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Tuesday, August 26, 2014

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Bill,

There is a stand-off only if a Meinongian can make sense of a "non-existential" interpretation of 'some objects' or 'some items' in the claim "Some objects/items lack any being whatsoever." In the absence of a reasonable account of such phrases it is not clear that such claims have truth-conditions. For instance, how would one state the conditions under which an assertion of the form "Some x's do not exist or subsist" would be true?

Thank you for replying to this. Here is what you are saying, lightly modified for context.

(1) [From your original post] "For Meinong, some objects neither exist nor subsist: they have no being at all. The stock examples are the golden mountain and the round square."

(2) [Ibid] London Ed finds this contradictory. "The claim that some objects neither exist nor subsist is an existential claim, of course, so how can 'they' have no being?"

(3) Ed's argument begs the question against the Meinongian. It begs the question at the premise that "The claim that some objects neither exist nor subsist is an existential claim"

(4) For this is precisely what the Meioningian denies when he affirms that some objects have no being.

(5) The point is simply that Ed assumes what the Meinongian explicitly denies.


I agree that if I were assuming what the Meinongian explicitly denies, then this would be a form of question- begging. But the Meinongian does not explicitly deny that "some objects neither exist nor subsist " is existential, ergo etc. He (as you represent him) merely states "some objects neither exist nor subsist ". He makes the statement, but he never says, about his statement, that it is an existential statement. So we need to remind him, since he has clearly missed this, that what he says is contradictory. This is not question-begging, rather it is reminding him that if he examines what he has said more closely, he will find that its very meaning involves contradiction.

In fact, Meinong himself may even have agreed it was contradictory. I am looking at On Assumptions, transl. James Heanue, University of California 1983, p.61, where he discusses the doctrine of Sosein and its independence from Sein. He says

If someone judges, e.g., "A perpetual motion machine does not exist," it is doubtless clear that the object whose existence is denied must have properties, namely those in terms of which it can be characterised, and that without these properties, the conviction of non-existence could have neither sense nor justification. To have properties, of course, is tantamount to 'being thus and so' [Sosein]. But this so-being [Sosein] does not have existence as its necessary condition, for existence is precisely what is being denied – and correctly denied, moreover.

There is more to say about this (very bad) argument, but put that aside for now. Note its form:

(a) Unless there is something which is a perpetual motion machine, the statement "A perpetual motion machine does not exist" is meaningless.

(b) the statement "A perpetual motion machine does not exist" is not meaningless.

(c) Therefore, something is a perpetual motion machine

Yet the same argument applies to “there is no such thing as a perpetual motion machine”. Meinong seems to think (and he suggests so elsewhere) that a proposition or Objective is a sort of complex, with component parts corresponding to the component terms, and so there must be ‘something’ corresponding to ‘a perpetual motion machine’. Hence, if we follow his reasoning to its bitter conclusion, he thinks that “there is no such thing as a perpetual motion machine” or “nothing is a perpetual motion machine” implies “something is a perpetual motion machine”, so that it is both the case that something is a perpetual motion machine and nothing is a perpetual motion machine. This is a contradiction, but one I think that Meinong would endorse. This is also clear from the reasoning that leads up to his famous statement that there are things such that there are no such things, which he says (from memory, I don’t have it in front of me) is very clear and obvious and universally conceded.

As for:

(6) I fear that [Ed] will say that 'some' by its very meaning is ontologically loaded, that 'Some Fs are Gs' MEANS 'There exists an x such that x is F and x is G.'

Yes, moreover I believe that Meinong would endorse this. He would say that ‘nothing is an F-G’ is a negative existential equivalent to 'no F-G exists', and that it implies ‘something is an F-G’, because ‘an F-G’ must have a meaning, and so must mean something, and that something must be F and G. If you look at his footnote 64 in the Heanue translation, he practically does say this.

In summary, I am not begging the question, because I am not contradicting anything that was explicitly stated. I am merely reminding the Meinongian that his thesis involves a contradiction. Finally, I note that an unreconstructed Meinongian would probably agree that his thesis involves a contradiction.

>>If you merely oppose me, or contradict me, then you haven't refuted me.

We are agreed on this. The point is that

(1) some things are s.t. they do not exist or subsist

Is not the contradictory of

(2) “Some things are s.t. they do not exist or subsist” is an existential assertion

The Meinongian asserts (1), I assert (2). And as I point out above, an unreconstructed Meinongian pur sang may even agree with (2).

@Peter: "For instance, how would one state the conditions under which an assertion of the form "Some x's do not exist or subsist" would be true? "

Meinong is quite clear about the conditions. See my comments above. The assertion is true if there are things which have properties and are 'thus and so', and which are 'meant' by a definite description, but which do not exist. They are "the object[s] whose existence is denied".

Correction. I have just skimmed through an excellent paper by Reinhardt Grossmann ("Meinong's Doctrine of the Aussersein of the Pure Object", Nous 1974), which cites Meinong, Ueber die Stellung der Gegenstandstheorie im System der Wissenschaften (Leipzig: 1907), p. 39.

There, Meinong says that the sentences 'Ghosts do not exist' and 'No existent things are ghosts' do not represent the same state of affairs. It’s not quite clear what he means, but he probably means that the first sentence is about ghosts, whereas the second is about existent things only, and therefore cannot be about ghosts.

This means that, for the Meinong of 1907, “there is no such thing as a perpetual motion machine” does not entail that something is a perpetual motion machine, whereas ‘a perpetual motion machine does not exist’ does entail this. It’s not clear, however, how Meinong’s ontology would deal with the first statement. If there is no such thing as a perpetual motion machine, and there clearly isn’t, how can something (namely an Object) be a perpetual motion machine?

Ed,

I have let you have your say, as you requested, and, as per your e-mail suggestion, we will agree not to discuss this or related questions any further including questions about logic, quantification, existence, reality, actuality, modality, modes of being, predication, identity, reference, fiction and fictional discourse, and the like.

You have failed to make the minimal concession that would be required to show that we share sufficient common ground to proceed.

I wish you the best.

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