On What There is

  • A. J. Ayer


In this paper I begin by considering some remarks of Professor W. V. Quine’s on what he calls ‘the ontological problem’.1 Professor Quine holds that from the fact that a sign has meaning it does not, in general, follow either that there is anything that it stands for, or that there is anything that it denotes. This applies, in his view, not only to words like ‘red’ which are sometimes thought to stand for properties, but also to words like ‘Pegasus’ which are commonly regarded as names; for he argues that it is always possible to convert such names into descriptions, and then analyse out the descriptions in the way that Russell has suggested. Moreover, even in the case where an expression does denote something, it does not follow that what it means is identical with what it denotes; for, as the example of ‘the morning star’ and ‘the evening star’ shows, two expressions may denote the same object without having the same meaning. Whether in such cases, or indeed in any others, Professor Quine would wish to say that an expression named, or stood for, what it denoted, is not clear to me; nor is it clear to me whether he thinks that there are any signs, such as demonstratives or pronouns, which are meaningful only if there is something which they denote.


Physical Object Conceptual Scheme Ontological Commitment Abstract Entity Supplementary Proceeding 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Copyright information

© Palgrave Macmillan, a division of Macmillan Publishers Limited 1972

Authors and Affiliations

  • A. J. Ayer
    • 1
  1. 1.University of OxfordUK

Personalised recommendations