Existence questions

Amie L. Thomasson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

26 Scopus citations


I argue that thinking of existence questions as deep questions to be resolved by a distinctively philosophical discipline of ontology is misguided. I begin by examining how to understand the truth-conditions of existence claims, by way of understanding the rules of use for 'exists' and for general noun terms. This yields a straightforward method for resolving existence questions by a combination of conceptual analysis and empirical enquiry. It also provides a blueprint for arguing against most common proposals for uniform substantive 'criteria of existence', whether they involve mind-independence, possession of causal powers, observability, etc., and thus for showing that many arguments for denying entities (numbers, ordinary objects, fictional characters, propositions) on grounds of their failure to meet one or more of these proposed existence criteria are mistaken.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)63-78
Number of pages16
JournalPhilosophical Studies
Issue number1
StatePublished - Oct 1 2008


  • Causal relevance
  • Existence
  • Mind-independence
  • Ontology
  • Reference

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Philosophy


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