Talking about nothing

Zoltán Vecsey



Some singular terms are referentially empty by necessity. Oliver and Smiley have recently introduced the term ‘zilch’ for illustrating this kind of emptiness. The emptiness of ‘zilch’ is supposed to arise from the fact that its extension has been defined by a logically unsatisfiable condition. Casati and Fujikawa disagree with this explanation and claim that ‘zilch’ refers to some null thing. In this paper, I argue that neither of these positions is correct, since, for different reasons, they both misinterpret the phenomenon of referential emptiness. As an alternative, I propose a representationalist account of emptiness, which can explain the properties of ‘zilch’ and similar terms more effectively.


empty singular terms; reference; zilch; non-relational representation

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