Does Quine Solve the Problem of Plato’s Beard? | Assignment Collections |


According to Thomas (2018), Plato has been interpreted as accepting an abnormally bloated ontology in order to support particular sorts of this,  Quine traces a significant portion of the establishment of a tradition in which meaningful names are required to refer to related things to non-meaningful names to Plato. This challenge is referred to as “Plato’s Beard” by Quine in his work. The concept of the Platonic Beard is the end result of a particular way of thinking about meaning, according to which a phrase only has significance if it can be connected to another concept.  The problematic nature of this point of view is made abundantly evident when taken into consideration a statement such as “Pegasus does not exist.”

According to the viewpoint that is being considered, if Pegasus does not exist, then the statement in question cannot be correct. If he does in fact exist in some form, how can it be said that Pegasus does not exist? Negative existence assertions nearly invariably appear to presuppose the existence of the very objects that they reject, which is puzzling in light of the problem of nonbeing that it tackles. Quine is not a supporter of Plato’s Beard, and he warns that this complicated idea frequently dulls the razor of Ockham’s razor since it stimulates the formation of ever more opulent ontologies. He does not place a high priority on defending Quine’s understanding of Plato’s Beard as a view of the beard. With this understanding, thi paper will therefore focus on the old Platonic riddle of nonbeing and whether Quine indeed solves the problem of Plato’s beard.

Quine presents a rather intriguing riddle of none being in Plato’s beard; a riddle that he himself solves. Albeit Quine’s nuance being perceived as problematic, he solves the problem of what he refers to as “Plato’s beard.” Basically, Plato’s beard is hereby a negative ontology, which places more emphasis on what there is not.

A semantic untangling of Plato’s Beard that encourage the use of “possible” to statements instead of entities.

The riddle presents the paradoxical problem that nonbeing must to some extent be, or else what is that there is not? Following this, the tangled doctrine that Quine untangles is referred to as Plato’s beard. According to Quine, it has proven to be tough historically and even often tends to dull the edge of Occam’s razor (Maverick Philosopher, 2021). The paradox emerges from that “Pegasus does not exist” is true; thus, the statement in question meaning keeping in mind that only statements that are meaningful hold truth value. Again, the sentential and sub-sentential elements of a sentence are bound to have meaning as well if a sentence holds meaning (compositionality of meaning). Keeping these in mind, “Pegasus” thus has meaning.

An item is such that “Pegasus” refers to it, remaining conscious that “Pegasus is a proper name, and proper names have their meaning in their referent (that to which it refers to). Thus, remaining conscious of this, “Pegasus” in a sense refers to an aspect that is in existence, which implies that everything exists and there is no such thing as a nonexistent object. It is to say that an individual is incapable of referring to what is not in existence for it is not there to begin with for it to be referred to. Thus, it is imperative that Pegasus exists for it to be true that Pegasus is not in existence. An epitome of a paradox!

Still, among the initial four propositions, none of them have been reasonably objected. Nevertheless, to deter from the conclusion, one among that an item is such that “Pegasus” refers to it and that “Pegasus” in a sense refers to an item that is in existence must be denied, as well as the premises that lead to them. Notably, Quine is not a Wymanian and neither is he a Meinongian. Importantly, Quine is an advocate for the Russellian solution that surmounts to rejecting that an aspect is such that “Pegasus” refers to it given that he automatically rejects the premise that meaning of a proper name is depleted by its reference following this.

The Russellian solution hereby upholds that common names are descriptions that are definite rather subtly. In this sense, their disguised definite descriptions enable them to hold meaning or sense minus any reference. Therefore, “Pegasus” is succinct for “the Greek mythology winged horse,” which enable the contextual paraphrase that states “Pegasus does not exist.”

Still, it is the Russellian solution that Quine advocates that in fact untangles the problem of Plato’s beard (Hodgson, 2022). The contextual paraphrase of it is not the case that x is in existence such x is Greek mythology’s winged horse is a free paradox of “Pegasus does not exist.” Essentially, the contextual paraphrase implies that there lacks a definite description that provides the feeling of “Pegasus” is not satisfied.

Equally, it explains that the winged horse of Greek mythology concept is pretty much not personified. Therefore, the initial sentence that emerged to be concerning an object that is not in existence but one that, if were to exist, would be an animal, is actually regarding a concept that is not in existence and that is certainly not an animal.

