The current king of France punched me in the mouth today

I’d agree with your analysis. The difference between that and the sentence I posted is that you have to rely on pragmatics to call my sentence incoherent.

II Gyan II: Is Polycarp’s sentence incoherent?

if we take what we know of the context of the sentence and write it out in first-order logic, it is plainly sensical and false:

E k . (k is currently the king of france & k punched ultrafilter in the mouth today).

since we know there is no such k, the sentence is simply false.

now, if we had considered something like:

“the person who punched ultrafilter in the mouth today doesn’t exist.”

we might run into a few more problems.

Now, what about the Multiple Worlds Hypothesis – does that affect the issue?

If on the planet Turtledove, in an alternate universe, there exists a Louis XXIII, Roi de France, who did not in fact board a Transuniversal Continua Craft, come to our Earth incognito, and punch Ultrafilter in the mouth, how does this affect the statement’s logical validity issues?

bolding mine.

If correct, wouldn’t the 2 arguements above consign all works of fiction to the class of incoherent?

No. Since you know it’s fiction, you consign it the required leeway.

ultrafilter, we need to finetune what coherence refers to. If coherent simply means that one can simply parse the sentence, then both yours and Polycarp’s sentences are coherent. But both your sentences don’t require additional information, so to speak, to declare them false (assuming general knowledge for both speaker/listener). It is incomprehensible (without context) why the statement would be asserted, given their obvious falsity. In that sense, they’re incoherent. On the other hand, the statement, within themselves, contain enough information to allow you to decide that they’re false, hence they’re coherent.

Polycarp’s sentence is actually incoherent, since we can’t decide the Truth Value.

It’s false, not incoherent.

The Statement “The current King of France is Bald” is incoherent, As B. Russell pointed out, because you are ascribing qualities to something that doesn’t exist.

However your statement ascribes qualities to two people who do exist, you and the person who punched you in the mouth. Your sentence contains two assertions.

1.) I was punched in the mouth. this is either true or false.

2.) The person who punched me in the mouth is the current King of France. This is false.

Thus the sentence is coherent, but false.

“For all x, if x is a prime number between 24 and 28, x is an even factor of 1,000”. I think it’s obvious that that’s what Polycarp means, and that sentence is clearly true (by vacuous implication).

actually from what i’ve read (and i have stacks of russell books i haven’t yet read), this isn’t what he claimed. he claimed that ascribing nonexistence to an object is semantically nonsensical. ascribing characteristics to an object that could exist, in my estimation, is semantically valid, and just false.

If I said today:
The current King of Britain has two daughters.
that is clearly false.

If I had made that statement 60 years ago, it would have been true. Since it would have been true 60 years ago, it would have been coherent 60 years ago. So, if it was coherent 60 years ago, howcan it be incoherent now?

In logical terms, it’s asserting a couple of things:
(1) There is a person who is the current King of Britain.
(2) That person has two daughters.
Those two things were true in 1944, and statement (1) is false now, so the combined statement is false.

And again, the statement:
Every person who is the current King of Britain has two daughters.
is both coherent and true now, but was coherent and false for most of 1936 (because there was a King of Britain, but he did not have two daughters).

You’re probably right.

But my point was just that while the sentence “The present K of F is B” ascribes qualities to non-existent entities, Ultrafilter’s sentence ascribes qualities to people that do esist.

I think I remembered the Russell sentence from Introduction to Mathematical Philosophy but its been so long I might not even have that right.

I suggest it is simply false. The questions I see are, “Does this sentence have any use?” As we can see, the answer is ‘yes’, someone suggested a different context, we might suggest that a person was mistaken about so-and-so being king, etc. It is a perfectly grammatical sentence with a definite use obivous to any English speaker.

It just happens to be a fiction. I would not care to suggest that fiction is meaningless; it is simply false.

I didn’t mention the second question, which is “Is it true?”, but I feel it is implied. Whoops!

Definite Description from Wikipedia, discussing Russell, Strawson, Donellan, and regal baldness.

the sentence i remember him using was “the golden mountain does not exist.” in our language, it is actually parsed as “there is no such object which is both gold and a mountain”, which does make sense, and lets us use semantically invalid sentences and have their meaning be understood. in a logically perfect language, though, that would not happen.

I would say “true” but that’s because in maths “all” is fairly well defined, and such a statement is considered true when there are no examples. However in normal english, many people would use “all” to additionally imply there was at least one – you may agree or disagree but as it’s a common view you can’t just dismiss it – and in that case it could be false or incoherent.

In fact, I think this whole discussion is a bit moot without a good definition of incoherent (and possibly of false). Different people interpret them in different ways, so get different answers.

I would lean to the “implicitly stating there is a king, and so false” but I’m not certain.

From a Wikipedia article on philosopher Bertrand Russell (

In this case, I feel “false or incoherent” should rather be “mistake or lie?” Either the person was mistaken about the face-puncher being the king of France, or the person was lying. The sentence directs English speakers in such a way that we could determine which case applied, meaning it is not incoherent or nonesense (choose your poison).

My right leg is currently not attached to my body, but is detached and far away, in fact right now in the middle of the Gobi desert, dancing a jig with the ghost of Ghengis Khan. Why is this happening? I am completely unable to explain.

I do not know what to do with that idea. Whether that is your fault or mine has to be discovered. How we go about doing so is a facet of whether we consider that nonsense or simply false. Perhaps we don’t agree at all right off… but where do we agree? And does that lead us to a point where we can discuss that leg?

I heard Lot’s wife was turned into salt…