Do we need to predicate the past perfect tense to those that have died?

The PAST PERFECT TENSE indicates that an action was completed (finished or "perfected") at some point in the past before something else happened.

In natural language, it seems that living people die, but that dead people have died. But it may be tricky to claim that something that doesn't exist really has some property, like having completed dying.

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    George Washington was president, wasn't he? And then he died. It doesn't seem problematic to ascribe facts to someone who's not around anymore. You are saying George Washington no longer exists. But he does. He has existence as a historically exitent person who is now dead. That's existence. Isn't it? – user4894 Feb 21 at 8:14
  • oh i thought dead people were said not to exist (anymore) @user4894 – user35983 Feb 21 at 8:17
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    I think we better wait till a real philosopher comes along! George Washington doesn't exist, but he has a better quality of nonexistence that Captain Ahab does; since Washington once existed but Ahab never did. Yet the novel Moby Dick is based on an actual historical incident, the sinking of the Essex. This can get tricky. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Essex_(whaleship) – user4894 Feb 21 at 8:24
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    Logicians typically use 'exists' in a timeless way, so George Washington exists, but he's not alive any more. This is a handy rule, because in standard logic we cannot name things that do not exist, so without it we would not even be able to write a sentence such as "George Washington is dead" since it would refer to something that does not exist. It's just one of those ways that logical usage differs from ordinary English. – Bumble Feb 21 at 14:13
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    I don't think the question is off-topic since its answer requires reference to and inter-relation of the philosophical categories of process, event and state or condition. – Geoffrey Thomas Feb 21 at 15:31

I'd want to compare linguistic intuitions here. Of a recently dead person I should be inclined to say : 'She is dead'. Of someone who died last year I'd most likely say : 'She died last year' or simply (again) 'She's dead'. After a disastrous explosion I could say : 'Ten people have died' but I don't think this means or implies (in context) 'Ten people are known to have completed the action of dying'. Dying is a process; and being dead is a state. The state follows instantaneously on completion of the process. There is the completion of a process but none of an action.

You add : 'it may be tricky to claim that something that doesn't exist really has some property, like having completed dying'. I agree that one can't attribute a property to something that doesn't exist but I would draw a distinction between truth-claim and property-attribution. What does not exist cannot have a property. None the less it can be true of X, who no longer exists, that X died. This is only to claim that a certain past event occurred, 'There was a person named 'X' to whom the event of death happened'. That doesn't attribute a property; it only states a truth.

  • if the event of death has been completed can we predicate it of the living person who has died? so that we might say that the person who has since died now does not exist? – user35983 Feb 21 at 12:12
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    'At times t1 ... tn a person, X, was alive. At t n+1 X died and ceased to exist'. I take the Kantian view that 'exist' is not a predicate and existence is not a property. If this is so, then ceasing to exist is not the losing of a property (of existence) and 'ceased to exist' is not a predication. It remains true, however, that X now does not exist. – Geoffrey Thomas Feb 21 at 13:38

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