Does Macbeth See a Dagger? An Empirical Argument for the Existence-Neutrality of Seeing

Erkenntnis 89 (2):641-664 (2024)
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Abstract

In a recent paper, Justin D’Ambrosio (2020) has offered an empirical argument in support of a negative solution to the puzzle of Macbeth’s dagger—namely, the question of whether, in the famous scene from Shakespeare’s play, Macbeth sees a dagger in front of him. D’Ambrosio’s strategy consists in showing that “seeing” is not an existence-neutral verb; that is, that the way it is used in ordinary language is not neutral with respect to whether its complement exists. In this paper, we offer an empirical argument in favor of an existence-neutral reading of “seeing”. In particular, we argue that existence-neutral readings are readily available to language users. We thus call into question D’Ambrosio’s argument for the claim that Macbeth does not see a dagger. According to our positive solution, Macbeth sees a dagger, even though there is not a dagger in front of him.

Author Profiles

Vilius Dranseika
Jagiellonian University
André Sant'Anna
University of Geneva

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