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Monday, August 04, 2014


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Obviously a version of (B), you correctly noted. The rest are all rubbish.

Thanks for the forthright and pithy answer.

My work, at least with respect to you, is cut out for me: undermine your confidence in (B).

Are you really comfortable dismissing (C) and (D) as rubbish given that very distinguished philosophers have adopted these strategies?

Doesn't the fact that they oppose you -- or rather your sort of view -- give you pause?

Please confirm that you do agree with me that the problem I have set forth is the central problem in the philosophy of fiction.

If we agree what the central problem is, and I know how you will attack it, then MAYBE we can make a bit of progress.

>>Are you really comfortable dismissing (C) and (D) as rubbish given that very distinguished philosophers have adopted these strategies?

(C) I understand as Meinongian, enough said. You have missed out free logic, by the way, which is genuinely 'Logic Reform', because it rejects the inference from Fa to ExFx. Meinongianism as I understand it is more a reinterpration of ordinary language. You introduce a new predicate !Ex for 'x exists', and then you can say that for some x, Fx and !Ex (x is existing F), and for some x ~!Ex, etc.

(D) Kripke is a distinguished philosopher, but a crowdpleaser, IMO.

And yes it's the main problem, but you have stated it at such a high level of generality that it would be hard to have missed anything. A large net catches many fish.

That's a virtue, not a vice. But I'm glad we agree on what the main problem is.

(C) is Meinongian but it also covers free logic. Obviously, the doctrine of Aussersein implies that from 'a is F' one cannot validly infer 'An F exists' or 'An F is.'

I would also point out that 'Meinongian' is not a term of abuse, and that philosophers who rank higher than Kripke are Meinongians, e.g., Meinong himself.

'Meinongian' is no more a term of abuse than, say, 'nominalist' is.

>>'Meinongian' is no more a term of abuse than, say, 'nominalist' is.

I have probably told you the story about Edo Pivcevik (solitary 'continental' philosopher in a department of largely Oxford analytics types). He was being given a hard time by CJF Williams on some fine point of philosophy. "Ah but you are a nominalist", hissed Edo, in a way clearly not intended as complimentary.

"Oh you're calling me names now, are you?" smirked Christopher, rather wittily I thought.

It's good story.

Name-calling and invective have their places in politics and other polemical precincts, but not in philosophy. Adhering to this principle is sometimes difficult . . . .

Meinong, who I have recently been reading, I have slightly more respect for than I did. His subject matter is that of Russell and Frege (which is no coincidence). He is almost an exact contemporary of Frege, and in his style of writing, even translated into English, reminds me a lot of Frege. But he meanders and there is no apparent thread, whereas Frege is sharp and to the point.

To me, there is no comparison. There is also that smart put down by Russell. Neo-Meinongians complain that Russell did not understand him, and that it wasn't a put down, but I have never read a convincing explanation of this.

Which Russellian put-down do you have in mind?

>>Which Russellian put-down do you have in mind?

The one where he says "I must confess that I see no difference between existing and being existent; and beyond this I have no more to say". It is quoted in the Chisholm introduction.

Isn't the simplest way of resolving 1. There are no Xs with 2. There is an X, certainly the way involving the least collateral damage compared to your other strategies, is to show that there is equivocation on X? The obvious equivocation in this context is between seeing a 'fictional item' as part of a representation (after van Inwagen, making (2) true), and as part of that which is represented (after Ed Ockham, making (1) true). Perhaps this falls under option (E), Dissolutionism.


So you are saying that 'fictional item' is being used in two senses.

Please give me two phrases that disambiguate 'fictional item.'

For example, 'financial institution' and 'natural boundary of a river' are two phrases that disambiguate 'bank.'

May I offer the following resolution of the paradox? I say that 'purely fictional' does not function as a concept term. Instead, it is ambiguous between two interpretations. On the one hand, it behaves like the pseudo-concept 'inexistent'. To say that Bone is a purely fictional alcoholic is to deny that Bone exists. The same goes whatever name and concept term we substitute for 'Bone' and 'alcoholic'. This leads us to assert

1. There are no purely fictional items.
On the other hand, I say that 'fictional and 'purely fictional' appear to be concept terms because sentences like
Bone is a purely fictional alcoholic
arise via a surface transformation of
Purely fictionally, Bone is an alcoholic
and inherit their meaning and truth value. We can understand the latter as asserting that
Some work of fiction says that Bone is an alcoholic.
We take this as true, as evidenced by the work of Hamilton, and running the transformation in reverse gets us to
Bone is a purely fictional alcoholic.
Taking 'purely fictional alcoholic' as a predicate, which it superficially resembles, by Existential Generalisation we arrive at
There is some purely fictional alcoholic,
and hence to
2. There are some purely fictional items.
and apparent contradiction with (1).

The idea of a surface transformation may well appear controversial and ad hoc. But the phenomenon occurs with other pseudo-concept terms, notably 'possible'. We have

Bone is a possible alcoholic <---> Possibly, Bone is an alcoholic
Bone is a fictional alcoholic <---> Fictionally, Bone is an alcoholic.
On the left we have 'possible' and 'fictional' which look like concept terms but cannot be consistently interpreted as such. On the right we have sentential operators which introduce an element of semantic ascent which is not apparent on the left. It's precisely because 'possible' and 'fictional' involve hidden semantic ascent that they do not work as concept terms.

Our comments crossed, Bill. As I hope my immediately previous comment shows, I don't see 'fictional' as a concept term (except in the sense that Jane Austen's Emma is fictional, which is not relevant to the discussion) and I can't neatly disambiguate it in the way you ask.

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