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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Financed by MNiSW on the basis of agreement no. 706/P-DUN/2018 (dated 10/05/18). Project 1: “Preparation of articles in English for eight editions of the journal Logic and Logical Philosophy over the period 2018–19; Vol. 27, No. 1–4 (2018), Vol. 28, No. 1–4 (2019)”; amount from the DUN grant: 64800 zł. Project 4: “Digitalisation of eight editions of the journal Logic and Logical Philosophy over the period 2018-19; Vol. 27, No. 1–4 (2018), Vol. 28, No. 1–4 (2019)”; amount from the DUN grant: 18600 zł.

ISSN: 1425-3305 (print version)
ISSN: 2300-9802 (electronic version)

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