Even when one knows that two sentences both make the same false existential presupposition, one might evaluate one of them as false, while feeling unable to assign a truth-value to the other. For example, some people feel squeamish, i.e. are unable to evaluate the sentence as true or false, when asked to assign a truth-value to sentence (1) but confidently judge (2) to be false. I will call sentences with existential presupposition failure SWEPF.
(1) The king of France is bald.
(2) The king of France is drinking a cup of tea with us.
In the contemporary literature several ways of explaining this difference in truth-value assignments have been proposed. I think that there is a further desideratum for a theory that explains the presented difference that has not been discussed so far. The desideratum is the following: I take it that between speakers who judge some SWEPF as squeamish, there remains the possibility of disagreement in how to judge a particular SWEPF. This means that there are evaluator-relative SWEPF such that some speakers judge them to be squeamy and others judge them to be false. I take it that for example sentence (3) is such a SWEPF.
(3) The king of France lives in a spaceship.
The discussion of the desideratum is important because not all of the contemporary explanations can account for it. To show this, I will group the contemporary explanations in different approaches and then look how the most elaborated theory of each approach deals with the desideratum.
Ockham Society Convenor: Sean Costello | Ockham Society Webpage