The Subtraction Arguments for Metaphysical Nihilism: Compared and Defended

In Tyron Goldschmidt (ed.), The Puzzle of Existence. Why is There Something rather than Nothing? Routledge. pp. 197-214 (2013)
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The subtraction argument, originally put forward by Thomas Baldwin (1996), is intended to establish Metaphysical Nihilism, the thesis that there could have been no concrete objects. Some modified versions of the argument have been proposed in order to avoid some difficulties faced by the original argument. In this paper I shall concentrate on two of those versions, the so-called subtraction argument* (presented and defended in Rodriguez-Pereyra 1997, 2000, 2002), and Efird and Stoneham’s recent version of the argument (Efird and Stoneham 2005). I shall defend the subtraction argument* from Alexander Paseau’s (2006) objection that because a crucial premise of the subtraction argument* may have no plausibility independent from Metaphysical Nihilism, the subtraction argument* is not suasive. Although Paseau focuses on the subtraction argument*, I shall point out that Efird and Stoneham could reply to Paseau’s objection in the same way. Thus there are (at least) two suasive versions of the subtraction argument that establish Metaphysical Nihilism. But are those two arguments equally good? I shall argue that the subtraction argument* is preferable to Efird and Stoneham’s argument.
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