Intentionality: Meinongianism and the Medievals

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    T. Parent (Virginia Tech)

    I have a certain tendency at this point to just throw up my hands. Perhaps one shouldnt try and give an analysis at all. But instead Ill try to say how, as far as I can guess, this kind of statement [with an empty name] got into our discourse. It does seem to me to be a genuine and unsolved problem, perhaps the worst in the area. Kripke (ms.), Lecture VI, p. 26. A frank recognition of the data, as inspection reveals them, precedes all theorizing; when a theory is propounded, the greatest skill is shown in the selections of facts favourable or unfavourable, and in eliciting all relevant consequencesThere is thus a rare combination of acute inference with capacity for observation Whatever may ultimately prove to be the value of Meinongs particular contentions, the value of his method is undoubtedly very great; and on this account if on no other, he deserves careful study. Russell (1904), pp. 22-3.


    This paper defends Meinongs (1904) classic thesis there are objects of which it is true that there are no such objects, regarding fictitious and illusory objects.1 Some have wondered whether a thesis like Meinongs is even consistent (see Lycan 1979; 1994, Lewis 1990; van Inwagen 2003), but they allow that contradiction is avoided if there are is allowed different readings. And indeed, the view is not that there are unicorns in the same sense that there are people like you and I. Though the sense in which there are unicorns is not obvious, and this sense shall have central importance. 1. Overview

    As a rule, any Meinongian view is conservative in that it preserves the semantic intuition that speakers refer freely to non-existents. But a Meinongian also conserves other pre-theoretical beliefs. Douglas Lackey (1973) once expressed this particularly well in an introduction to some of Russells essays.

    In this [Russell-Meinong] controversy, Russell has usually appeared to be the apostle of common sense while Meinong has appeared a wild ontologizer hypostasizing entities at will. But Meinongs theory says Pegasus is a flying horse is true, while Russell says this assertion is false. The average man, if he knows his mythology, would probably agree with Meinong. (quoted in Kripke ms., LIII, p.1)

    The view developed here is also conservative in a third sense. Contra Meinong, nonexistents are not seen as mind-independent. (Thus, in defending Meinongs thesis I make no pretense to historical accuracy.) Instead, the view just admits the sense in which there are mind-dependent objects, fictitious and illusory objects being prime examples.2 Accordingly, the expansion in ones ontology is relatively conservative for a Meinongian.

    1 Equally, the view is that Everything is not always a correct answer to What is there?, pace Quine (1948). N.b., Meinongs nonexistents must be separated from his abstracta. (Here I intend to defend the former but not the latter.) His abstracta have a unique kind of being called subsistence; yet this is rejected by Noneist Meinongians like Routley (1988) and Priest (2005), who rather see abstracta as a type of nonexistent. My own view is closer to Meinongs; regardless, I wish to reserve the topic for another occasion. 2 Whether these are abstract or concrete is something I leave open.

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    Fourth, the view advertises a conservative ideology as well. The Meinongian quantifier is not taken as primitive; rather its range is defined as the set of mind-dependent entities. Also, the usual Meinongian talk of nuclear or encoded properties (as occurs in Mally 1912, Parsons 1980, Zalta 1983; 1988) shall be paraphrased away. Briefly, we will see that such talk is unnecessary, once we realize that property-instances of fictional/illusory objects are themselves fictional or illusory. A final conservative feature, though it is detachable from the view, is a kind of deflationist stance (to put it misleadingly3). As explained elsewhere (Parent MSa), this is a refusal to regard interpretations of terms (e.g., Hesperus denotes Hesperus, Hesperus denotes Venus, Hesperus denotes the morning star, etc.) as answering the most fundamental ontological questions. Rather, an interpretation is regarded as true in a more deflationary sense. This is the attitude I adopt in assigning a term a Meinongian object. None of the arguments below will require this attitude, but it is worth noting that such a deflated or perhaps instrumental Meinongianism is an option. The five conservativisms can suggest that Meinongs core thesis has been underestimated by philosophers, and my aim is to explain why it should be taken more seriously. Still, the discussion is silent on several matters that are crucial to Meinongian theory. For instance, the incomplete nature of fictional objects is not discussed (e.g., the indeterminacy in whether Santa has a mole on his left knee). Relatedly, there is no attempt to solve problems of individuation, made famous by Quines (1948) possible fat/bald man in the doorway. These topics are omitted not because they are unimportant, but because an author can only accomplish so much in a one paper.4 In the main, the paper instead builds to an objection to the most salient argument against Meinong, viz., the Argument from Parsimony. The Argument from Parsimony states that in countenancing non-existents, the Meinongian jettisons Occams Razor, the principle that one should not posit entities beyond what is necessary for empirical

    3 I prefer the label quietism, but deflationism is more familiar, and the differences are irrelevant here. 4 However, see Parsons op. cit. and Zalta op. cits. for an explication and defense of incomplete Meinongian objects. Also, see Priest (2005) for a Meinongian response to Quines possible bald/fat man.


    adequacy. Parsimony is a familiar idea; it advises e.g., that if we can explain the workings of the universe without positing any deities, we should follow this more austere route. (Such advice may be contentious, but let us ignore that.) The complaint against Meinongianism, then, is that it rejects parsimony by subscribing to a bloated universe of non-existents, thereby offending the aesthetic sense of us who have a taste for desert landscapes (Quine op. cit., p. 23). Accordingly, among philosophers the Parsimony Argument is seen as reflecting a more scientific attitude. But for starters, it is dubious whether scientists themselves apply parsimony principles so stringently.5 Physicists, for instance, posit a bloated universe of dark matter, and also take seriously the many worlds posited by Everett-mechanics. These hypotheses may be well motivated by the data; nonetheless, their advocates do not seem to yearn for the Quinean desert in quite the same way. Of special note here is the zerobrane, a brane posited by physicists as a zero-dimensional object. Since such an object occupies no region of spacetime, a zerobrane comes surprisingly close to being nonactual in the sense of Lewis (1986). However, this is merely intended to soften up the reader; I do not mean to accuse the Parsimony Argument of being unscientific. (Such a thing is hardly credible from a metaphysician.) Even so, a more effective case can be made against the Argument. The objection here is that the use of Occams Razor rests on an infirm assumption, namely: (EA) We can achieve empirical adequacy (or comparable

    empirical adequacy) without Meinongian objects. As we shall see, a Meinongian can cast meaningful doubt on (EA). Yet if such doubt exists, it is presumptive to use Occams Razor against Meinongian objects, since that would take (EA) for granted. In developing this line, Section I and II present linguistic data which an anti-Meinongian seems hard-pressed to explain. In Section III and IV, the Meinongian framework is presented, and it is shown how smoothly it accomodates the same data. The comparison between the two is what then creates non-idle doubt about (EA). Finally, Section V elaborates

