The Possibility of Proving the Non-Existence of Something

In a recent blog entry, theistic philosopher William Vallicella criticizes a statement made by psychologist Paul Vitz, in which Vitz asserted that it is “intrinsically impossible” to “prove the non-existence of anything.” As Vallicelli correctly points out:

“But surely there are things whose nonexistence can be proven. The nonexistence of a round square can be proven a priori by simply noting that something that is both round and nonround cannot exist.”

What Vallicelli writes is consistent with my own essay on the subject, where I made the following observation.

Indeed, there are actually two ways to prove the nonexistence of something. One way is to prove that it cannot exist because it leads to contradictions (e.g., square circles, married bachelors, etc.). …

The other way to prove the nonexistence of something is, in the words of Keith Parsons, “by carefully looking and seeing.”

I could not agree with Vallicelli more when he concludes that Vitz’s assertion is “plainly false.”

An Evidential Argument from Evil: Natural Inequality
McDowell's Trilemma - Part 1
Debate: External Evidence for Jesus - Part 5A: Five Principles
Debate: External Evidence for Jesus - Parts 5B and 5C
About Jeffery Jay Lowder

Jeffery Jay Lowder is President Emeritus of Internet Infidels, Inc., which he co-founded in 1995. He is also co-editor of the book, The Empty Tomb: Jesus Beyond the Grave.


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