- November 27
) was an Austrian philosopher
Meinong was born in Lemberg, Austria (now L'viv
) and died in Graz
, Austria. He studied at the Academic Gymnasium, Vienna
and later the University of Vienna
, where he read history
and philosophy as a pupil of Franz Brentano
. He was professor and Chair of Philosophy at the University of Graz
, where he founded the Graz psychological institute (in 1894) and the Graz School
of experimental psychology. Meinong supervised the promotion of Christian von Ehrenfels
(founder of Gestalt psychology
), as well as the habilitation of Alois Höfler
and Anton Oelzelt-Newin
Meinong wrote two books on David Hume
, the first dealing with his theory of abstraction, the second with his theory of relations; Meinong was relatively strongly influenced by British empiricism
. He is most noted, however, for his Theory of Objects (Über Gegenstandstheorie
, 1904), which grew out of his work on intentionality and his belief in the possibility of intending nonexistent objects. The theory is based around the purported empirical observation that it is possible to think about something, such as a golden mountain, even though that object does not exist. Since we can refer to such things that do not exist, they must have some sort of being. Meinong thus distinguishes the "being" of a thing, which it possesses in virtue of its ability to be intended toward, from a thing's "existence", which is the substantive ontological status ascribed, for example, to horses but denied to unicorns. The "place" that such things exist has been nicknamed Meinong's jungle
Historically, Meinong has been treated as an eccentric who was dealt a well-deserved death blow in Bertrand Russell's famous essay On Denoting, especially by Gilbert Ryle. However, Russell himself spoke (and wrote) highly of the vast majority of Meinong's work. Further, Meinongians such as Terence Parsons and Roderick Chisholm established the consistency of a Meinongian theory of objects, while others (e.g., Karel Lambert) have defended the usefulness of such a theory.
Meinong is also seen to be controversial in the field of philosophy of language for he is often attributed to the view that "existence" is merely a property of an object, just as color or mass might be a property. Closer readers of his work, however, accept that Meinong held the view that objects are "indifferent to being and that they stand "beyond being and non-being". On this view Meinong is expressly denying that existence is a property of an object. For Meinong, what an object is, its real essence, depends on the properties of the object. These properties are genuiniely possessed whether the object exists or not, and so existence cannot be a mere property of an object.
Types of Objects
Meinong holds that objects can be divided into three categories on the basis of their ontological status. Objects may have one of the following three modalities of being and non-being:
- Existence (Existenz, verb: existieren), or actual reality (Wirklichkeit), which denotes the material and temporal being of an object
- Subsistence (Bestand, verb: bestehen), which denotes the being of an object in a non-temporal sense.
- Absistence or Being-given (Gegebenheit, as in the German use es gibt, i.e. "there are", "it is given"), which denotes being an object but not having being.
Certain objects can exist (mountains, birds, etc.); others cannot in principle ever exist, such as the objects of mathematics (numbers, theorems, etc.): such objects simply subsist. Finally, a third class of objects cannot even subsist, such as impossible objects (e.g. square circle, wooden iron, etc.). Being-given is not a minimal mode of being, because it is not a mode of being at all. Rather, to be "given" is just to be an object. Being-given, termed "absistence" by J.N. Findlay, is better thought of as a mode of non-being than as a mode of being. Absistence, unlike existence and subsistence, does not have a negation; everything absists. (Note that all objects absist, while some subset of these subsist, of which a yet-smaller subset exist.) The result that everything absists allows Meinong to deal with our ability to affirm the non-being (Nichtsein) of an object. It is given or absists, as evidenced by our act of intending it, which is logically prior to our denying that it has being.
The object and the acts of the subject
Meinong distinguishes four classes of "objects":
- "Object" (Objekt), which can be real (like notes in a melody) or ideal (like the concepts of difference, identity, etc.)
- "Objective" (Objectiv), e.g. the affirmation of the being (Sein) or non-being (Nichtsein), of a being-such (Sosein), or a being-with (Mitsein) - parallel to existential, categorical and hypothetical judgements
- "Dignitative", e.g. the true, the good, the beautiful
- "Desiderative", e.g. duties, ends, etc.
To these four classes of objects correspond four classes of psychological acts:
- (re)presentation (das Vorstellen), for objects
- thought (das Denken), for the objectives
- feeling (das Fühlen), for dignitatives
- desire (das Begehren), for the desideratives.
- Meinong, A. (1885). Über philosophische Wissenschaft und ihre Propädeutik
- Meinong, A. (1894). Psychologisch-ethische Untersuchungen zur Werttheorie
- Meinong, A., ed. (1904). Untersuchung zur Gegenstandstheorie und Psychologie
- Meinong, A. (1910). Über Annahmen, 2nd ed.
