Maverick has just posted a reply to my request for what he calls a ‘sound bite’ on his argument for circularity. Before I comment, a brief aside on my dislike of the term ‘sound bite’. In philosophy, particularly ‘Internet philosophy’, I frequently encounter it when I ask for a clear and concise explanation of or argument for the opponent’s position. “You can’t reduce my argument to a sound bite”. Well in that case I am not interested in the opponent’s argument, for it is not an argument at all. I suspect the underlying reason is a fear that the position really is incoherent, or that the underlying argument is invalid. There should be an informal fallacy ‘The Sound Bite fallacy’ named after it. And in any case I do not want a ‘sound bite’, which is simply a short slogan summarising a position or attitude such as ‘This was their finest hour’, often little more than a cliché. Note also my previous post, where I argued that the ‘circularity objection’ is actually more complex and difficult than Maverick originally implied, and that it is unfair to say I am being disingenuous, when I claim I fail to understand it. I feel he has now conceded that it is somewhat more complicated and less obvious than he originally suggested.
But anyway: Maverick has now given a pretty clear outline of his argument, which I copy verbatim below.
1. On the thin theory, 'An F exists' means the same as 'The concept *F* is instantiated.'
2. If a first-level concept such as *F* is instantiated, then it is instantiated by an individual.
3. Let the arbitrary constant 'a' denote an individual that instantiates *F.*
4. By LNC, a cannot both exist and not exist.
5. By LEM, a must either exist or not exist.
6. If a does not exist, i.e., if a is a Meinongian nonexistent object, then the link expressed in (1) between existence and instantiation is broken.
7. If *F* is instantiated, then *F* is instantiated by an individual that exists.
8. On the thin theory, 'An F exists' means the same as 'The concept *F* is instantiated by an individual that exists.'
9. A definition (analysis, account, theory, explanation) is circular iff the term to be defined occurs in the defining term.
10. 'Exists' occurs both in (8)'s definiendum and its definiens.
11. The thin theory is circular.
Is it valid? Well, my first point is that the argument is even more complex than this, by reason of premisses (7) to (10). Consider the following, obviously invalid argument:
(1a) ‘Bachelor’ means the same as ‘unmarried man’.
(2a) (From 1a, definition) Every bachelor is an unmarried man.
(3a) Every bachelor is a bachelor who is an unmarried man.
(4a) ‘Bachelor’ means the same as ‘bachelor who is an unmarried man’.
(5a) ‘Bachelor’ occurs in the definiendum and the definiens of (4a)
(6a) The definition of ‘bachelor’ is circular.
What’s wrong with it? Well, from the fact that a definition occurs somewhere in the argument it doesn’t follow that whatever we derive from the definition can itself be turned into a definition. The universal proposition (3a) above is perfectly true and follows from the original definition, but it doesn’t follow that we can turn any old universal proposition into a definition. So the move to (4a), which turns the universal proposition into a definition, is blatantly fallacious.
Likewise, even if I grant the truth of the universal proposition corresponding to Maverick’s (7) above, i.e. “any F that exists is an F instantiated by an individual that exists”, it doesn’t follow that you can turn this into something that looks like a definition. Quite obviously not. In particular, Bill needs to avoid the charge that he has reintroduced the term ‘exist’ in (7) in much the same way that ‘bachelor’ has been reintroduced in (3a).