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The Meinongian trades logical and semantic simplicity for metaphysical abundance. Meinongianism is the thesis that there are objects that do not exist, nonexistent entities being included in the most unrestricted domain of quantification and discourse. One immediate challenge to the Meinongian is to offer individuating conditions for nonexistents. The most straightforward comprehension principle is the naive principle that, for any condition on objects, there is a unique object satisfying exactly that condition. For our purposes, we can conceive of a condition as determining a set of properties; crudely, the properties expressed by the predicates composing the condition.

It follows that corresponding to any set of properties, there is exactly one object with exactly those properties. The naive comprehension principle faces several problems. In what remains of this section, I survey these problems and distinguish different versions of Meinongianism in terms of the devices employed to develop a restricted comprehension principle for objects that avoids them.

The first is the problem of incomplete objects. Conditions need not be total; that is, we do not require that the set of properties a condition determines is such that, for every property, either it or its complement is a member of that set. So, by the naive comprehension principle, the condition of being a singer defines an object with exactly that property—being a singer—and no other properties.

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A set with other properties as well is a distinct set of properties and so corresponds to a different condition and hence a different object. Some find incomplete objects problematic in themselves, as they are counterexamples to bivalence: Our singer, for example, is neither wearing a dress nor not wearing a dress. But they also lead to more general threats of paradox. Our singer is an object with exactly one property: That of being a singer. This is its sole defining characteristic. So having a exactly one property is also a property of our singer and that property is distinct from the property of being a singer, which our singer also has.

So, the singer has two properties Contradiction. One simple solution is to restrict the comprehension principle to total conditions. The resulting proposal, however, leads to a questionable application of Meinongian metaphysics to problems of fictional truth, as many want to claim that there is simply no fact of the matter as to whether or not Sherlock Holmes has a mole on his left shoulder, as that is left underdetermined by the Holmes stories and there are no deeper grounds for either predication.

The promise of employing nonexistent objects in explaining apparent truths about fiction is one of the theory's main virtues. Relatedly, this solution undermines a primary motivation for Meinongianism—namely, the idea that there is a subject of predication corresponding to any object of thought, as we certainly do not think only of complete objects. The second is the problem of contradiction. A naive comprehension principle generates objects that violate the principle of noncontradiction. Consider the condition of being taller than everything.

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By the naive comprehension principle, this condition determines an object and so there is an object that has exactly the property of being taller than everything. But then it is taller than itself, which is a contradiction given the irreflexivity of the taller than relation. The irreflexivity of the taller than relation is nonlogical. It is a logical truth that everything is self-identical; i. But consider the property of being self-distinct. By the naive comprehension principle this condition determines an object and that object is self-distinct.

So our logically true sentence has a counterinstance. A third problem, one of Russell's objections to Meinongianism see [Russell a, ] , turns on the fact that existence is, on Meinongianism, a property and hence figures into the base of the naive comprehension principle.

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So, consider the condition of being winged, being a horse, and existing. By the naive comprehension principle, there is an object with exactly these features. But then this object exists, as existing is one of its characterizing features. Intuitively, however, there is no existent winged horse; existing seems to require a bit more substance. Indeed, for every intuitively nonexistent object that motivates Meinongianism—Zeus, Pegasus, Santa Clause, and Ronald McDonald—there is, by the naive abstraction principle, an object just like it but with additional the property of existing.

But then there is an existing Zeus, an existing Pegasus, etc.. This is overpopulation not of being but of existence as well. The naive comprehension principle, then, must be rejected and a restricted principle connecting sets of properties with objects found. The principle should generate enough objects to serve the Meinongian purpose of ensuring a corresponding object for every thought while avoiding the problems discussed above.

We can distinguish two strategies, both suggested by Meinong's student Ernst Mally [Mally ]. The first distinguishes two kinds of properties, what, following Terence Parsons [Parsons ], we shall call nuclear and extra-nuclear properties. While the distinction remains ultimately unclear, the key idea is that nuclear properties are part of a thing's nature, broadly construed, and extra-nuclear properties are external to a thing's nature; more precisely, nuclear properties, but not extra-nuclear properties, are part of the characterization of what the object is. The comprehension principle is then restricted to conditions involving only nuclear predicates.

