THE FATE OF ANALYSIS, #7–Meinong’s World.

By Robert Hanna



II. Classical Analytic Philosophy

II.1 What Classical Analytic Philosophy Is: Two Basic Theses

II.2 What Classical Analytic Philosophy Officially Isn’t: Its Conflicted Anti-Kantianism

II.3 Classical Analytic Philosophy Characterized in Simple, Subtler, and Subtlest Ways

II.4 Three Kinds of Analysis: Decompositional, Transformative, and Conceptual

II.5 Frege, The First Founding Father of Classical Analytic Philosophy

II.6 Frege’s Project of (Transformative or Reductive) Analysis

II.7 Frege’s Dead End

II.8 Frege’s Semantics of Sense and Reference, aka Meaning

II.9 Some Biggish Problems For Frege’s Semantics

II.10 Husserl, Logic, and Logical Psychologism, aka LP

II.11 What LP is, and its Three Cardinal Sins

II.12 Husserl’s Three Basic Arguments Against LP

II.13 Has Husserl Begged the Question Against LP? Enter The Logocentric Predicament, and a Husserlian Way Out

II. Moore, Brentano, Husserl, Judgment, Anti-Idealism, and Meinong’s World

III.1 G.E. Moore, the Second Founding Father of Classical Analytic Philosophy

III.2 Brentano on Phenomenology, Mental Phenomena, and Intentionality

III.3 Husserl on Phenomenology and Intentionality

III.4 Moore and the Nature of Judgment

III.5 Moore and the Refutation of Idealism

III.6 Meinong’s World

IV. Russell, Unlimited Logicism, Acquaintance, and Description

IV.1 Russell Beyond Brentano, Husserl, Moore, and Meinong

IV.2 Russell and Mathematical Logic versus Kant

IV.3 Russell’s Unlimited Logicist Project

IV.4 Pursued by Logical Furies: Russell’s Paradox Again

IV.5 Russell’s ‘Fido’-Fido Theory of Meaning

IV.6 Knowledge-by-Acquaintance and Knowledge-by-Description

IV.7 Russell’s Theory of Descriptions

IV.8 Russell’s Multiple-Relation Theory of Judgment

IV.9 Russellian Analysis, Early Wittgenstein, and Impredicativity Again

IV.10 Russell and The Philosophy of Logical Atomism

V. Wittgenstein and the Tractatus 1: The Title, and Propositions 1–2.063

V.1 A Brief Synopsis of the Tractatus

V.2 The Tractatus in Context

V.3 The Basic Structure of the Tractatus: A Simple Picture

V.4 Tractarian Ontology

V.5 Reconstructing Wittgenstein’s Reasoning

V.6 What Are the Objects or Things?

V.7 The Role of Logic in Tractarian Ontology

V.8 Colorless Objects/Things

V.9 Tractarian Ontology, Necessity, and Contingency

V.10 Some Initial Worries, and Some Possible Wittgensteinian Counter-Moves

VI. Wittgenstein and the Tractatus 2: Propositions 2.013–5.55

VI.1 What is Logical Space? What is Real Space?

VI.2 Atomic Facts Necessarily Are in Manifest or Phenomenal Space, But Objects or Things Themselves Necessarily Aren’t in Manifest or Phenomenal Space

VI.3 Logical Space is Essentially More Comprehensive than Manifest or Phenomenal Space

VI.4 Why There Can’t/Kant Be a Non-Logical World

VI.5 A Worry About Wittgenstein’s Conception of Logic: Non-Classical Logics

VI.6 What is a Tractarian Proposition?

VI.7 Naming Objects or Things, and Picturing Atomic Facts

VI.8 Signs, Symbols, Sense, Truth, and Judgment

VI.9 Propositions Again

VI.10 Language and Thought

VII. Wittgenstein and the Tractatus 3: Propositions 4–5.61

VII.1 The Logocentric Predicament, Version 3.0: Justifying Deduction

VII.2 The Logical Form of Deduction

VII.3 Logic Must Take Care of Itself

VII.4 Tautologies and Contradictions

VII.5 What is Logic?

