A Meinongian minefield? The dangerous implications of nonexistent objects

Human Affairs 22 (2):161-177 (2012)
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Abstract

Alexius Meinong advocated a bold new theory of nonexistent objects, where we could gain knowledge and assert true claims of things that did not exist. While the theory has merit in interpreting sentences and solving puzzles, it unfortunately paves the way for contradictions. As Bertrand Russell argued, impossible objects, such as the round square, would have conflicting properties. Meinong and his proponents had a solution to that charge, posing genuine and non-genuine versions of the Law of Non-Contradiction. No doubt, they had a clever response, but it may not adequately address Russell’s concern. Moreover, as I argue, genuine contradictions are inherent to the set of all nonexistent objects. And such contradictions lead to even further absurdities, for example, that nonexistent objects have and lack every property. Unfortunately, such implications of the theory make it too treacherous to adopt.

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On Denoting.Bertrand Russell - 1905 - Mind 14 (56):479-493.
On Denoting.Bertrand Russell - 2005 - Mind 114 (456):873 - 887.
Nonexistent Objects.Terence Parsons - 1980 - Yale University Press.

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