Existentialism, aliens and referentially unrestricted worlds

Synthese 196 (9):3723-3738 (2019)
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Existentialism claims that propositions that directly refer to individuals depend on those individuals for their existence. I argue for two points regarding Existentialism. First, I argue that recent accounts of Existentialism run into difficulties accommodating the possibility of there being a lonely alien electron. This problem is distinct from one of the better-known alien problems—concerning iterated modal properties of aliens—and can’t be solved using a standard response to the iterated case. Second, though the lonely alien electron problem might seem to be reason to reject the sort of Existentialist view at hand, there’s a plausible way to preserve the view: accept the existence of possible worlds that directly refer to individuals that don’t exist in those worlds. Such a solution might seem incompatible with Existentialism, but I show that Existentialists can avoid the incompatibility and should find the resulting view plausible.

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Michael Longenecker
Zhongnan University of Economics and Law


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