Problematic properties, like existing, etc. Nuclear, not extra-nuclear, properties individuate objects. There is, on this view, a single class of properties that the comprehension principle ranges over, but the principle determines the properties encoded not exemplified to follow Zalta's terminology. For every condition, there is a unique object that encodes just those properties.

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An object may or may not exemplify the properties it encodes. Sherlock Holmes encodes the properties of being a detective and living at B Baker Street, etc. He exemplifies but does not encode the properties of being a fictional character and being the hero of Arthur Conan Doyle's Holmes stories. How do these distinctions solve the problems raised above for the naive comprehension principle?


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I begin with Parsons's view. Parsons focuses on the problems of contradiction and of the existent winged horse. Following Russell's discussion of Meinong, in [Russell a, ], Parsons considers the threat of contradiction generated by impossible objects like the round square. Meinong claimed that there is a round square, but that, complained Russell, leads to violations of the principle of noncontradiction, as that entity is then both round and not round, in light of the fact that it is square, which entails that it is not round. Parsons's response see [Parsons ], seems to be to deny that being square entails not being round, in which case it is simply false that the round square is not round.

He claims that there are counterexamples to the claim that all square objects are not round; after all, the round square is a square object that is round! This solution, however, does not seem to solve the more general threat of contradiction, as discussed above. Indeed, Parsons himself recognizes the limited success of his response see [Parsons, , 42n8].

He allows that being non-squared is a nuclear property. But then his comprehension principle entails that there is an object corresponding to the condition of being a non-squared square, where that object instantiates the incompatible properties of being a square and being a non-square. Let's turn to Parsons's response to the existence problem. The naive comprehension principle faced the problem of generating an existent winged horse. Because existence is an extra-nuclear property, however, Parsons's version of the comprehension principle, which correlates sets of only nuclear properties to objects, avoids this problem.

The condition of being an existent winged horse is not composed solely of nuclear properties and so Parsons's principle does not correlate it to an object. Parsons's distinction between nuclear and extra-nuclear properties similarly promises to solve the problem of incomplete objects. Recall our singer from above. That object does not have exactly one property; instead, it has exactly one nuclear property. As having exactly one nuclear property is itself an extra-nuclear property, much as being a complete object is on Parsons's view, the threat of contradiction is avoided.

The distinction between nuclear and extra-nuclear properties remains unclear. He then tells us that the extra-nuclear are those that do not stand for properties of individuals [Parsons , 24]. And, of course, it is nuclear and not extra-nuclear properties by which objects are individuated.

But it is not clear what status individual identity properties—properties like being identical to A , where A is an individual substance like, say, Parsons himself—have with respect to this distinction. He sometimes claims that they are extra-nuclear properties [Parsons , 28]. In that case, however, Parsons is committed to the problematic thesis of the identity of indiscernibles and so the impossibility of two primitively distinct but qualitatively identical objects.

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For further discussion, see the entry on the identity of indiscernibles. Most contemporary philosophers agree that objects are not individuated qualitatively, their identity and diversity being primitive. Max Black's two qualitatively indiscernible spheres are primitively distinct, in virtue of which one has the property of being that very thing and the other lacking that property see [Black ]. Furthermore, it is hard to see why identity properties are not properties of individuals.

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Suppose, then, that we count individual identity properties like being identical to A as nuclear properties, those properties entering the range of Parsons's restricted comprehension principle. Then the nuclear negations of those properties are also nuclear. But then we can take the set of all objects, construct the individual identity property for each, construct the nuclear negation of each of those properties, and then construct a condition from those properties that, by Parsons's comprehension principle, corresponds to an object.

Then there is an object that is distinct from every object that there is, which is a contradiction. It is unclear, then, that the distinction between nuclear and extra-nuclear properties and the restriction of the comprehension principle to nuclear properties solves the problems facing the naive comprehension principle. For further discussion of Parsons's view, see [Fine , ] and [Zalta ]. Earlier I distinguished two versions of sophisticated Meinongianism. The first, based on the distinction between nuclear and extra-nuclear properties, was found lacking.

I turn now to the second, based on the distinction between encoding and exemplifying a property, focusing on Zalta's version. Whereas Parsons distinguishes different kinds of properties, restricting the comprehension principle to only nuclear properties in the hope of thereby avoiding the problems plaguing the naive comprehension principle, Zalta distinguishes two different modes of having a property for the same effect.

Exemplifying a property is the familiar way in which an individual has a property; it is what I called instantiation above.