    5 Maudlin (2009) raises a similar issue; check Occams Razor in the index.

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    why such doubt means that the Parsimony Argument is insufficient grounds to reject Meinongianism. Of course, doubt about (EA) is not enough to conclude Meinongianism eitherand indeed, there are more anti-Meinongian ways to accommodate the data than can be considered here. Thus, Kriegels (2003) adverbialism and Azzounis (2010; forthcoming) use theory are two important ideas that unfortunately must be bracketed. Also, Lewis (1968; 1973; 1986) possibilism is only discussed briefly (though it is confronted more thoroughly in Parent, MSb). Even so, the paper shows how the data challenges many prominent anti-Meinongian competitors, including descriptivism about empty names (Russell 1906, Searle 1958; 1983), negative free logic (Sainsbury 2005), Kripkes (1972) view, fictionalism (Rosen 1990, Sainsbury 2010), and pretense theory (Currie 1990; Walton 1990).6 But let me iterate that no individual datumnor the data collectivelyis meant as a knock-down argument against any competitor. Again, the goal is only to cast doubt on (EA), since that will be enough to undercut the force of the Parsimony Argument. Nevertheless, in the heat of an argument, it is easy to forget this relatively modest dialectical stance. So as a reminder, I shall often speak of the data as vexing* to Meinongs opponents. The * is meant to direct the reader to the fine printthat although anti-Meinongians have problems in accommodating the data, such problems may ultimately be resolvable. To come clean, however, some anti-Meinongian proposals shall be considered and rejected. Regardless, the vexing* terminology makes clear that other anti-Meinongian maneuvering may well remain possible.

    6 I should also note Thomassons (1999; 2003) artifactualism, as well as the abstractionist view found in, e.g., Wollerstoff (1980) and Salmon (1998). It may not be obvious, but it appears these views accept Meinongs thesis (and in the case of artifactualism, Thomasson conditionally agrees; see p. 15). They of course would depart from Meinong in other respects; still, they posit fictitious objects qua artifacts or abstracta, and then give Meinong-style explanations of the data. Surprisingly, Kripke (unpublished; 2011) might also be counted as a friend (though not Kripke 1972). For the view there seems to be artifactualist and/or abstractionist one, (yet he also holds a kind of pretense theory). Finally, I do not see myself as opposing van Inwagen (1977; 1983). For his existential quantifier (call it (Vx)) ranges over fictional objects. He vociferously rejects Meinongs quantifier (or rather, Meingongs explication of it), but (Vx) as a quantifier seems Meinongian enough as far as I am concerned. For it allows a reading of Meinongs thesis where it comes out trueroughly, where it reads as: (Vx)(x is fictional).


    2. Negative Existentials.

    As is well known, one set of linguistic data that vexes* anti-Meinongians are true negative existentials such as:

    (d1) Pegasus does not exist.

    The problem here is often expressed along the following lines: A subject-predicate sentence is true only if the subject-term is meaningful, and a subject-term is meaningful only if it refers to something. But the subject-term in (d1) does not refer to anything. Thus Pegasus is not meaningful in (d1), and so (d1) itself is not meaningful. Therefore, (d1) is not even truth-apt, much less true. But apparently, (d1) is trueif you search the world high and low, you wont find Pegasus anywhere. This formulation of the problem seems unnecessarily contentious, however, since it is controversial whether a subject-term is meaningful only if it refers to some existing thing. Indeed, Pegasus would be precisely the sort of term which challenges this; it is apparently a meaningful term which refers to no existing thing. For that reason, I think it is better to characterize the problem in terms of reckoning with the following inconsistent triad. Where is a metavariable, and is a metavariable for proper names specifically,

    (1) If a sentence of the form ()

    is true in the actual world,

    then the open formula (/x)

    is satisfied by an actual object

    named by . (2) (d1) is a sentence of the form


    and is true in the

    actual world.7 (3) The open formula

    ( Pegasus/x)

    is not satisfied by any

    actual object named by Pegasus.

    In this, there is no dubious condition on the meaningfulness; rather, the inconsistency just invokes the standard assumption that if the subject-

    7 Usually, exist is viewed as a quantifier, so that (d1) has the logical form ~(y) y = Pegasus. Yet the view that exist is a predicate has re-emerged with Azzouni (2004)

    and Fine (2009); so I leave open whether (x)

    is the negation of a quantified or unquantified formula.

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    term is a name, a sentence which is actually true requires an actual object to satisfy the open formula. But with negative existentials, that is apparently not the case. The Meinongian solution propounded here will distinguish two readings of actual as it occurs in (1)-(3).8 (More on this later.) A descriptivist, in contrast, rejects (2). For her, the logical form of (d1) does not include a proper name, but rather a definite descriptionso that (d1) is construed as something like The winged horse captured by Bellerophon does not exist.9 Understood in this way, the truth of (d1) then does not require the subject-term to denote an existing object. Rather, (d1) is actually true because no actual thing satisfies the description the winged horse captured by Bellerophon. Kripke (1972), however, put descriptivism largely on the defensive. Yet many philosophers still accept descriptivism for empty names and kind terms. The thought is that such terms cannot directly refer (since there is nothing to directly refer to), so their meaning must be fixed by a description. But in an important paper, Stuart Brock (2004) shows that Kripkes modal argument against descriptivism works just as wellnay, even betterin the case of empty names. Thus, suppose the descriptivist holds that Pegasus is equivalent to the winged horse captured by Bellerophon. Then the following are equivalent:

    (d2) Pegasus might have not been captured by Bellerophon.

    (4) Pegasus might not have been Pegasus. Yet whereas (d2) seems true, (4) is not. So apparently Pegasus is not semantically equivalent to the descriptor. Nevertheless, as Brock is aware, this may only show that the winged horse captured by Bellerophon is the wrong kind of descriptorit does not yet show that no descriptor is up to the task. In particular, one might

    8 Meinong himself did not assert this about actual, but this is the natural extension of his view regarding the quantifier there are. 9 This glosses the fact that Bellerophon is also an empty name. In the end, the descriptivist would of course break it down into a set of descriptors as well.


    try to rigidify a descriptor to get the right modal results. This, at least, is how Searle (1983) responds to Kripke in the case of non-empty names.10 For Searle, a proper name like Kurt Gdel can be analyzed into a descriptor that is rigid on Gdel, by appropriately inserting the term actual into a definite description, e.g., the actual man who proved incompleteness. And with a rigidified descriptor, the analogue to (d2) and (4) will not differ in truth-value:

    (5) Gdel might not have been the actual man who proved incompleteness.