VII.6 Logic is the A Priori Essence of Language

VII.7 Logic is the A Priori Essence of Thought

VII.8 Logic is the A Priori Essence of the World

VIII. Wittgenstein and the Tractatus 4: Propositions 5.62–7

VIII.1 Tractarian Solipsism and Tractarian Realism

VIII.2 Tractarian Solipsism

VIII.3 Tractarian Realism

VIII.4 Is the Tractatus’s Point an Ethical One?

VIII.5 The Meaning of Life

VIII.6 Three Basic Worries About the Tractatus

VIII.7 Natural Science and the Worry About the Simplicity of the Objects or Things

VIII.8 Natural Science and the Worry About the Logical Independence of Atomic Facts

VIII.9 Tractarian Mysticism and the Worry About Metaphilosophy

IX. Carnap, The Vienna Circle, Logical Empiricism, and The Great Divide

IX.1 Carnap Before and After the Tractatus

IX.2 Carnap, The Vienna Circle, and The Elimination of Metaphysics

IX.3 The Verifiability Principle and Its Fate

IX.4 The Davos Conference and The Great Divide

X. Wittgenstein and the Investigations 1: Preface, and §§1–27

X.1 From the Tractatus to the Investigations

X.2 The Thesis That Meaning Is Use

X.3 A Map of the Investigations

X.4 The Critique of Pure Reference: What the Builders Did

XI. Wittgenstein and the Investigations 2: §§28–242

XI.1 The Picture Theory and the Vices of Simplicity

XI.2 Wittgenstein’s Argument Against The Picture Theory: A Rational Reconstruction

XI.3 Understanding and Rule-Following

XI.4 Wittgenstein’s Rule-Following Paradox: The Basic Rationale

XI.5 Wittgenstein’s Rule-Following Paradox: A Rational Reconstruction

XI.6 Kripkenstein’s Rule-Following Paradox: Why Read Kripke Too?

XI.7 Kripkenstein’s Rule-Following Paradox: A Rational Reconstruction

XI.8 How to Solve The Paradox: Wittgenstein’s Way and Kripkenstein’s Way

XI.8.1 Wittgenstein and The Rule-Following Paradox: A Rational Reconstruction

XI.8.2 Kripkenstein and The Rule-Following Paradox: A Rational Reconstruction

XII. Wittgenstein and the Investigations 3: §§242–315

XII.1 What is a Private Language?

XII.2 The Private Language Argument: A Rational Reconstruction

XII.3 Is Wittgenstein a Behaviorist? No.

XII.4 Wittgenstein on Meanings, Sensations, and Human Mindedness: A Rational Reconstruction

XIII. Wittgenstein and the Investigations 4: §§316–693 & 174e-232e

XIII.1 Linguistic Phenomenology

XIII.2 Two Kinds of Seeing

XIII.3 Experiencing the Meaning of a Word

XIII.4 The Critique of Logical Analysis, and Logic-As-Grammar

XIV. Coda: Wittgenstein and Kantianism

XIV.1 World-Conformity 1: Kant, Transcendental Idealism, and Empirical Realism

XIV.2 World-Conformity 2: Wittgenstein, Transcendental Solipsism, and Pure Realism

XIV.3 World-Conformity 3: To Forms of Life

XIV.4 The Critique of Self-Alienated Philosophy 1: Kant’s Critical Metaphilosophy

XIV.5 The Critique of Self-Alienated Philosophy 2: Wittgensteinian Analysis as Critique

XV. From Quine to Kripke and Analytic Metaphysics: The Adventures of the Analytic-Synthetic Distinction

XV.1 Two Urban Legends of Post-Empiricism

XV.2 A Very Brief History of The Analytic-Synthetic Distinction

XV.3 Why the Analytic-Synthetic Distinction Really Matters

XV.4 Quine’s Critique of the Analytic-Synthetic Distinction, and a Meta-Critique

XV.5 Three Dogmas of Post-Quineanism

XVI. Analytic Philosophy and The Ash-Heap of History

XVI.1 Husserl’s Crisis and Our Crisis

XVI.2 Why Hasn’t Post-Classical Analytic Philosophy Produced Any Important Ideas in the Last Thirty-Five Years?

