In this lecture series, Stalnaker uses both verbs 'instantiate' and 'exemplify'. Now, I gather those two verbs have the same meaning. But, I also think that if the two verbs were equivalent, Stalnaker would rather choose one of them and stick to that verb.

This leads me to think that perhaps there is a difference, although the difference may be due to grammar only. (NB: I'm not a native speaker.)

I'm hoping that somebody here is familiar with either 1) Stalnaker's choice of words, or 2) a normal distinction between these verbs, in particular in (modal) logic or modal metaphysics. (And I hope that nobody will ask me to provide a transcript of relevant parts of the talks.)

  • we can have a single instance but not a single exemplification – user38026 May 16 '19 at 19:21
  • For computer scientists at least, they do not treat pluralization similarly. I can exemplify a type of person, but I do not instantiate it, even if I am an instance of it. The type itself is instantiated by a definition that can be used to produce or identify instances. (Otherwise phyla cannot be first-class objects, and we end up with a terrible muddle classifying types of types.) – user9166 Aug 12 '19 at 17:53

The two mean the same thing. At 16 minutes (of the first video), he even says "instantiate or exemplify" -- so he clearly means the same thing. He's talking about the Ǝ operator (exemplification or existential instantiation, take your pick).

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    There he quotes (person) X, who claims to have the following theory of properties: they are just sets, no more no less. In such context, instantiate and exemplify have the same meaning. But Stalnaker goes on to say that this theory is suspect. [So, I have some doubts regarding the evidence that you brought in this answer.] – user3164 Dec 11 '13 at 8:53
  • Also according to Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, sub voce Properties, para.7.7 Instantiation : "If instantiation or exemplification [...]". – Mauro ALLEGRANZA Dec 11 '13 at 16:27

As I've understood the terms, instantiation is simply more general. Both mean to represent a quality, attribute, or relation, but whereas exemplifying an attribute is to represent something as an ideal example of a set, it's the first example of any object which instantiates, and each successive example thereafter, uniquely.

Or to state it differently- To instantiate is to represent as an instance of something; however, when one representation exemplifies a set of instances, it need not even be an actual instance in the same set, merely representative,

This is just rehashing the New Oxford Dictionary definitions of both words. It's entirely possible Stalnaker used both terms for his own nefarious ends.

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    Stalnaker nefarious? Do tell. – ChristopherE Dec 15 '13 at 6:09

Not familiar with Stanlaker, but in a particularly analytic strand of modern continental philosophy (i.e., Ray Brassier) I have seen the exemplification/instantiation distinction used to distinguish hylomorphic theories from immanent materialism. Basically, if a concept is exemplified in a particular material arrangement (like a falling apple being an example of the law of gravity) then the law exists autonomously (you could get rid of all material that is subject to gravity and the law would still 'exist'), whereas if a concept is instantiated in matter then it only exists as a description of the behaviour of these materials (so if gravity is instantiated in falling bodies then gravity is only meaningful/real given bodies that fall).

  • If you have a reference to where Brassier uses the distinction this would give the reader a place to go for more information. Welcome. – Frank Hubeny Aug 11 '19 at 18:35

As someone who has lectured before, I can tell you that sometimes speakers change wording just for variety; it's boring to use the same word over and over, for both the speaker and the listener. You can trust that any reasonable academic will highlight when word-choice is important. If Stalnaker is not making a stink about "By 'instantiate' I mean this [...] and by 'exemplify' I mean this [...]", then he's just using them as synonyms.

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