    (6) Gdel might not have been Gdel. (Granted, (5) could be true if might is an epistemic modal, but that is not to the point.) Crucially, however, the Searlean move fails in the case of Pegasus since there is no entity for the descriptor to be rigid on. Another way to bring out a problem is to note that (d1) would be equivalent to the claim:

    (7) The actual winged horse captured by Bellerophon is not actual. But whereas (d1) is true, (7) is a contradiction. Hence, Pegasus cannot be equivalent to the Searle-style descriptor. So as things stand, descriptivism seems vexed* by (d2). Surprisingly, however,, the problems do not dissipate if we instead adopt Kripkes (1972) view where empty names are rigid. For on this view, Pegasus is rigidly emptyit is not only empty in the actual world, but also empty in every other possible world (pp. 23-24). In Kripkes Addenda, this is derived from the metaphysical point that Pegasus is not possible, since Greek myth assigns no essence to Pegasus, hence, no possible entity qualifies as Pegasus. And from that, it immediately follows that Pegasus is rigidly empty. Hereafter, I call this the rigidity view of empty names.

    10 Kripke (1980) himself mentions the possibility of analyzing names into rigidified descriptions (pp. 59-60, n.), but I am not entirely clear why he still favors the causal theory over this type of descriptivism.

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    Now if the rigidity view is correct, then nothing is named to satisfy the predicate in (d2), and necessarily so. But then, it seems (d2) cannot be true. Perhaps the rigidity view should bite this bullethowever, whats worse is that (d1) cannot possibly be true either, and for a parallel reason:

    The rigidity view entails that Pegasus fails to name a satisfier for (


    , and necessarily so. It may be thought that Kripke should assimilate (d1) to the claim that Pegasus fails to refer. However, he refuses this option because, more broadly, it is false that a name refers iff its object exists (2011, p. 70). But notably, Kripke (ms.; 2011) also is friendly to a kind of pretense theory, akin to that of Currie and of Walton (op. cits.). On Kripkes version, sentences using Pegasus express pretend propositions that are pretend true thanks to the names pretend referent. The view may well be plausible for (d2), where it has a pretend referent that makes it pretend true. This would not make (d2) true, which was the intuition initially pumped. Yet it may be better to think of (d2) as pretend true; we are dealing with fiction after all. Nevertheless, what should the view say about (d1)? It is vexing* to hold that (d1) is merely pretend true. But another option is to spin pretend truths as truths according to a fiction, in line with Lewis (1978) and the modal fictionalism described (but not endorsed) by Rosen (1990) and Nolan (2002). The view indeed succeeds when it adds a story-prefix to a modal claim such as (d2):

    (8) According to the fiction, Pegasus might not have been captured by Bellerophon.

    Like (d2), (8) is true. (N.B., Greek myth really does entail this possibility: The possibility of failure is how the myth creates intrigue around Pegasus capture).

    The fictionalist stratagem, however, does not work as well in the case of (d1). For prima facie, the paraphrase that results is: (9) According to the fiction, Pegasus does not exist. And Pegasus is not fictional according to Greek myth; he is a flesh-and-blood creature. In reply, a fictionalist could argue that negative


    existentials merit a different treatment; perhaps (d1) should be understood as: (10) According to the fiction, Pegasus exists. The underlying thought is that to be nonexistent just is to be fiction. Nevertheless, as Kripke (op. cit.) notes, works of fiction can reference actual historical persons, e.g., Tolstoys War and Peace mentions Napoleon. Thus, to exist according to a fiction cannot be the same as not existing. While were at it, we might also consider negative existentials about nonexistent fictions. Consider the truth of:

    (d3) The fictional character of Oberon does not exist in Hamlet. This is most readily understood as true. But strictly speaking, the fictionalist paraphrase would be:

    (11) According to Hamlet, the fictional character of Oberon does not exist in Hamlet.

    Suppose, however, we allow the fictionalist to delete in Hamlet (to avoid the suggestion that the text of Hamlet is self-referring). Regardless, (11) would be false. It would say that according to the play, there is a fictitious character, Oberon, who does not exist. But in Hamlet, Oberon is not mentioned as either a real or a fictitious person. So (11) seems false even though (d3) looks true. A somewhat different problem-case for the fictionalist also vexes* Lewis possibilism. First, let Bertie name Russells paradoxical barber who shaves exactly those who do not shave themselves. Then, the following is true: (d4) Bertie does not exist. Since such a barber is impossible, the problem with (d4) thus parallels the rigidity views problem with (d1). In both cases, the predicate x does not exist cannot possibly be satisfied. Yet it is virtually a Moorean fact

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    that (d4) is true. So perhaps one might propose that (d4) is equivalent to the following metalinguistic claim instead: (12) Bertie is empty. This would be fine, except one ideally want to uphold the following as well: (d5) Bertie might not have been a barber. (d5) seems true enough. Once we acknowledge Bertie as a fictional character, he could become a dentist in our story, rather than remain a barber with an impossible task. Yet the truth of (d5) is precluded if (12) is true. For (12) implies that Bertie is non-referring in (d5). Hence, since even Lewis denies the existence of impossibilia, nothing is named to satisfy the predicate. What is surprising, moreover, is that Lewis possibilism is vexed* by (d1) as well, given the present construal of the problem of negative existentials. Normally, a Lewisian might say that (d1) is true because Pegasus denotes a creature in some nonactual world who is absent from our world. However. (d1) would not yet be explicated as an actual truth, since per (2) above, this requires an actual object to satisfy the relevant open formula. So as it stands, Lewis also seems vexed* by the actual truth of (d1).11 3. Positive Predications.

    There may be ways to finesse (d1)-(d5); as I say, they are merely vexing* to anti-Meinongians. Even so, this section presents additional problem cases, and it is the aggregate of these cases which creates the best contrast between the Meinongian explanatory framework and the competition. This section specifically presents the problem of positive predications (in contrast to negative existentials). The data here has been noted by

    11 This is not unrelated to a puzzle in Jubien (2009, pp. 73-4). Jubien notes that many sentences of the form necessarily p are actually true. Yet in the standard possible worlds semantics, such sentences are true mainly in virtue of other worlds. So, Jubien asks, how can claims about necessity be actually true?


    several other authors; however, their collective pro-Meinongian force seems underestimated. In general, the problem is that nonactual objects apparently can satisfy various predicates. Consider:

    (d6) Pegasus is a horse with wings.

