whether it's possible to deny the existence of something without presupposing it exists

I read the title (somewhat of a paraphrase from memory) somewhere but the author didn’t include possible resolution and the first few pages of Google results return no results attributing it to someone or naming it

what have been some of the views regarding the title question?


Of course it’s possible, in fact it’s implicit in claiming something isn’t real that you don’t believe it exists. Does saying “Sauron isn’t real” mean that I actually think Sauron is real? Of course not.

I’d be willing to believe you if you weren’t staring into that palantír.

but I’d need to understand who Sauron is to understand that you’re making the point that he doesnt exist

Do you mean denying the existence of something without first defining or fully describing what it is you’re denying? Yes, that ought to be possible, because some concepts have no completely coherent description/definition (and indeed it may be argued that this is a reason why they can’t logically exist).

Also, things can be denied by entire category. So I could say that dragons don’t exist, implying, but not explicitly mentioning that this includes comedy dragons with rotating bow ties and luminous top hats.

  1. It isn’t necessary for you to understand who Sauron is in order for him not to exist.
  2. Understanding who Sauron is doesn’t make him exist.

I accept both of these but what’s the reasoning behind them? What’s the name of the philosophical theory that first proposed that it’s impossible to deny the existence of something without first presupposing it exists?

For example, if you say Sauron doesn’t exist but Sauron actually turns out to be a pseudonym for Tom Cruise, then you’d be wrong.

Furthermore, things can be denied by exclusion, for example, by saying “the only kind of swans are white swans”*, I am denying (without ever mentioning or necessarily thinking of them at all) the existence of red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo and violet swans (and any other shade of any colour of swans, and transparent swans, etc).
*A statement I know is incorrect (black swans exist) - it’s just an example.

Why does that matter? You can deny something, and be wrong, but you still denied it.

This is interesting. It shortcuts the objection that X has existence (of some fashion) in a person’s mind. Similar to the idea that unicorns exist in someone’s mind…

I think it might be trying to say whether it’s possible to correctly deny… since I saw this question in a theism argument.

That’s what I thought to. It feels like it’s related to one of DeCartes arguments for God…

:confused: Does this have something to do with the Ontological Argument?

You read a phrase sometime, somewhere, you are not sure what it means, and you would like to debate…what, exactly?

Philosophy teacher here–in less than a month, unless something goes horribly wrong, I’ll be a bona fide Philosophy Prof.

Having said that, I should note that I don’t know as much about the history of Philosophy as many Philosophers might think I should. (Then again, many other Philosophers are all “history schmistory.”)

So anyway, I’ll go ahead and say that as far as I can remember, there’s never been a view (taken seriously by professional philosophers anyway) that it’s impossible to deny the existence of something without presupposing it exists.

The name Meinong did spring to my mind–but that was a mistake on my part. He argued that nonexistent objects genuinely have properties, but that’s not to say they actually exist in some sense, and it’s certainly not to argue that you can’t deny existence without presupposing it. (He may have argued that you can’t deny the existence of a thing without presupposing that the thing, nonexistent as it is, has properties, but I couldn’t find a clear reference in the brief time I looked.) (ETA: And on second thought I’d guess he never argued in that way either, assuming he would have said that the sentence “The propertiless object does not exist” is true–which seems likely.)

I think it’s possible some of the ancient Greeks might have said something like what you’re saying, but I’m not sure. That’d be my ignorance of history again.

On its face, the idea looks like a non-starter to me. It appears to me to confuse the existence of concepts with the existence of things concepts are concepts of. Perhaps I can’t say “Unicorns don’t exist” without presupposing there is a concept “unicorn” in my mind (or if not presupposing it, then being implicitly commited to it) but the claim that there is a concept “unicorn” in my mind is logically independent from the claim that there are unicorns. (Just as the claim “there is a word ‘unicorn’” is independent from the claim “there are unicorns.”)

Well shit. There goes my career plans.

Hell no, go for it. There’s obviously a gap in the market.

Now these comedy dragons, I think I read somewhere that they have rotating bow ties… is that true? And I understand that they have another, rather bright, form of apparel…
To the premise of the thread title, what Frylock said about concepts.