XVI.3 On Irad Kimhi’s Thinking and Being, Or, It’s The End Of Analytic Philosophy As We Know It (And I Feel Fine)

XVI.4 Thinking Inside and Outside the Fly-Bottle: The New Poverty of Philosophy and Its Second Copernican Revolution


But you can also read or download a .pdf version of the complete book HERE.


III.6 Meinong’s World

Alexius Meinong (1853–1920)

In any case, Brentano’s student, the radical ontologist Alexius Meinong, had also broken out of Brentano’s Box, then passed through precisely the same ontological looking-glass as Moore, and created his Theory of Objects.[i]

More precisely, Meinong held three prima facie plausible and radically realistic principles to the effect that

(i) intentional consciousness is the directedness (Gerichtetsein) of mind to objects,

(ii) for every act of conscious intentionality there is a corresponding object (this is of course highly reminiscent of Plato’s Parmenidean Principle in the Parmenides to the effect that Thought and Being are One), and

(iii) every object has an ontological status — that is, a being (Sein) or an existence (Existenz) — of some definite kind, whether this is concrete reality (Realität, Wirklichkeit), abstract subsistence (Sosein), or hyper-abstract “indifference-to-being” or generic ontic status (Aussersein).

In holding these principles, Meinong was of course heavily influenced by Brentano, yet clearly also by Kant’s striking remark in the first Critique that

once I have pure concepts of the understanding, then I can also think up objects that are perhaps impossible, or perhaps possible in themselves but cannot be given in any experience since in the connection of their concepts something may be given that yet necessarily belongs to the condition of a possible experience (the concept of a spirit), or perhaps pure concepts of the understanding will be extended further (weiter ausgedehnet) than experience can grasp (the concept of God). (CPR A96)

Kantian objects that can be thought even though they’re impossible, are also what he calls “objects in general,” especially including “positive” noumena, aka “things-in-themselves,” i.e., humanly transcendent objects such that, if they actually existed, they’d be non-spatiotemporal, non-sensible, self-subsistent, and constituted by non-relational properties.

“Positive” noumena, e.g., God, should also be distinguished from “negative” noumena, namely, any non-empirical object whatsoever, e.g., numbers.

In particular then, “indifference-to-being” is just Meinong‘s way of talking about Kant‘s realm of “objects in general,” i.e., positively or negatively noumenal or transcendent objects, e.g., things in themselves.

But although he’s clearly been influenced by Kant’s conception of noumena, Meinong isn’t a Kantian Critical philosopher, and therefore he doesn’t restrict cognition or intentionality to the objects of actual or possible human experience.

As a consequence, his Parmenidean-sounding, Kant-inspired, and Brentano-inspired principles jointly yield an awful lot of objects, and correspondingly an awful lot of definite kinds of being or existence.

For not only are there the concretely or empirically real objects we perceive through the senses, but also the abstract or ideal objects we imagine or fantasize about, remember, and reason logically about.

There are also all the universal objects, like Redness, Hotness, and Goodness.

There are also all the logical objects, like Negation, Conjunction, and Disjunction.

There are also all the unreal objects we encounter in fiction and pretence of all sorts, like Hamlet, Humpty Dumpty, and The Man in the Moon.

There are also all the “subjective objects” of conscious introspection, self- knowledge, and philosophical psychology.

There are all the negative facts, like the fact that 7+5 does not = 11, the fact that Donald Trump is not a compassionate man, and the fact that Hamlet does not actually exist.

There are also all the unreal objects that are still consistently thinkable or possible, like golden mountains, the present King of France, and God.

And finally, most troublingly of all, there are also all those weirdly unreal objects we can somehow think about that are not consistently thinkable, or more plainly put, are analytically, conceptually, and logically impossible, like round squares.