    It is natural to say (d6) is true But this suggests that Pegasus exists to satisfy the predicate. For that matter, the same problem arises in the case of impossibilia: (d7) Bertie is a barber. For the anti-Meinongian, how should the truth of this be understood? One should take heed that positive predications create issues for empty kind terms as well.12 This marks a contrast with negative existentials. After all, Unicorns do not exist would not reference any Meinongian objects if Unicorns is interpreted as an unsatisfied predicate. Yet in comparison, consider the positive predication: (d8) Unicorns have horns. If Unicorns translates as a predicate, then (d8) would seem to be interpreted as:

    (13) For all y, if y is a unicorn, then y has a horn. Both (d8) and (13) are true; yet note that (13) is vacuously true. And one could not regard all sentences using Unicorn as vacuously true. For some of these are not even true, e.g.: (14) Unicorns are fish. Since the antecedent in the logical form would go unsatisfied, both (d8) and (14) would come out true. Yet (14) is not true, so Unicorn cannot in general be finessed as an unsatisfied predicate in positive predications.

    12 Actually, there is a problem with the kind negative existential Impredicative kinds do not exist, though it is a problem that Meinong and his opponents face alike. For the Meinongian solution, see Jacquette (2005).

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    Descriptivism seems ill-equipped to improve matters. With (d6), it is hard to construe Pegasus as an existentially quantified descriptor. For the assumption would be that nothing actual satisfies the descriptor, meaning that (d6) would come out false.13 (The same holds for the descriptivist view of (d7).) As for (d8), traditional descriptivism has nothing to offer, since it is a view that is limited to empty names. Though it is not much better if Unicorns is interpreted by the empty descriptor the [kind] X such that, for all y X, y is a horse with a horn. For by the descriptivists lights, there is no such kind. Other anti-Meinongian views seem vexed* by (d6)-(d8) as well. For instance, they challenge Kripkes (1972) rigidity view of empty names and kind terms. The issue is much the same as was in the case of (d2): If Pegasus, Bertie, and Unicorns are rigidly empty, it is unclear how the predicates get satisfied, since necessarily nothing is denoted as the satisfier. Similarly, (d6)-(d8) vex* Sainsburys (2005) negative free logic (as Sainsbury 2010 admirably admits, p. xvii). Such a logic would appear to make these sentences false, since false is uniformly assigned to any atomic sentence with an empty name. Yet (d6)-(d8) can be explained by some anti-Meinongians. Sainsbury (2010), for instance, develops a fictionalist view which rightly sees (d6) as true. For the fictionalist reads (d6) along the lines of:

    (15) According to the fiction, Pegasus is a horse with wings.

    The semantics of the story-prefix According to the fiction may remain unclear, but intuitively, (15) is a plausible anti-Meinongian option for (d6). Still, fictionalism faces other recalcitrant data. For although the view might account for (d6)-(d8), other positive predications remain puzzling, e.g.:

    (d9) Zeus is a well-known figure.

    13 A case can be made that (d6) is true on the descriptivist view, if Pegasus is analyzed as The horse that has wings and was captured by Bellerophon. For then (d6) is analytic in a Kantian sensethe predicate of (d6) would be contained in, or be a literal component of the subject-term. Nevertheless, the point above would remain that no actual object satisfies the descriptor, and so at best (d6) would be both true and false.


    (d10) The ancient Greeks worshiped Zeus.14 (d11) Zeus is less jolly than Santa.

    Such are what we might call fiction external truths about Zeus, given that the truth of these statements depends on more than the content of the Zeus myths. Correlatively, the problem with each of (d9)-(d11) is that none are true merely according to the myths; rather, they are true partly for an independent reason.15 Incidentally, fictionalism has the potential to be self-refuting in one case: (d12) Hamlet is fictitious. The fictionalist endorses (d12), yet also seems committed to the paraphrase: (16) According to the fiction, Hamlet is fictitious. But whereas (d12) is true, (16) is false: For Hamlet is not fictitious according to the play Hamlet. Sainsbury (2010, p. 150), however, seems to suggest that the fictionalist should understand (d12) as follows: (17) According to the fiction, Hamlet exists. However, there is again a problem with historical fiction. In War and Peace, it is true that: (18) According to the fiction, Napoleon exists. But the fictionalist is committed to this being equivalent to:

    14 As Ed Zalta noted (in conversation), (d10) is less easily paraphrased into a non-Meinonian idiom than the stock example Sherlock Holmes is smarter than any living detective. The anti-Meinongian can interpret the latter as the degree of intelligence exhibited by Holmes in the fiction is greater than the degree of intelligence exhibited by any living detective. (Cf. Brock & Mares 2007, ch. 12 ) However, the anti-Meniongian has no such paraphrase available in the case of (d10). 15 Sainsburys (2010) may nonetheless have a solid rejoinder here. His considered view ends up looking rather different than standard fictionalism, since it also incorporates the negative free logic of Sainsbury (2005). Unfortunately, I cannot discuss this hybrid view properly without going too far afield.

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    (19) Napoleon is fictional. Yet Napoleon of course is not fictional. And the divergence in truth-value with (d12) means that Sainsbury-style fictionalism remains vexed*. Surprisingly, even if the paraphrase of (d12) were problem-free, there are closely related sentences that remain vexing*. Consider specifically The Murder of Gonzago, the play within a play in Hamlet Act III.ii. Here it is true that:

    (d13) Gonzago is fictitious.

    However, the Sainsbury-style paraphrase would seem false: (20) According to the fiction, Gonzago exists. This is false since Gonzago is fictitious character in Hamlet as well; he does not exist alongside Hamlet, Ophelia, and the rest. One might reply that the fiction in (20) does not denote Hamlet; rather, it denotes The Murder of Gonzago. But the problem here is that The Murder of Gonzago is itself a fictional object, specifically, a fictional play. (Granted, Shakespeares sketchy description of the play is actual, but a description of the play is not the play itself.) And naturally, if the play is a nonactual object, then the fictionalist will not want the fiction in (20) to denote it, on pain of Meinongianism. So instead, perhaps a Sainsbury-fictionalist could say that (d13) is equivalent to: (21) According to Hamlet: There is a fiction x, and according to x,

    Gonzago exists. This makes the interpretation of (d13) rather unlike the interpretation of (d12), but no matter. It may just reflect that unlike Hamlet, Gonzago is second-order fictional in that he is fictional even in the fictional world of Hamlet.16

    16 These remarks about Gonzago also apply to Kripkes (ms.; 2011) Moloch example. (In brief, it was once thought that a certain ancient peoples worshipped a deity called


    On this view, then, the term fictitious in (d12) and (d13) vacillates between what exists according to an actual fiction, and what exists according to a fictitious fiction or second-order fiction. (This could continue with third-order fiction, fourth-order fiction, etc.) This in itself may be unobjectionable. Even so, there is also a univocal sense in which the following holds: (d14) Hamlet and Gonzago are both fictitious. Presumably, (d14) can be univocally true since it can express something like the following: (22) Hamlet and Gonzago are both nonactual. Yet unfortunately for a fictionalist, there is no single fiction according to which Hamlet and Gonzago both exist. Granted, one could invent a fiction where the two characters exist side by side. But (d14), understood as (22), seems univocally true in the absence of such a fiction. Notably, true positive predications occur not only with empty names and kind terms, but also with quantifiers. Consider the existential generalization from (d13): (d15) Some things are fictitious. Insofar as (d14) can be read as true in plain English, it seems (d15) can be as well. (The quantifier would be noncommissive; such quantifiers in fact regularly occur in natural language; see Azzouni 2007, Parent MSc.) However, neither of the fictionalist paraphrases would seem to uphold the truth of (d15). The standard fictionalist and Sainsbury-style paraphrases would be, respectively:

