David Bourget (Western Ontario)
David Chalmers (ANU, NYU)
Rafael De Clercq
Jack Alan Reynolds
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American Catholic Philosophical Quarterly 77 (2):171-187 (2003)
Beings of reason or non-existent objects have always been a source of mind-boggling paradoxes that have vexed philosophers and thinkers in the past and present. Consider Bertrand Russell’s paradox: “if A and B are not different, then the difference between A and B does not subsist. But how can a non-entity be the subject of a proposition?” Or Meinong’s paradox: “There are objects of which it is true that there are no such objects.” At the root of these troubling conundrums are two basic questions: What are beings of reason? What kind of existence do they have? Francisco Suárez was well aware that a solution to the metaphysical questions concerning the essential character of beings of reason and their ontological status would serve as the key to solving the puzzles and paradoxes just described. A solution to these metaphysical questions would also bring about an understanding of how we talk about beings of reason and other problems that they give rise to in the philosophy of language. In this paper, I present Suárez’s view on the nature andontological status of beings of reason and clarify some of the following questions: What kind of beings (entia) are beings of reason? What kind of being (esse) do beings of reason have? This latter concern is related to the following metaphysical issues: What are real beings? What is the nature and ontological status of possible beings? What is the distinction between real beings, actual beings, and possible beings?
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