In Nicholas Griffin & Dale Jacquette (eds.), Russell Vs. Meinong: The Legacy of "On Denoting". Routledge (2009)

Authors
Gabriele Contessa
Carleton University
Abstract
People often use expressions such as ‘Sherlock Holmes’ and ‘Pegasus’ that appear to refer to imaginary objects. In this paper, I consider the main attempts to account for apparent reference to imaginary objects available in the literature and argue that all fall short of being fully satisfactory. In particular, I consider the problems of two main options to maintain that imaginary objects are real and reference to them is genuine reference: possibilist and abstractist account. According to the former, imaginary objects are possible concrete objects. According to the latter, imaginary objects are actual abstract objects. I will then propose an account, the dualist account, which, I argue, combines the respective advantages of both accounts without sharing any of their respective disadvantages. According to this account, imaginary objects are not fully reducible to either abstract objects or possible objects: they are abstract artefacts that, in some contexts, stand for possible objects
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