With The Two Opposites of 'Nothing' and the Logical Irreducibility of Being he returns, in part, to his attack on the 'Thin theory of Existence'. For Bill, existence is 'thick'---there is much that we can and must say about it. But for Bill, the thin theory is exhausted by a certain formula of Quine's, viz,
y is/exists =df for some x, y = x,which seems to reduce existence to the logic of identity.
We can agree that Quine's attempt at a definition of 'exists', if that is what it is, is useless. But do we then have to agree with Bill when he says,
I find it self-evident that the existence of a concrete individual is an intrinsic determination that makes it be as opposed to not be?Far from finding this self-evident, I'm having trouble attaching any sense at all to it. If asked, What makes a concrete (material) individual be? I'd have to say something like this.
First of all there is an undifferentiated mass of stuff I call the Bulk. Bits of stuff break away from the Bulk and adhere together. When enough stuff sticks together for long enough we say there is a discrete individual, though we know that the most interesting individuals are also continuously swapping their stuff with the Bulk, though remaining broadly the same. And we also know that the ways of stuff are such that every individual eventually loses its coherence, its stuff subsides back into the Bulk, and it ceases to exist. What I find interesting about this is that our best ideas about stuff aren't couched in terms of individuals at all, though our everyday language reflects the centrality of individuals and their properties to our lives. If Bill's notion of the Discursive Framework is restricted to what can be said in the language of individuals then I can agree with him that it has limited reach. But he hasn't quite said that.
Ask me about the existence of the Bulk and I simply say that it is a necessary being. Without it we could not exist and the question could not be asked. Beyond it we cannot go.