    Moloch. But this was in error, based on a mistranslation.) More exactly, Moloch is a character of a fictitious fiction (though there is also a sense in which Molloch is fictitious tout court, cf. the remarks on (d14)). Yet Kripke (op. cits.) prefers to apply fictitious fiction to Gonzago but withhold it from Moloch. I presume this is because Gonzago is a character of a work of fiction (albeit a fictional work of fiction, viz., the play within Shakespeares play). If the point is important, I am willing to defer and instead call Moloch an actual+ nonactual being, though he was not actual+ in ancient times (contra what we thought earlier).

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    (23) According to the fiction, some things are fictitious. (24) According to the fiction, some things exist. But (23) is non-equivalent, since (d15) is not talking about second-order but rather first-order fictions. Whereas (24) is a logical truth, since the consequent is. So it too is not equivalent to (d15). ((d15), I maintain throughout, is contingent on the existence of minds.) Issues persist even if quantification in (d15) is substitutional. An expected substitutional interpretation would be along the lines of:

    (25) (d15) is true iff there is a name such that

    Fictitious() is


    However, some stories include unnamed characters (Azzouni 2004, ch. 3 also makes this point). And such characters would figure into models where (d15) is true but the right-hand side of (25) is not. There are other positive predications which appear vexing* to fictionalism. For instance, some concern objects that are not fictional as much as illusory: (d16) There are mirages in deserts. (d17) Hallucinated objects are a reality. To be clear, (d16) and (d17) can be read as falsehoods in English, in which case they pose no obstacle. Thus, (d17) can be read as implying (falsely) that pink elephants are found among the elephants of our world. But I submit that English also allows a reading where (d17) is true, where it just says that pink elephants, etc., are hallucinated by actual people. And in such a case, the fictionalist paraphrase seems incorrect. For on the relevant construal, (d17) is not a claim about what happens in a fiction; it is rather about what actual people encounter in visual experience. The point is perhaps clearer if we give a hallucinated pink elephant the name Pinkus, and suppose the following is true: (d18) Pinkus is pink. In this set-up, it seems we need an object to satisfy the predicate, though the anti-Meinongian will not supply one.


    Such cases are not unrelated to an argument from Lycan (1987a; 1987b), which is proposed as a prima facie case for Cartesian dualism. (Lycan is no dualist however.) The argument is: Suppose you have a green after-image, whereby it is true to say: (d19) There is a green patch.

    If we name the patch Billy, then there is also a reading where the following holds: (d20) Billy exists. But now the question is: Wheres Billy? Ex hypothesi, the green patch does not exist out there, in the environment. Yet if we cracked open your skull, we wouldnt find anything green in there either. (If we did, youd have some disturbing medical news.) So the green patch does not seem to be anywhere! Cartesian dualism may not follow, since a physical mind could still be encountering an object that is not physical. Yet this reiterates that the object seems non-locatable, and so (d18) and (d19) may bolster Meinongianism more directly. It is also vexing* for an anti-Meninongian to consider Kripkes (ms.; 2011) fictional color-sensation. Kripke uses the case to suggest that even Russell is vexed* by empty names, since Russells logically proper names for sense-data can apparently be empty. And more broadly, such empty names seem vexing* to any anti-Meinongian. Kripke (ms.) names his fictional sensation Matilda and supposes that the following holds: (d21) Matilda is yellow. If one is a committed anti-Meinongian, what explains the truth of this? The best sort of answer might come fictionalism, where (d21) is construed as: (26) According to the fiction, Matilda is yellow. This may well be adequate, but as the reader may anticipate, the case that parallels (d12) would remain vexing*:

  • 19

    (d22) Matilda is fictitious. Here, the standard fictionalist and the Sainsbury-style paraphrases are: (27) According to the fiction, Matilda is fictitious.

    (28) According to the fiction, Matilda exists.

    Yet neither is entirely plausible. (27) seems false, since it is not a piece of fiction that Matilda is fictitious. And with (28), there is a further problem if we assume Matilda is some kind of an after-image (rather than a veridical sensation). As we saw with Billy, after-images apparently do not exist in space. So if this is true of Matilda, then (28) falsely suggests that Matilda exists alongside whoever is experiencing Matildawhen in fact Matilda would not exist alongside anything.

    4. Meinongian Meditations.

    The vexing* data we have accumulated is as follows, where each sentence is read as a truth of ordinary English:

    Again, this is not meant to constitute a conclusive case for Meinongianism. The aim is rather to compare the vexation* that the data causes for anti-Meinongians, with the naturalness of the Meinongian account. As an introduction, consider a further datum: (d23) Pegasus is imaginary. I take it that (d23) is actually true. Thus, taking its form at face value, the Meinongian holds that there is an actual object O satisfying

    (d1) Pegasus does not exist. (d12) Hamlet is fictitious. (d2) Pegasus might not have been captured by... (d13) Gonzago is fictitious. (d3) Oberon does not exist in Hamlet (d14) Hamlet and Gonzago are both fictitious. (d4) Bertie does not exist. (d15) Some things are fictitious. (d5) Bertie might not have been a barber. (d16) There are mirages in deserts. (d6) Pegasus is a horse with wings. (d17) Hallucinated objects are a reality. (d7) Bertie is a barber. (d18) Pinkus is pink. (d8) Unicorns have horns. (d19) There is a green patch [quale]. (d9) Zeus is a well-known figure. (d20) Billy is green. (d10) The ancient Greeks worshipped Zeus. (d21) Matilda is yellow. (d11) Zeus is less jolly than Santa. (d22) Matilda is fictitious.



