Conservative Meinongianism: An Actualist+ Ontology

Abstract

[Draft substantially revised, September 2021] David Lewis acclimated us to talk of “nonactual concreta that exist,” regarding talking donkeys and the like. I shall argue that this was not for the best, and try to normalize a way of describing them as “actual concreta that do not exist.” The basis of this is a defense of the Meinongian thesis “there are objects of which it is true that there are no such objects,” re: fictitious and illusory objects. I first formulate the problem of negative existentials in a novel way, and discuss why this new version is more forceful against anti-Meinongians. Additional data is also pressed against anti-Meinongians--e.g., the truth of ‘Pegasus is imaginary’, and a reading of ‘There actually are illusory objects’ where it comes out true. The Meinongian, in contrast, easily and uniformly explains the same data, by allowing the existence Pegasus, pink elephants, and the like. But contra Meinong, these cases suggest that the nonexistent objects are mind-dependent objects, and I clarify and defend this suggestion from several objections. The resulting Meinongianism is thus “conservative” in that it merely acknowledges the sense in which there are mind-dependent objects, imaginary and illusory objects being prime examples. Of special note, the “ideology” is conservative as well in that the typical Meinongian jargon of “nuclear” or “encoded” properties is paraphrased away. New suggestions about the ontology of abstracta, mere possibilia, and impossibilia are sketched in light of this. Comparisons are also made with Thomasson, Crane, and McGinn, among others.

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T. Parent
Nazarbayev University

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