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Forthcoming papers


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A tractarian resolution to the ontological argument

To be published in Special Issue on Formal Approaches to the Ontological Argument

Erik Thomsen

Ontological arguments for the existence of God highlight classical logic’s
problematic treatment of the existential entailments of true propositions. Is
existence implicitly assumed to hold of the logical subject (i.e., argument) of
a true proposition? Or must existence be explicitly predicated? To allow for
assertions about non-existent objects, modern non-classical approaches from
Meinong to Berto, reject the classical approach traceable to Kant and Frege
that associates existence with the logical subjects of true propositions. Yet, in
overcoming the acknowledged problems with logical subject-based existential
entailment (as exemplified by the existential quantifier) these newer predicatebased
approaches have only re-opened the door to the problems created by the
ontological argument (e.g., from Anselm, Descartes, Leibniz) which were what
originally had motivated Kant to delegitimize existential predicates in the first
place. Classical logic’s approach to the ontological argument appears to be
running in circles.
In this paper, I attempt to simultaneously resolve the problems in both the
predicate-based and logical subject-based approaches to the ontological argument
(and to the characterization principle-based approaches which are closely
related to predicate-based ones) by replacing the notion of existential entailment
with the notion of ‘sequenced evaluation’ as the fundamental entailment
that applies to both the logical subject and predicate of a proposition. Towards
that end, I use a logic consistent with the principles laid out in Wittgenstein’s
Tractatus. The recasting of ontological arguments in Tractarian terms appears
to show a foundational mistake made by all approaches and how it can be
resolved.







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