- Meinong, A. (1915). Über Möglichkeit und Wahrscheinlichkeit
- Meinong, A. (1917). Über emotionale Präsentation
- Meinong, A. (1877). "Hume Studien I. Zur Geschichte und Kritik des modernen Nominalismus" in Sitzungsbereiche der phil.-hist. Classe der kais. Akademie der Wissenschaften, 78:185-260.
- Meinong, A. (1882). "Hume Studien II. Zur Relationstheorie" in Sitzungsbereiche der phil.-hist. Classe der kais. Akademie der Wissenschaften, 101:573–752.
- Meinong, A. (1891). "Zur psychologie der Komplexionen und Relationen" in Zeitschrift für Psychologie und Physiologie der Sinnesorgane, II:245–265.
- Meinong, A. (1899). "Über Gegenstände höherer Ordnung und deren Verhältniss zur inneren Wahrnehmung" in Zeitschrift für Psychologie und Physiologie der Sinnesorgane, 21, pp. 187-272.
Books together with other authors
- Höfler, A. and Meinong, A. (1890). Philosophische Propädeutik. Erster Theil: Logik. F. Tempsky / G. Freytag, Vienna.
Posthumously edited works
- Haller, R., Kindinger, R., and Chisholm, R., editors, (1968-78.) Gesamtausgabe, 7 vols., Akademische Druck- und Verlagsgesellschaft, Graz.
- Meinong, A. (1965). Philosophenbriefe, ed. Kindinger, R., Akademische Druck- und Verlagsanstalt, Graz.
- Albertazzi, L., Jacquette, D., and Poli, R., editors (2001). The School of Alexius Meinong. Ashgate, Aldershot. ISBN 1-84014-374-6
- Chisholm, R. (1982). Brentano and Meinong Studies. Rodopi, Amsterdam.
- Dölling, E. (1999). Wahrheit Suchen und Wahrheit Bekennen. Alexius Meinong: Skizze seines Lebens. Rodopi, Amsterdam - Atlanta. ISBN 90-420-0774-5
- Findlay, J. N. (1963). Meinong's Theory of Objects and Values, 2nd ed. Oxford, Clarendon Press.
- Grossman, R. (1974). Meinong. Routledge & Kegan Paul, London - Boston. ISBN 0-7100-7831-5
- Haller, R., editor (1972). Jenseits von Sein und Nichtsein. Akademische Druck- und Verlagsanstalt, Graz.
- Lindenfeld, D. F. (1980). The Transformation of Positivism: Alexius Meinong and European Thought, 1880-1920. University of California Press, Berkeley/Los Angeles/London. ISBN 0-520-03994-7
- Rollinger, R. D. (1993). Meinong and Husserl on Abstraction and Universals. Number XX in Studien zur Österreichischen Philosophie. Rodopi, Amsterdam – Atlanta. ISBN 90-5183-573-6
- Rollinger, Robin D. (2008): Austrian Phenomenology: Brentano, Husserl, Meinong, and Others on Mind and Object. Ontos, Frankfurt am Main. ISBN: 978-3-86838-005-7
- Routley, R. (1982). Exploring Meinong's Jungle and Beyond. Ridgeview Pub Co. ISBN 978-0685056363. (Also published as Routley, R. (1979) by the Research School of Social Sciences, Australian National University, Canberra.)
- Schubert Kalsi, Marie-Luise (1978). Alexius Meinong: On Objects of Higher Order and Husserl's Phenomenology. Martinus Nijhoff, The Hague, Netherlands. ISBN 90-247-2033-8
- Chrudzimski, A. (2005). "Abstraktion und Relationen beim jungen Meinong". In [Schramm, 2005], pages 7–62.
- Dölling, E. (2005). "Eine semiotische Sicht auf Meinongs Annahmenlehre". In [Schramm, 2005], pages 129–158.
- Kenneth, B. (1970). "Meinong’s Hume Studies. Part I: Meinong’s Nominalism". in Philosophy and Phenomenological Research, 30:550–567.
- Kenneth, B. (1971). "Meinong’s Hume Studies. Part II: Meinong’s Analysis of Relations". in PPR, 31:564–584.
- Rollinger, R. D. (2005). "Meinong and Brentano". In [Schramm, 2005], pages 159–197.
- Schermann, H. (1972). "Husserls II. Logische Untersuchung und Meinongs Hume-Studien I. In [Haller, 1972], pages 103–116.
- Schramm, A., editor (2005). Meinong Studies - Meinong Studien, Vol. I, Ontos Verlag. (yearly periodical)