existence requires a relativisation to a fixed domain of discourse. This seems to entail that the empty set is the formal model of nothing what means that the concept of absolute nothing in the distributive sense is simply inconsistent. To some extent, being and nothing are mutually dual. This motivates that the concept of nothing is governed by so-called dual logic connected with processes of rejection. More specifically, statements on “nothing” are not asserted but rejected."

Related pages

On the website "Theory and History of Ontology" (

Existence and Predication: the Frege-Russell 'Is' Ambiguity Thesis

Language as Calculus vs. Language as Universal Medium (two traditions in 20th century philosophy)