Despite the fact that Aristotle and Frege/Russell differ in how to understand the ambiguity in the meaning of the word “is”, their theories share a common feature: “is” does not have a normative meaning. This paper, however, (I) shows (a) that there is a normative meaning of “is” (and correspondingly a constative meaning of the word “ought”) and (b) that the ambiguity of “is” is itself ambiguous. Furthermore, it proposes (c) a performative criterion for making a distinction between constative and normative “is”. Therefore, (II) a new interpretation of Kant’s critique of the ontological argument (CPR A 598/B626) makes sense: The difference between being as a real predicate and being as a position depends on the difference between “is” as a descriptive and “is” as a normative predicate. (III) The criterion also makes possible a new answer to Leibniz’s and Schelling’s question, “Why is there something rather than nothing?”: The “is” in “there is something” is normative and the question means “Why shall there be something rather than nothing?” As “there shall be nothing” is self-refuting, the question evokes an ultimate foundation in a practical sense.
The paper starts with the following: Ferber, Rafael (1988). Das normative “ist” und das konstative “soll”. Archiv für Rechts- und Sozialphilosophie, 74(2):185-199, (http://www.zora.uzh.ch/61180/). But it extends the normative meaning of the expression “is” to a historical and systematic problem of philosophy.