|Bill, writing to Roger:|
Roger, you wrote that "the universe is, by definition, everything that exists, and nothing can exist outside of it." That is exactly my view, so what we arguing about? Nothing exists outside the universe, or, if you wish, there is nothing outside the universe.
The thought confusion here stems from differing interpretations of Aristotle's categorical propositions in his Square of Opposition (in particular the O proposition). Boethius interpreted them as:
NAME FORM TITLE
A Every S is P Universal Affirmative
E No S is P Universal Negative
I Some S is P Particular Affirmative
O Some S is not P Particular Negative
... Which is a thinking mistake carried through to this day (in ivory towers and laymen alike). But Abelard fixed the O proposition so that we wouldn't have to be having this discussion right now (little did he know that he'd be affecting humans for millennia!). The properly interpreted O proposition is ...
O Not every S is P Particular Negative
On the previous (Boethius) view of "Some S is not ..." -- still widely held to this day -- the postulation of an S has existential import -- i.e., you have to (at least, operationally) presume the existence of an S; be it a unicorn or whatever. Here's a telling excerpt from (http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/square/) ...
2.2 Aristotle's Formulation of the O Form
Ackrill's translation contains something a bit remarkable: Aristotle's articulation of the O form is not the familiar ‘Some S is not P’ or one of its variants; it is rather ‘Not every S is P’. With this wording, Aristotle's doctrine automatically escapes the modern criticism. (This holds for his views throughout De Interpretatione.) For assume again that ‘S’ is an empty term, and suppose that this makes the I form ‘Some S is P’ false. Its contradictory, the E form: ‘No S is P’, is thus true, and this entails the O form in Aristotle's formulation: ‘Not every S is P’, which must therefore be true. When the O form was worded ‘Some S is not P’ this bothered us, but with it worded ‘Not every S is P’ it seems plainly right. Recall that we are granting that ‘Every S is P’ has existential import, and so if ‘S’ is empty the A form must be false. But then ‘Not every S is P’ should be true, as Aristotle's square requires.
On this view affirmatives have existential import, and negatives do not—a point that became elevated to a general principle in late medieval times. The ancients thus did not see the incoherence of the square as formulated by Aristotle because there was no incoherence to see.
2.3 The Rewording of the O Form
Aristotle's work was made available to the Latin west principally via Boethius's translations and commentaries, written a bit after 500 CE. In his translation of De interpretatione, Boethius preserves Aristotle's wording of the O form as "Not every man is white." But when Boethius comments on this text he illustrates Aristotle's doctrine with the now-famous diagram, and he uses the wording ‘Some man is not just’. So this must have seemed to him to be a natural equivalent in Latin. It looks odd to us in English, but he wasn't bothered by it.
Early in the twelfth century Abelard objected to Boethius's rewording of the O form, but Abelard's writing was not widely influential, and except for him and some of his followers people regularly used ‘Some S is not P’ for the O form in the diagram that represents the square. Did they allow the O form to be vacuously true?
The very (even operational!) presumption of a subject (an S) outside the universe is, itself, invalid -- by way of being a completely arbitrary hypothetical. Hypothetical's are fine. But hypothetical's which have no potential instantiation in reality have less meaning than does the sound of crickets.
(Edited by Ed Thompson on 8/08, 7:33pm)