The solution it offers is thus rather excellent! Interestingly, it also applies for negative overall existential (Kauss, 2022). Despite the surface grammar, “Unicorns do not exist” is not just merely about unicorns and cannot be for that matter (Maverick Philosopher, 2021). If anything, there aren’t any; it is more concerning the concept of unicorn whilst basing of it the feature of not being instantiated.


In a further examination towards affirmative general existentials, the conclusion that can be made that “Horses exist,” for instance, is not merely concerning horse; if anything, which horses in this case would it be concerning? It is more concerning the horse concept and bases of it the feature of being instantiated.

When it comes to singular affirmative existentials like “Harry exists”? Quine holds that, if need be, an individual can turn a name, which is a noun, to a verb. Following this, one can say, with truth, “Nothing pegasizes” thus averting Plato’s Beard. Similarly, what would really hinder one from saying “something Harrysizes” with this? Well, in essence, haecceity-concepts are simply not a thing. It is to say that there is no concept as Harry-ness that can be in existence instantiated, and if instantiated is made so by Harry and just Harry within the real setting, then it is not instantiated by any other item different from Harry within any other possible setting. In an appreciation of the Russellian approach, it is the critical through which Quine, who is one of its advocates, thus present the solution to solving the problem of Plato’s beard.

The Russellian approach essentially untangles Plato’s Beard because it averts Meinong’s jungle (Sendlak, 2022). While at it, the Russellian solution Quine presents is also conscious of the existence-nonexistence distinctions by situating it within the second level; the level of concepts, descriptions, features propositional functions (Voltolini, 2022).

These it does for descriptions as the distinction between satisfaction-dissatisfaction, for features/properties and concepts as the contrast between instantiation-non instantiation, as well as containing value-not holding value for functions that are propositional, or as explained by Russell himself, at times being true or the inverse of that.


In addition to this, Quines Russellian approach in untangling Plato’s Beard offers a proper detection on particular ontological argument versions. Unlike Descartes’ Meditation Five version which holds that God exists given that God is characterized by all perfections and existence in itself is a perfection (Agostini, 2019; Tweyman, 2022), Russell explains that existence in itself is not a feature of God to begin with.

According to this approach that Quine so much advocates for, if existence in itself is not even a property of God, then perfection of God in itself is immaterial in this context as there is no legitimate utilization as first-level predicate and is capable of being effectively applied only as predicate of the second-level.

Lastly, but pretty much crucial as well, the Russellian approach Quine uses bequeaths whole libraries of school metaphysics towards he flames, the books whir on continuously concerning Existence and Being, alongside the distinction realis and analogia. They also endlessly drone a lot about the ipsum esse subsistens and nauseam. On the other side are every hoary and continuously extended debates on the connection of essence and existence within people.

Questions are is it a real distinction? Are bound to arise with many questions on the true meaning. On the other hand, others continue to probe on whether it is a formal distinction and the meaning. Essentially, when it comes to this approach, there is just no existence of individual; yet, as explained earlier, God is hereby perceived as an individual. As famously quoted, Quine states that “Existence is what existential quantification expresses” (Maverick Philosopher, 2021). Therefore, “Cats exist” explains no more than or less than “For some x, a cat is x.”


Essentially, to the magnitude which it permits individuating properties, the answer Quine offers as solution to the problem of stating that Pegasus is not without assuming Pegasus is indeed problematic. The division of meaning and reference into singular terms can be perceived as a means through which Quine blocks commitment towards an ontology entailing Pegasus when one says Pegasus is not (Voltolini, 2021).

This is because, if Pegasus is a name, it is not meaningful. The meaningfulness of Pegasus is not that it needs the meaningfulness of Pegasus, and the meaningfulness are highlighted within a name, then stating, meaningfully, that Pegasus is not is an implication that Pegasus is. Still, it can be perceived that it implies this only if it is faulty assumed within the initial instance that a singular terms’ meaning is highlighted with the entity named by the term. Generally, Quine solves the problem of Plato’s Beard in the best way yet known.

Thus, in a sense, marking off meaning and reference even with singular terms like Pegasus enable an individual to state with consistency that Pegasus is not. The approach Quine undertakes thus translates singular phrases such as Pegasus to predicates.

The sense in this arises in that it allows “Pegasus is not” to be polished as for instance, “it is not the case that there exists an x in that c is a winged horse that paves way for the spring of Hippocrene and for each y in the case that y is a winged horse that paved way the spring of Hippocrene such that y equals x. In essence, this is the Russellian approach Quine, and the key takeaway is that he integrated it effectively to solve the problem of Plato’s Beard.


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