A Fregean conception of singular existence

Charles Sayward

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.12775/LLP.2014.006


A perplexity about singular existence statements (for example, ‘Socrates exists’) is that for their negations to be true their subject terms do not name anything. For example, in ‘Pegasus does not exist’ ‘does not exist’ is not said in respect to the referent of ‘Pegasus’ since there is none. But, then, in respect to what is that said? The paper answers the question by proposing a metalinguistic interpretation of singular existence statements, according to which singular existence statements are about names. It is argued that this interpretation fits in well with Frege’s views on existence, presupposition, and his idea that names have senses. 


Frege; Kant; Hume; Descartes; singular existence statements; names; free logic; classical logic

Full Text:



Descartes, Rene, Meditations on First Philosophy, introduced, edited, translated, and indexed by G. Heffernan, Notre Dame, Indiana, USA: University of Notre Dame Press, 1990.

Frege, Gottlob, Translations from the Philosophical Writing of Gottlob Frege, translated and edited by P. Geach and M. Black, New York: Philosophical Library, 1952.

Frege, Gottlob, Conceptual Notation and Related Articles, translated and edited with a bibliography and introduction by T.W. Bynum, Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1972.

Hugly, Philip, and Charles Sayward, “Frege on identities”, History and Philosophy of Logic, 21(3) (2000): 195–2005. DOI: 10.1080/01445340051095810

Hume, David, A Treatise of Human Nature, edited with an analytical index by Sir L. Amherst Selby-Bigge, Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1967.

Kant, Immanuel, Immanuel Kant’s Critique of Pure Reason, translated by N. Kemp Smith, London: MacMillan & Co. Ltd, 1963.

ISSN: 1425-3305 (print version)

ISSN: 2300-9802 (electronic version)

Partnerzy platformy czasopism