A Paradigm Theory of Existence: Onto-Theology Vindicated [Book Review]

Review of Metaphysics 58 (3):687-688 (2005)


This book offers an extended argument that the existence of contingent things is grounded in and hence accounted for by a paradigm existent, which is none other than existence itself—in effect, the ipsum esse subsistens of traditional philosophical theology. Much of the focus is on the nature of contingent existence, which the author contends is a genuine determination of real individuals, though not a property in the usual sense. This implies rejection of a number of other accounts of individual existence, which are refuted in detail in the first five chapters. Chapter 2 argues that existence is not a first-level property of things that have it; in particular, it is not a property that divides a realm of Meinongian objects into those that exist and those that do not. Chapter 3 is directed against theories according to which an entity and its existence are one and the same. These are rejected on the ground that they must either misrepresent contingent things as necessarily existing or deny that contingent existence is anything at all, which violates our intuition that to say a contingent thing exists is to attribute something to it, even if not an ordinary property. Chapter 4 is dedicated to showing that contingent existence is not a second-order property—that is, a property of properties. General statements of existence may perhaps be understood as second-order statements about what properties are instantiated. Singular claims, however, cannot be understood in this way; for to treat a statement like “Socrates exists” as second order commits us in the end to haecceities, which the author rejects, as either violating the distinction between abstract and the particular, or committing us in turn to the identity of indiscernibles, which faces powerful objections. Finally, the view that individual existence is a matter of being contained by some relevant domain is rejected in chapter 5 because, among other reasons, it leads to the manifestly false result that the maximum world, which contains all other existents, does not itself exist.

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Hugh J. McCann
Texas A&M University

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