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This article is taken from PN Review 139, Volume 27 Number 5, May - June 2001.

Is There Everything and Is Everything There? Adam Czerniawski

Willard van Orman Quine (unaware that he is the greatest poet among logicians) writes with unashamed passion worthy of Swift's saeva indignatio. In his 'On what there is' the object of his fury is Wyman:

Wyman's overpopulated universe is in many ways unlovely. It offends the aesthetic sense of us who have a taste for desert landscapes, but that is not the worst of it. Wyman's slum of possibles is a breeding ground for disorderly elements. Take, for instance the possible fat man in the doorway; and, again, the possible bald man in that doorway. Are they the same possible man, or two possible men? How do we decide? How many possible men are there in that doorway? Are there more possible thin ones than fat ones? How many of them are alike? Or would their being alike make them one? Are no two possible things alike? Is this the same as saying that it is impossible for two things to be alike? Or, finally, is the concept of identity simply inapplicable to unactualised possibles? But what sense can be found in talking of entities which cannot meaningfully be said to be identical with themselves and distinct from one another? [...] I feel we'd do better simply to clear Wyman's slum and be done with it.*

Who is Wyman? He is 'one of those philosophers who have united in ruining the good old word exist '. He is the Platonising thinker who multiplies ...


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