Can we know that something doesn't exist?

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Pyrrho
 
Reply Thu 8 Apr, 2010 09:48 am
@kennethamy,
kennethamy;149575 wrote:
When someone confuses the thought of Santa Claus with Santa Claus, and then thinks that because the thought of Santa Claus exists, that Santa Claus exists, it might be useful to him to point out his mistake. Anyway, it is a mistake, whether or not it is useful to point it out.


It is also quite useful to point out logical fallacies, as people are very prone to such poor thinking, and it often leads them to have false beliefs, which consequently leads them to do silly things that are not in their own best interests.

But I think your Santa example is a very good one. Many people believe in Santa or his equivalent, and they sometimes act stupidly as a result. Of course, preventing people from thinking poorly generally runs counter to business interests, as otherwise many companies would go out of business trying to sell the garbage that they sell.
 
kennethamy
 
Reply Thu 8 Apr, 2010 09:57 am
@Pyrrho,
Pyrrho;149605 wrote:
It is also quite useful to point out logical fallacies, as people are very prone to such poor thinking, and it often leads them to have false beliefs, which consequently leads them to do silly things that are not in their own best interests.

But I think your Santa example is a very good one. Many people believe in Santa or his equivalent, and they sometimes act stupidly as a result. Of course, preventing people from thinking poorly generally runs counter to business interests, as otherwise many companies would go out of business trying to sell the garbage that they sell.


And, it is a general error to think that because the thought, or a picture, or some other representation of X exists, that X exists. This mistake is regularly covered up by the use of the phrase, "X exists as Y" where Y is the representation of X, and not X.
 
Pyrrho
 
Reply Thu 8 Apr, 2010 10:00 am
@kennethamy,
kennethamy;149610 wrote:
And, it is a general error to think that because the thought, or a picture, or some other representation of X exists, that X exists. This mistake is regularly covered up by the use of the phrase, "X exists as Y" where Y is the representation of X, and not X.


Yes.

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SammDickens
 
Reply Thu 8 Apr, 2010 08:01 pm
@hue-man,
The difference between Santa existing and the idea or concept of Santa existing is not a matter of dispute if you are a materialist and define existence solely in terms of matter and energy. But of course this eliminates the existence of other, purely conceptual, notions such as democracy or love or freedom or truth or peace or ...

If Santa has material OR mental reality, then he exists. The issue is not one of being, but identity. Is his existence contingent on a mind that conceives him, or is his existence independent and material. But it is usually critical to distinguish the identity correctly (when possible).

Samm
 
ughaibu
 
Reply Thu 8 Apr, 2010 08:07 pm
@SammDickens,
Samm;149773 wrote:
If Santa has material OR mental reality, then he exists. The issue is not one of being, but identity.
That certainly seems to be the most plausible view.
If you're interested in an unreadably dry book on the subject, Zalta appears to be writing one: http://mally.stanford.edu/principia.pdf
 
kennethamy
 
Reply Fri 9 Apr, 2010 05:47 pm
@SammDickens,
Samm;149773 wrote:
The difference between Santa existing and the idea or concept of Santa existing is not a matter of dispute if you are a materialist and define existence solely in terms of matter and energy. But of course this eliminates the existence of other, purely conceptual, notions such as democracy or love or freedom or truth or peace or ...

If Santa has material OR mental reality, then he exists. The issue is not one of being, but identity. Is his existence contingent on a mind that conceives him, or is his existence independent and material. But it is usually critical to distinguish the identity correctly (when possible).

Samm


What would it mean for Santa to have mental reality? If that means the thought of Santa, or the idea of Santa, that is not Santa. It is the thought or idea of Santa. Why would the thought or idea of Santa be Santa? Would the thought or idea of the Eiffel Tower be the Eiffel Tower? Of course not. The Eiffel Tower is a structure in Paris. The thought or idea of the Eiffel Tower is not the Eiffel Tower. So why would the thought or idea of Santa be Santa?
 
ACB
 
Reply Sat 10 Apr, 2010 05:29 pm
@kennethamy,
kennethamy;150092 wrote:
What would it mean for Santa to have mental reality? If that means the thought of Santa, or the idea of Santa, that is not Santa. It is the thought or idea of Santa. Why would the thought or idea of Santa be Santa? Would the thought or idea of the Eiffel Tower be the Eiffel Tower? Of course not. The Eiffel Tower is a structure in Paris. The thought or idea of the Eiffel Tower is not the Eiffel Tower. So why would the thought or idea of Santa be Santa?


(1) I now have the thought of Santa in my mind
therefore
(2) I am now thinking about Santa
therefore
(3) Santa is now being thought about by me
therefore
(4) Santa has the property of now being thought about by me
therefore
(5) Santa exists.

Where is the flaw in this argument? Bear in mind that I am thinking about Santa, not (only) the thought of Santa. Sentence (3) expresses the same proposition as (2), but in the passive rather than the active voice.
 
 

 
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