So here we are now, thinking about the round square.

By Meinong‘s three principles, the round square must have some definite sort of being or existence, even if it cannot have either concrete reality or abstract subsistence.

And in fact for Meinong the round square has only an “indifference to-being” or Aussersein.

But no matter how fine you slice your ontological categories, it remains the case that a round square is square, hence not round, hence both round and not round.

Similarly, the round square is round, hence not square, hence both square and not square.

So for Meinong, the round square

both (i) has some or another kind of being, in order to be an object of conscious intentionality, and

yet also, (ii) by virtue of its violating the universal law of non-contradiction, it’s utterly analytically, conceptually, or logically impossible.

Curiouser and curiouser!

Here, now, is Meinong‘s radical ontology in more detail.

Like Brentano, Meinong starts his version of phenomenology from the primitive fact of intentionality, and its basic two-part intentional act/intentional object metaphysical framework.

Like early Moore, Meinong is a radical realist.

And like early Russell,[ii] Meinong is deeply interested in the logic and ontology of intentionality.

Unlike Husserl and Frege, however, Meinong has no theory of content or meaning or sense, apart from the basic two-part intentional act/intentional object metaphysical framework.

Nor does Meinong seem to be interested in the third basic element of intentionality for Brentano, inner consciousness.

Meinong is primarily interested in intentional ontology, not in philosophical semantics or philosophical psychology.

This is what he calls “The Theory of Objects” or Gegenstandtheorie.

The semantics of intentionality and the psychology of intentionality are not strictly speaking excluded by The Theory of Objects.

Nevertheless they are derivative theories for Meinong, in the sense that for him intentional ontology or The Theory of Objects is metaphysically prior and justificationally prior to philosophical semantics and psychology, although at the same time it’s Brentanian descriptive psychology or phenomenology that originally leads, in the order of discovery, to The Theory of Objects.

Why did Meinong, a student of Brentano the phenomenologist, become a radical realist?

My hermeneutic hypothesis is that Meinong clearly recognized that Brentano’s theory of intentionality entails subjective idealism or phenomenalism, and sought to avoid this unhappy outcome by turning that theory of intentionality into an intentional ontology or theory of objects.

Ontology, in general, is the theory of “what there is,” i.e., of the different categories and kinds of beings, and their essential relationships to one another.

Meinong‘s basic ontology consists of objects (individuals) and objectives (states of affairs).

In turn, the objects can be either existing (i.e., real/actual) or non-existing (i.e., non-real/non-actual), and the objectives or states of affairs can be either actual/real or non-actual/non-real. This leads to the “four-color-boxes ontology” I call Meinong’s World:

And here are the basic logical and ontological relationships between the four-color-boxes in Meinong‘s World.

Everything in Red Box 1 (e.g., Socrates) necessarily also goes into Green Box 2 (e.g., given that Socrates exists, i.e., is actual/real, then necessarily, it’s an actual/real state of affairs that Socrates exists, i.e., is actual/real).

Everything in Red Box 1 (e.g., Socrates) can go into Blue Box 3 (e.g., it’s a non-actual/non-real state of affairs that Socrates is an insurance salesman), but not everything in Red Box 1 necessarily goes into Blue Box 3 (e.g., Socrates isn’t necessarily not an insurance salesman).

Nothing in Red Box 1 (e.g., Socrates, who exists, i.e., is actual/real) can ever go into Violet Box 4 (i.e., the domain of things that don’t exist, i.e., aren’t actual/real) e.g., universals, numbers, contingently non-existing objects like Pegasus, the winged horse, and necessarily non-existing, i.e., necessarily non-actual/non-real, objects like the round square).

Everything in Violet Box 4 (e.g., the round square) necessarily also goes into Blue Box 3 (e.g., It’s necessarily a non-actual/non-real state of affairs that the round square exists, i.e., is actual/real).