    . But if so, what kind of object could O be? Well, if O satisfies


    , then O is imaginary. Or more broadly, we

    might say that O is a merely intentional object, or MIO for short. (Such an object is merely intentional in the sense that the object does not, in addition, exist in the mind-independent world.17) But since O was identified as actual, that means that O is an actual yet merely intentional object that satisfies the predicate.18 Naturally, this will be met with resistance. One glaring objection is that, assuming O = Pegasus, the view entails that Pegasus is actual, which is absurd. However, this may not be as fatal as it seems. For Pegasus is not made out to be a mind-independent object in our world. To the contrary, the truth of (d23) means that he is just pretend. So the view is that Pegasus is indeed an actual object albeit merely an imaginary one. However, such talk of actual imaginary objects may seem to abuse the term actual. This Meinongian way of speaking may exemplify what van Inwagen (1977; 1983; 2003), Lewis (1990), and Lycan (1979; 1994) declare to be unintelligible to the point of being literally gibberish (Lycan 1979, p. 290). Yet in fact, the Meinongian talk can be paraphrased into more familiar terms: When affirming that Pegasus is not actual, actual denotes (something like) mind-independent objects in our world. But when Pegasus is said to be an actual imaginary object, the term actual is denotes both mind-independent and mind-dependent objects, where the latter are also called MIOs. For claritys sake, hereafter I shall use actual+ to express the broader, Meinongian sense of actual, whereas I shall put actual in bold (actual) to express the stricter sense of the term.19 It is also key against van Inwagen and Lycan that the different uses of actual is not just a philosophers invention, for the distinction manifests itself in natural language. Consider the following variants of (d15)-(d17):

    17 The term merely intentional object derives from Brentano, though I am told that it originates with the Medieval scholastics. 18 McGinn (2000; 2004, ch. 10) defends a similar Meinongian view, though he also endorses Kripkes rigidity view. Yet as noted earlier, the rigidity view implies that Pegasus names no possible satisfier for the predicates. McGinns Meinongianism thus may lose the ability to account for some positive predications. 19 I.e., actual indicates the commissive use of the term. For more on the commissive use, see Parent MSc.

  • 21

    (d15*) Imaginary objects are actual. (d16*) Mirages are actual. (d17*) Hallucinated objects are actual. Such sentences can be interpreted as false, but again, they seem to have a true reading as well, e.g. where (d16*) just reflects that sometimes water appears to actual people under misleading circumstances. And in general, it seems that mind-dependent objects are actual in one sense of actual, but not in another sense. Still, if the true readings force commitment to weird illusory or imaginary objects, one might prefer just to eliminate talk of imagining and the like. But at this stage, (d15*)-(d17*) are not being used to support a Meinongian regimentation of the language. Rather, the point is just that English exhibits the Meinongian uses of actual. It is thus not literal gibberish; the distinction already is present in natural language. Yet suppose we introduce in the regimented language a term that expresses Meinongian actuality+. In that case, we can regard (d23) as expressing that Pegasus is actual+ though not that he is actual. Or for those who like paradoxical modes of expression, (d23) would mean that Pegasus is actually nonactualby which I mean that he is actually+ a MIO. In fact, the same sort of thing can be said for any sentence about fictitious or illusory objects. On the present Meinongianism, all of (d1)-(d23) are true in virtue of MIOs. To be sure, there are important differences between the cases, and such differences will be addressed in the next section. But the ease and uniformity of the basic explanatory schema should impress. To say that Pegasus is mind-dependent is to say that in a world W where neither Pegasus nor minds are part of W, Pegasus has no being at all in that world. The point, I take it, is intuitive enough: A world without minds is a world without imaginations, hence without imaginary objects.20 Even so, other Meinongians argue that non-existents are mind-independentthough for reasons that are not obviously sound. Parsons (1980) contends that mind-dependence would suggest that Pegasus

    20 Nonetheless, there are substantial knots in the notion of mind-dependence, even though it is a familiar notion from the history of philosophy. For instance, does mind-dependence imply that someone must be thinking of Pegasus in order for him to exist? I hope to discuss such things in future work.


    comes into existence on a particular occasion of imagining, even though he does not exist. Still, Parsons grants that an author might bestow fictional existence on Pegasus (p. 188), and this fits with my claim that Pegasus is nonactual yet a mind-dependent being. Similarly, Findlay (1963) argues that non-existents cannot be mind-dependent because these objects exist as little when we are imagining them as at any other time (p. 56). But I agree that Pegasus is nonactual, regardless of whether someone is imagining him. So in that sense, Pegasus ontological status does not depend minds. Yet in another sense, his status indeed depends on minds, since whether Pegasus is actual+ depends on whether we imagine him. Regarding mind-dependence, some may protest that the view smacks of Quines (1948) nemesis McX, who holds that the object of Pegasus is the idea of Pegasus. But I do not meant to say that. Rather, the MIO is the object of both Pegasus and the Pegasus-idea. Yet since Pegasus is a figment of the imagination, there is a sense in which he is only of the mind. Nonetheless, Pegasus is not an idea since it is not as if he represents an object in the way that an idea does. (In the vernacular, a person might say that Pegasus is just an idea, yet this is misleading. Not only does it encourage us to think of him as representing an object, it also prompts the thought that Pegasus represents Pegasus in particular, making him into some kind of self-referring ideawhich is quite bizarre.) True, the idea of Pegasus is mind-dependent, yet since Pegasus is not identical to the idea, it is a different case of mind-dependence. But if Pegasus is not an idea, what is he? Well from one angle, the answer is plain: Pegasus isnt anything, at least not in the actual world. However, as concerns the actual+ world, Pegasus is the object of some thoughts, pictures, and linguistic expressions, though he is merely an intentional object. In all this, it is worth emphasizing what has not been said about Pegasus and other MIOs. Specifically, in saying Pegasus is actual+, I am not committed to some kind of Platonismthere need not be a Platonic heaven where Pegasus lives as an abstract and/or mind-independent object. Further, there is no implication that Pegasus exists as a concrete object, in a kind of Lewisian pluriverse. Rather, my claim is only that Pegasus is a mind-dependent object, a MIO, and more specifically, an

  • 23

    object of the imagination. And once we are clear on that, I think it is much easier to say that Pegasus is actual+.21 5. The Meinongian Details on the Data.

    With this Meinongian scaffolding in place, let us look again at the data. Recall the initial cases of positive predications:

    (d6) Pegasus is a horse with wings. (d7) Bertie is a barber (d8) Unicorns have horns.

