Frege’s analysis in terms of Sinn and Bedeutung captures the intuitive meaning and truth-value of some kinds of empty sentences, while Russell’s definite description approach accounts well for of some other kinds; but many further cases are not satisfactorily analyzed by either Frege or Russell. Orilia’s neo-Russellian analysis, interpreting such sentences as concerning “determinative concepts”, rather than objects, suggests how to preserve the truth-value of all such sentences, but not their actual meaning. Meinong’s talk of nonexistent objects can misleadingly suggest that he tackles the problem by assigning each term an intentional referent. But this would introduce a mysterious third level between existence and inexistence, and between connotation and denotation; moreover, it would generate contradictions that have been criticized by Russell, and involve a duplication of objects which has been exposed by Husserl. But I argue that Meinong is not actually committed to an ontology nonexistent objects, but only of thoughts or concepts, as Russell, or representations, as Husserl. His point is simply that empty names can figure in truthful predications. This is possible because empty sentences are actually about concepts (the neo-Russellian analysis is right, to this extent), and they are logically equivalent to paraphrases referring just concepts. In fact, I argue that truth-value is not in general, a function of the referents of words, but of the concepts they express. However, due to the phylogenetic and ontogenetic primacy of objects in natural language, conceptual claims are often phrased in term of objects. So, the paraphrases of empty sentences in conceptual terms are logically equivalent, but not synonymous with them. Meinong’s lesson, therefore, is that mention of nonexistent objects cannot be eliminated without changing the meanings of what we say.

Speaking of Nonexistent Objects

ALAI, MARIO
2006

Abstract

Frege’s analysis in terms of Sinn and Bedeutung captures the intuitive meaning and truth-value of some kinds of empty sentences, while Russell’s definite description approach accounts well for of some other kinds; but many further cases are not satisfactorily analyzed by either Frege or Russell. Orilia’s neo-Russellian analysis, interpreting such sentences as concerning “determinative concepts”, rather than objects, suggests how to preserve the truth-value of all such sentences, but not their actual meaning. Meinong’s talk of nonexistent objects can misleadingly suggest that he tackles the problem by assigning each term an intentional referent. But this would introduce a mysterious third level between existence and inexistence, and between connotation and denotation; moreover, it would generate contradictions that have been criticized by Russell, and involve a duplication of objects which has been exposed by Husserl. But I argue that Meinong is not actually committed to an ontology nonexistent objects, but only of thoughts or concepts, as Russell, or representations, as Husserl. His point is simply that empty names can figure in truthful predications. This is possible because empty sentences are actually about concepts (the neo-Russellian analysis is right, to this extent), and they are logically equivalent to paraphrases referring just concepts. In fact, I argue that truth-value is not in general, a function of the referents of words, but of the concepts they express. However, due to the phylogenetic and ontogenetic primacy of objects in natural language, conceptual claims are often phrased in term of objects. So, the paraphrases of empty sentences in conceptual terms are logically equivalent, but not synonymous with them. Meinong’s lesson, therefore, is that mention of nonexistent objects cannot be eliminated without changing the meanings of what we say.
File in questo prodotto:
Non ci sono file associati a questo prodotto.

I documenti in IRIS sono protetti da copyright e tutti i diritti sono riservati, salvo diversa indicazione.

Utilizza questo identificativo per citare o creare un link a questo documento: http://hdl.handle.net/11576/1888952
Citazioni
  • ???jsp.display-item.citation.pmc??? ND
  • Scopus ND
  • ???jsp.display-item.citation.isi??? ND
social impact