Everything in Violet Box 4 (e.g., the round square) can go into Green Box 2 (e.g., It’s an actual/real state of affairs that the round square doesn’t exist, i.e., isn’t actual/real), but not everything in Violet Box 4 necessarily goes into Red Box 1 (e.g., Pegasus doesn’t necessarily not exist, i.e., isn’t necessarily non-actual/non-real).

Nothing in Violet Box 4 (e.g., the round square, which necessarily doesn’t exist, i.e., necessarily isn’t actual/real) can ever go into Red Box 1 (i.e., the domain of things that do exist, i.e., are actual/real).

Folded into the Meinongian four-color-boxes ontology, there are also Meinong‘s five basic ontological categories, as follows —

1. Existenz or Wirklicheit = existence or actuality/reality.

2. Sein = being.

3. Sosein = being such-and-such = subsistence = the being of objectives or states of affairs.

4. Nichtsein = non-existence or non-being.

5. Aussersein = indifference-to-being, or generic ontic status, corresponding to Kant’s category of “objects in general,” which includes all “positive” noumena, aka “things in themselves,” as well as all “negative” noumena, i.e., non-empirical objects.

Correspondingly, Meinong‘s Theory of Objects has five basic ontological principles, as follows —

Principle I: Every intentional object whatsoever has generic ontic status.

Principle II: Every well-formed, meaningful linguistic expression stands for an object.

Principle III: If a whole complex object has an ontic status of a specific kind, then each of its parts has an ontic status of that specific kind too.

Principle IV: Sosein or subsistence is independent from Sein or being.

Principle V: Every object whatsoever is essentially “indifferent” to being or Sein in the sense that every object whatsoever has generic ontic status, although at least one of its two being-objectives — i.e., its being or non-being — subsists.

In view of the direct connection between Meinong’s notion of Aussersein and Kant’s notion of “objects in general,” it’s especially illuminating to relate Meinong‘s intentional ontology to Kant‘s distinction between phenomenal and noumenal objects.

For Kant, all and only phenomena would necessarily go into Red Box 1, and all noumena — whether “positive” noumena, i.e., “things-in-themselves,” or “negative” noumena, i.e., any non-empirical object — would necessarily go into Violet Box 4.

E.g., Socrates, as a real empirical person, would necessarily go into Red Box 1; God, as a “positive” noumenon, would necessarily go into Violet Box 4; and the number 7, as a “negative” noumenon, would also go into Violet Box 4.

More generally for Kant, all empirically real objects, as truly cognized or cognizable (in the narrow sense of “cognition” or Erkenntnis) objects, hence “thick” objects of experience, would necessarily go into Red Box 1; whereas all merely thinkable objects, or “thin” objects, i.e., “objects in general,” including all “positive” and “negative” noumena, as well as both analytically or logically impossible objects like the round square and also synthetic a priori impossible objects like cats that grow on trees, would necessarily go into Violet Box 4.

In this connection, here are two (seemingly) impossibly hard problems for Meinong‘s Theory of Objects, both explicitly and famously noted by Russell in “On Denoting.”[iii]

Russell’s Impossibly Hard Problem I. The Puzzle of Negative Existentials.

According to Russell, if Meinong is right, then somehow both of the following contradictory sentences are true:

1. The present king of France does not exist.

2. The present king of France exists.

For Meinong himself however, sentence 1 means that it’s true that the present king of France is not among the existing or actual/real objects.

And for Meinong himself, sentence 2 means that it’s true that the present king of France has generic ontic status.

So Meinong‘s response to this (seemingly) impossibly hard problem is to distinguish carefully between

(i) the ontological category of an individual’s existence or actuality/reality, which in the four-color-boxes ontology is equivalent to an object‘s being placed (or not being placed, in the case of non-existence or non-actuality/non-reality) in Red Box 1, and

(ii) generic ontic status, which, according to Principle I, every intentional object whatsoever has, even impossible ones.

There is no paradox whatsoever if the present king of France has a generic ontic status, but is not placed in Red Box 1: on the contrary, the present king of France, which is a contingently non-existing, i.e., contingently non-actual/non-real object, is simply placed in Violet Box 4, not in Red Box 1.