    The thought is that Pegasus, Bertie, and Unicorns denote actual+ but nonactual MIOs, and that these account for the actual+ truth of these sentences. We can even add that each term directly refers (i.e., refers non-descriptively) to an actual+ non-actual object, a MIO, and is rigid on that object. Now admittedly, it is obscure how a name comes to denote a MIO, though perhaps introducing a name via definite descriptors works just as well here as with other rigid designators. Regardless, for the Meinongian it remains clear that Pegasus denotes an imaginary object, even if it is not obvious how it does that. Still, there is a problem in saying that Pegasus is a mind-dependent MIO, since it seems MIOs cannot literally be horses. So if Pegasus denotes a MIO, then (d6) is literally false (and similarly with (d7) and (d8)). For such reasons, Meinongians often recruit the notion of a nuclear or encoded property.22 The idea is that Pegasus qua Meinongian object is

    21 MIOs are not the only mind-dependent objects. A mental picture is mind-dependent, though (typically) it is not an intentional object; rather it represents an intentional object. Still, mental pictures can be intentional objects (as they are right now, in our talking of mental pictures). And in that case they too are actual+ MIOs. Why not say that mental pictures are actual? Because like after-images, they dont have a location: If we cracked open your skull, there would not be any pictures inside [even though facts about the pictures may supervene on whats in there]. However, I realize that all this is controversial, and I cannot answer objections here. I am just indicating how I would finish my story, but none of the arguments above depend on it. 22 Abstractionists such as van Inwagen (1973; 1983) and Salmon (1998) invoke a similar distinction. E.g., van Inwagen speaks of fictions as having some properties, and holding other properties. The above paraphrase strategy would seem beneficial to him as well, especially since van Inwagens quantifier strikes me sufficiently Meniongian. See n. 6.


    not literally a horse; rather, the object has horseness encoded into it somehow. This encoding is thus what makes (d6) true, even though what is named is a non-horse. But unfortunately, little more is said about encoding as such. The Meinongian thus incurs an extra primitive in her vocabulary. Besides the increase in primitives, encoding also seems like a drag on what was otherwise a clear and straightforward account of the data. For the theory then has it that Pegasus is not a horse even though it is true to say he is. So the account of (d6) is far less simple than was indicated. And further, an encoded property threatens to be a mere dormative virtue as in Molires joke, the kind of thing posited as whatever explains the explanandum. But even ignoring that, the Meinongian view suffers greatly in that it surrenders the tight, uncomplicated explanations it had before. Fortunately there is a better way. Since we can generally speak of nonactual individuals, we can also speak of nonactual property-instances. For a property-instance is itself an individual, at least in the sense that it is not a universal. (A single instance of a property is a non-repeatable affair). Thus, the sense in which Pegasus is a horse is the sense in which he has a nonactual property-instance of horsehood. Or in short: Hes a horse in the sense that he is a fictional horse. This leads us to the recognition that (d6) has two readings, one where it is true, and one where it is false. It is true if it means: (29) Pegasus is a nonactual horse with wings. But it is false if read as: (30) Pegasus is an actual horse with wings. Though to be clear, it would also be true that: (31) Pegasus is actually+ a nonactual horse with wings. For Pegasus is indeed a nonactual horse who is also an actual+ imaginary horse. And as an imaginary horse, Pegasus is both a MIO and a horse.

  • 25

    Question: Does this mean both actual and nonactual objects are in the extension of is a horse? That may seem oddwe usually assume that extensions contain only actual objects. But that may just reflect the prejudice toward the actual. Naturally, if our domain only contains actual objects, then only actual horses could be in the extension. Yet in such a domain, sentences using Pegasus are vexing*. The Meinongian thus adopts a domain of actual+ objects which includes Pegasus, who lies in extension of is a horseeven though he is an imaginary horse in the set. (If this still sounds odd, it may just reflect that fictional objects are not our paradigm of objects in general.) Nonetheless, if you think Pegasus should never be in the extension of is a horse, then you can define is a horse accordingly (even in a Pegasus-domain). But there, (d6) comes out false. As was observed, there is indeed a reading of (d6) where it is falsebut if we hold that Pegasus is a horse and a figment of the imagination (as I think we should), it follows that some figments of the imagination are horses. This may sound bizarre in one sense, but we must remember that such horses are not actual horses but rather fictional horses, where fictional horses are actual+ MIOs. Of note: Nothing here vindicates (d6) as actually true. But this is how it should be. If we lived in a world containing only actualsif we lived in a world sans MIOsit seems Pegasus would be meaningless. In that case, (d6) would be like the sentence Blurgaflurg is a winged horse, since both sentences would use a subject-term that does not even name a MIO. Of course, in our world (d6) is true, and that means that our world (somewhat paradoxically) is not just the actual world. But by this, I mean only that our world is home to actual+ objects, and not just the actual ones. For our world is distinctive in having Pegasus as a mythical creature; a world where Pegasus was never conjured up would be a world that is different from ours. Similar things can be said of (d9)-(d11). One might have complained that MIOs cannot literally be famous or literally be worshippedbut the Meinongian agrees that Zeus is not actually famous nor was actually worshipped by ancient Greeks. Instead, he is actually+ famous and was actually+ worshipped. As before, this would be a matter of an actual+ MIO having a nonactual instance of the property being famous or


    being worshipped by ancient Greeks, whereby (d9)-(d11) are made into actual+ truths.23 What goes for (d6) goes for (d8). Names for other mind-dependent phenomena, e.g., in (d18), (d20)-(d22), are also seen as naming actual+ nonactuals. And the quantifiers in (d15)-(d17), (d19) have such objects in their range, whereby the sentences are actually+ true in virtue of actual+ nonactual property-instances of the objects. Naturally, there are differences between objects of fiction, mirages, hallucinations, and after-images, but I suspect these concern differences in the vehicles that represent Meinongian objects, e.g., whether the mental representation is of a perceptual, if nonveridical, sort.) Importantly, one can imagine the very same MIO that another person hallucinates. An example by Thomas Hofweber (in conversation): Suppose a certain drug causes hallucinations of a mythical creature called Tedasus. If you are uninitiated in the drug, you can still understand the name Tedasus, even though you lack the relevant first-hand experience. Yet such experience is not required for Tedasus to avoid the fate of Blurgafurg For we can imagine Tedasus without hallucinating him. The two experiences may be different, since only the latter may involve a visual image of the creature. Still, the object imagined can be the same as the object hallucinatedfor the creature is not the image experienced, but rather the object of these images. (And if we fail to distinguish these, we commit a kind of use/mention fallacy, akin to McXs error.)24

    23 The encoding talk is sometimes thought to resolve another problem-case for Meinong, viz., Russells example of the existing golden mountain.: Such a mountain would encode existence, though it would not truly exist. In the present approach, one could say the mountain does not actually exist though it nonactually exists. (Regardless, there is a revenge example: the actual golden mountain. I am not able to address this here, but note that an analogous revenge example exists for the encoding Meinongian: the golden mountain that exemplifies and does not merely encode existence.) 24 Ed Zalta (in conversation) has pressed that this makes fictional objects stranger I have acknowledged: If two persons can think about numerically the same fictional object, then such an object is not within any one mind, contra the natural assumption. For if Pegasus were limited to one mind, this would make imaginative objects objectionably private, as in Hofwebers example. Pegasus thus seems to be an abstract object of a sort. Hence, a full account of imaginary objects would require an account of abstract objects. But I cannot delve into that here (per n. 1). Yet even if Pegasus is an abstractum, he is not an actual abstractum. For it remains true that if there were no minds, Pegasus would not exist in any sense at all.

