Show Summary Details

Page of

PRINTED FROM OXFORD HANDBOOKS ONLINE ( © Oxford University Press, 2018. All Rights Reserved. Under the terms of the licence agreement, an individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a title in Oxford Handbooks Online for personal use (for details see Privacy Policy and Legal Notice).

date: 07 August 2020

Abstract and Keywords

This chapter presents a critical discussion of the problem of negative existentials in the tradition of analytic philosophy of language. Firstly, it presents the problem as a compelling argument in support of the counterintuitive conclusion that sentences such as ‘Pegasus does not exist’ cannot be used to make true and informative assertions. Then, seven influential proposals for solving the problem are considered, each of which is construed as a response to this argument. The proposals considered are Russell’s (1905) theory of descriptions, Quine’s (1948) prescribed elimination of names, Donnellan’s (1974) ‘historical block’ view, Kripke’s (1973/2013) ‘no such proposition’ view, Salmon’s (1998) fictional entities view, Braun’s (1993) gappy proposition view, and Katz’s (1990) pure metalinguistic descriptivism. Though the official stance with regard to these proposals is neutral, the chapter concludes with a brief reactive summary that endorses a general pragmatic approach to the problem.

Keywords: negative existentials, theory of descriptions, elimination of names, fictional entities, gappy propositions, Russell, Kripke

Access to the complete content on Oxford Handbooks Online requires a subscription or purchase. Public users are able to search the site and view the abstracts and keywords for each book and chapter without a subscription.

Please subscribe or login to access full text content.

If you have purchased a print title that contains an access token, please see the token for information about how to register your code.

For questions on access or troubleshooting, please check our FAQs, and if you can''t find the answer there, please contact us.