Das normative "ist"

Zeitschrift für Philosophische Forschung 42 (3):371 - 396 (1988)
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Despite the fact that Aristotle and Frege/Russell differ in how to understand the ambiguity in the meaning of the word “is”, their theories share a common feature: “is” does not have a normative meaning. This paper, however, (I) shows (a) that there is a normative meaning of “is” (and correspondingly a constative meaning of the word “ought”) and (b) that the ambiguity of “is” is itself ambiguous. Furthermore, it proposes (c) a performative criterion for making a distinction between constative and normative “is”. Thereby, (II) a new interpretation of Kant’s critique of the ontological argument (CPR A 598/B626) makes sense: The difference between being as a real predicate and being as a position depends on the difference between “is” as a descriptive and “is” as a normative predicate. (III) The criterion also makes possible a new answer to Leibniz’s and Schelling’s question, “Why is there something rather than nothing?”: The “is” in “there is something” is normative and the question means “Why shall there be something rather than nothing?”. As “there shall be nothing” is self-refuting, the question evokes an ultimate foundation in a practical sense.

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Rafael Ferber
University of Zürich


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