I have been reading Bertrand Russell's History of Western Philosophy , and am puzzled by a paragraph in a section on Plato ('Knowledge and Perception in Plato') pertaining to the use of the verb 'to exist'. The paragraph reads as follows:
"Suppose you say to a child 'lions exist, but unicorns don't'; you can prove your point...by taking him to the zoo and saying 'look, that's a lion'. You will not...add 'and you can see that that exists'...if you do then you are uttering nonsense. To say 'lions exist' means 'there are lions', i.e. 'x is a lion' is true for a suitable x'. But we cannot say of the suitable x that it 'exists'; we can only apply this verb to a description, complete or incomplete. 'Lion' is an incomplete description, because it applies to many objects: 'the largest lion in the zoo' is complete, because it applies to only one object".
What puzzles me about this paragraph is quite how it is, as Russell sees it, nonsensical to say 'there is a lion, and it exists'. Is it because we do not...
Russell may be making the claim that existence is not a property. An individual may have the property of being furry, of making loud sounds, and of living in Regent's Park Zoo, but it does not also have a property of existence. Rather to exist is for those properties to be instantiated. To say that something exists is to say that there is something with various properties, but existing is not one of them.