  • 27

    The Meinongian account of (d7) requires special comment. Famously, Russell (1906) argued against Meinongs impossibilia, suggesting that they lead to contradiction, e.g., the claim that the round square is both round and not round. But this seems question-begging, since to admit the actuality+ of a round square is obviously to acknowledge an actual+ object with inconsistent features. Something would be amiss if an impossible object had no contrary features! So it is no objection simply to point out that an impossible object is impossible (though to avoid explosion, one would need to adopt a paraconsistent logic.) Nonetheless, if a Meinongian says that round squares are somehow actual, then in what sense are they impossible? The tension here concerns an inconsistency in the Meinongians ontology and not just in the objects shape. In this case, it would seem that the Meinongian objects both exist and cannot exist. Yet a Meinongian says more exactly that round squares are actual+ even though they cannot be actual, which is perfectly consistent. And the actuality+ of round squares seems tenable, since it merely indicates that we can have thoughts where round squares are the intentional objects, though they are merely intentional, and necessarily so. Next, (d12)-(d14) challenge us to identify the sense in which Gonzago is second-order fictional, and the sense in which Hamlet and Gonzago are equally fictional. Yet as (22) insinuated, the sense in which they are equally fictional just lies in their being equally nonactual (mind-dependent). To explain the different orders of fiction, however, it is best to introduce world-relative uses of actual and actual+, akin to how Lewis (1986) relativizes quantification to possible worlds. Thus we can talk of Pegasus being actual-at-a-Pegasus-world, even though he is not actual, i.e., actual-at-our-world. For this is just to talk about what is mind-independent and what is mind-dependent in a given world. But note: I do not prejudge that Pegasus-worlds and the like are possible worlds. Rather, I understand a Pegasus-world as a fictional world, and whether it is also a possible world is left open. (If fictional worlds are impossible, I assume it is still intelligible to relativize the terms to those worlds, perhaps in conjunction with some paraconsistent logic.) Predictably, the world-relative uses allow us to explain the modal claims at (d2) and (d5). Thus, (d2) would be true in virtue of a Pegasus-world W


    where Pegasus is never captured by Bellerophon. Pegasus again would be an actual+ nonactual object, who also instantiates the relation is never captured by in regards to Bellerophon. And as with nonactual property-instances, this relation-instance would be nonactual. But notably, the relation would also be nonactual-in-a-Greek-Myth-world, given that Pegasus is captured by Bellerophon in that world. Similar remarks would apply to (d5) (modulo a paraconsitent logic). Moreover, given the world-relative uses, we can read (d12) and (d13) as attributing first-order and second-order fictional status, respectively. For we can highlight that Hamlet is actual-at-Hamlets-world, whereas Gonzago is not. Nonetheless, in some sense Gonzago is part of Hamlets worldhis presence makes that world different from a world in which he is never imagined. So the thought is that Gonzago is merely actual+-in-Hamlets-world, and here too, this turns on whether an object is a MIO in Hamlets world. Analogous remarks apply not only to fictitious fictions, but to other fictitious nonactuals as well, like Matilda from (d21) and (d22). Here too, Matilda is an actual+ nonactual objectyet since she is a mind-dependent phenomenon, she is also nonactual in her own world. In this, Matilda is another second-order nonactual object (akin to Macbeths dagger). A Meinongian can also regard (d3) as a fiction external truth, akin to (d9)-(d11). Specifically, it can be regarded as a cross-fiction comparative like (d11). One sort of Meinongian paraphrase would be:

    (32) The actual+ but nonactual Oberon is also nonactual-in Hamlets-world.

    The subject-term is a descriptor that is satisfied by a MIO, and the predicate denies of that MIO a mind-independent status in Hamlets world. Perhaps (d3) also means to convey that Oberon is not even actual+-in-Hamlets-world, meaning he is not even a MIO in that world (even though he is a MIO here). If so, this extra element could be expressed via the phrasing just used. Finally, when it comes to negative existentials, the inconsistent triad is resolved by refining (1)-(3) in the following manner:

  • 29

    (1*) If a sentence of the form ()

    is true in the actual+ world, then

    the open formula (/x)

    is satisfied by some actual+ object

    named by (2*) (d1) is a sentence of the form


    and is true in the

    actual+ world.

    (3*) The formula (Pegasus/x)

    is not satisfied by some actual

    object, Pegasus. All this is quite consistent (and true, on the Meinongian view). Yet to be clear: (33)


    is satisfied by an actual+ object, Pegasus.

    Thus the Meinongian maintains that (d1) is true in the actual+ world, in virtue of an actual+ object satisfying the predicateyet this does not imply the actuality of Pegasus. Much the same can be said of (d4) (under some paraconsistent logic). 6. The Argument from Parsimony

    What I want to reiterate is the efficiency of the Meinongian explanations, in contrast to the vexed* explanations from the anti-Meinongian. Though the Meinongian ontology may be less simple, the explanations of the data are palpably simpler. Even so, it is difficult to say anything decisive by weighing the Meinongians theoretical virtues against its supposed ontological vice. The preceding pages, accordingly, are not trying to argue that Meinongianism is the best choice on the whole. They are only meant to cast doubt on the Parsimony Argument, and in particular, on its supposition that:

    (EA) We can achieve empirical adequacy (or comparable empirical adequacy) without Meinongian objects.

    I read the Parsimony Argument as assuming (EA), since this reflects a more general norm about theory-choice. The norm is that parsimony should only weigh in when the competing theories are empirically comparable. After all, a simpler theory is not attractive if it just looks simplistic vis--vis the data. That is so, especially if there is an alternative theory which is empirically superior.


    The case I have made, moreover, is that the anti-Meinongian does not seem to compare well. Again, there may be other anti-Meinongian options that I have glossed over, and these perhaps could fare better in the comparison. But it suffices for my purposes to create non-idle doubt about (EA) since, in using Occams razor against Meinongian objects, this essentially takes (EA) for granted. But if (EA) is contentious, the opponent thus begs a question when she uses parsimony against Meinong. That, at bottom, is why the Parsimony Argument fails. I suspect that anti-Meinongian appeals to parsimony have been attractive to philosophers, precisely because a comparable alternative was thought in reach. Granted, if there was such an alternative, it would be natural to see Meinongian objects as extravagant, akin to Ptolomys epicycles-upon-epicycles. But from where I sit, the analogy is unjust. I would rather compare Meinongian objects to black holes or dark matter. Such things are posited not to preserve unreasonable biases, but rather for earnest empirical reasons.25

    25 My thanks to Dorit Bar-On, Thomas Hofweber, Ram Neta, Keith Simmons, Meg Wallace, Ed Zaltaand especially William Lycanfor valuable comments on earlier drafts. I also thank an audience at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill.

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