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Auteur: Irena CRONIN

Absence, Non-existence, and Particular Beings or Objects

Abstract/Résumé: Building upon, refining and refuting some of A. J. Schoubye’s systematic considerations in his paper “Descriptions, Truth Value Intuitions, and Questions,” I propose a tiered system that explains when and how the notions of absence, non-existence, and particular beings or objects could determine whether or not a sentence is always deemed false. This holds prior to any implementation of the theory of prosodic focus or conversational moves, and does not entail Schoubye’s false intuition hypothesis (FIH). Schoubye’s FIH and the systematic considerations that arise out of it do not adequately take into consideration out-of-context sentences with regards to true or false intuition evaluations and he himself points this out; since Schoubye’s system relies heavily on the activation of prosodic focus and conversational moves, it is not surprising that his system does not address this topic very well. The tiered system that I propose, when it comes to sentences that include elements associated with absence, non-existence, and/or particular beings or objects, could be used to determine whether or not sentences of these types are always deemed false, prior to any application of prosodic focus or conversational moves. My proposed system is limited to those certain types of sentences that incorporate notions of, or directly refer, to absent or non-existent beings or objects. Exceptions, under my notion of non-existence, include sentences that contain non-existent “beings” such as Santa Claus (as in the sentence “Santa Claus is fat,” which is deemed to be true), for Santa Claus has been common-grounded to have certain attributes and also to perform certain actions. Any sentences with non-existent, yet common-grounded, “beings” that contain propositions within the limits of their certain associated common-grounded attributes and actions, as exemplified under my system, would be deemed true. The major issue with the famous sentence “The King of France is bald” is that the “King of France” has not been common-grounded with any attributes or actions, and this has not been addressed or rectified by Schoubye under FIH or its connected system. Schoubye indicates this sentence as “squeamish”, basically agreeing with Strawson’s anti-Russellian view of it being neither true nor false due to the non-existence of the King of France. I have a systematic model of why this might not be so, incorporating examples where non-existence would actually lead to a sentence being evaluated as true, given certain grounding conditions. My reasoning is an extension of von Fintel’s verification/falsification model and directly addresses Schoubye’s complaint that a model of this type is inherently limited in predicting “robust intuitions of falsity.”