In turn, the present king of France can visit Green Box 2 as a proper part of the actual/real state of affairs of the present king of France’s not existing, i.e., not being actual/real, and also the present king of France necessarily visits Blue Box 3 as a proper part of the non-actual/non-real state of affairs of the present king of France‘s existing, i.e., being actual/real.

So Meinong can easily solve that so-called impossibly hard problem.

Russell’s Impossibly Hard Problem II: The Puzzle of Logically Impossible Objects.

But things are significantly worse for Meinong when it comes to the round square, and analytically, conceptually, or logically impossible objects more generally.

That’s because of this line of reasoning.

1. The round square is square. (By 1 & analyticity.)

2. The round square is round. (By 2 & analyticity.)

3. Whatever is round is not square. (By 3 & analyticity.)

4. Therefore, the round square is not square. (By 2, 3, & hypothetical syllogism)

5. Therefore, the round square is both square and not square. (By 1, 4, & conjunction introduction)

So the very idea of a round square entails an analytic, conceptual, or logical contradiction

In this way, Meinong was prepared to admit that the Law of Non-Contradiction does not hold for all objects or states of affairs.

So according to him there are some true contradictions and also some inherently logically and analytically, conceptually, or logically impossible objects.

This doctrine is called dialetheism.

The main problem with unqualified dialetheism, as opposed to paraconsistency, is the logical fact that every statement whatsoever, AND its denial, can be proved from a true contradiction.

This is the logical phenomenon known as explosion.

Contrastively, dialetheic paraconsistent logics rule out explosion.

In a well-known article, Graham Priest rhetorically asks “what is so bad about contradictions?”[iv]

The Kantian answer to Priest’s very good question is:

“In fact, there’s nothing wrong with analytic, conceptual, or logical contradictions, as a species of necessary falsehoods, given that we already fully admit them into our valid and sound reductio proofs, provided that the background logic is paraconsistent, and therefore provided that explosion is absolutely ruled out out of court.”

But a world in which explosion is allowed to exist, like Meinong‘s World, is logically chaotic and anti-rational.

Meinong‘s World is just the sort of world that Lewis Carroll’s outrageous misologist or logic-hater, the White Queen, would have dictated in Through the Looking Glass:

Alice laughed. “There‘s no use trying,” she said: One ca’n’t believe impossible things.”

“I daresay you haven‘t had much practice,” said the Queen. “When I was your age, I always did it for half-an-hour a day. Why, sometimes I believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast!”[v]

Now Carnap famously said in The Logical Syntax of Language:

In logic there are no morals. Everyone is at liberty to build up his own logic, i.e., his own form of language, as he wishes.[vi]

That was bad enough.

But Meinong’s theory of intentionality is in effect saying, in a Carnapian way:

In logic everything can go all pear-shaped. Everyone is at liberty to contradict himself, i.e., to put analytically, conceptually, or logically impossible objects into Violet Box 4, whenever he wishes.

In other words, Meinong‘s Violet Box 4 is Pandora’s Box, and to that extent, Meinong’s World is Logical Hell on Wheels: and that’s utterly rationally unacceptable.


[ii] See, e.g., B. Russell, The Problems of Philosophy (Indianapolis, IN: Hackett, 1995), ch. V; and B. Russell, “Meinong‘s Theory of Complexes and Assumptions,” in B. Russell, Essays in Analysis (New York: George Braziller, 1973), pp. 21–76.

[iii] In B. Russell, Logic and Knowledge (New York: G.P. Putnam‘s Sons, 1971), pp. 41- 56.

[iv] G. Priest, “What Is So Bad About Contradictions?,” Journal of Philosophy 95 (1998): 410–426.

[v] L. Carroll, Through the Looking Glass (New York: Dial, 1988), pp. 91–92.

[vi] R. Carnap, The Logical Syntax of Language, trans. A Smeaton ( London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1937), p. 52.


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