Ontological Trivialism?

How to Meinong a Carnap-Quine

In: Grazer Philosophische Studien
View More View Less
  • 1 University of Gothenburg Institute for Research in Fundamental Sciences (IPM), Tehran

Login via Institution

Purchase instant access (PDF download and unlimited online access):


How hard is it to answer an ontological question? Ontological trivialism, (ot), inspired by Carnap’s internal-external distinction among “questions of existence”, replies “very easy.” According to (ot), almost every ontologically disputed entity trivially exists. (ot) has been defended by many, including . In this paper, I will take issue with (ot). After introducing the view in the context of Carnap-Quine dispute and presenting two arguments for it, I will discuss Hofweber’s (2005a; 2007) argument against (ot) and explain why it fails. Next, I will introduce a modified version of ontological trivialism, i.e. negative ontological trivialism, (not), defended by Hofweber (2005a), according to which some ontologically disputed entities, e.g. properties, (almost) trivially do not exist. I will show that (not) fails too. Then I will outline a Meinongian answer to the original question, namely, ‘How hard is it to answer an ontological question?’ The Carnapian intuition of the triviality of internal questions can be saved by the Meinongian proposal that quantification and reference are not ontologically committing and the Quinean intuition of the legitimacy of interesting ontological questions can be respected by the Meinongian distinction between being and so-being.

  • Jackson Balcerak, Brendan 2014. “What Does Displacement Explain, and What Do Congruence Effects Show? A Response to Hofweber.” Linguistics and Philosophy 37, 269274.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Berto Francesco 2013. Existence as a Real Property: The Ontology of Meinongianism. Berlin-New York: Synthèse Library, Springer.

  • Brogaard Berit 2007. “Number Words and Ontological Commitment.” The Philosophical Quarterly 57/226, 120.

  • Carnap Rudolf 1956/2012. “Empiricism, Semantics, and Ontology.” In: Meaning and Necessity. Chicago: Chicago University Press. Reprinted in Metaphysics: An Anthology, edited by Jaegwon Kim et al., Malden, MA : Wiley-Blackwell, 1626.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Chisholm Roderick 1973. “Beyond Being and Nonbeing.” Philosophical Studies 24, 245257.

  • Felka Katharina 2014. “Number Words and Reference to Numbers.” Philosophical Studies 168, 261282.

  • Field Hartry 1991. Realism, Mathematics, and Modality. New York, NY: Blackwell.

  • Hofweber Thomas 2000. “Quantification and Non-existent Objects.” In: Empty Names, Fiction, and the Puzzles of Non-Existence, edited by Everett, Anthony and Thomas Hofweber, Stanford, California: csli Publications, 249273.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Hofweber Thomas 2005a. “A Puzzle about Ontology.” Nous 39, 256283.

  • Hofweber Thomas 2005b. “Number Determiners, numbers, and arithmetic.” The Philosophical Review 114(2): 179225.

  • Hofweber Thomas 2007. “Innocent Statements and their Metaphysically Loaded Counterparts.” Philosophers’ Imprint 7(1), 133.

  • Hofweber Thomas 2013. “Extraction, Displacement, and Focus. A Reply to Balcerak Jackson.” Linguistics and Philosophy 37, 263267.

  • Jacquette Dale 1996. Meinongian Logic. Berlin: Walter de Gruyter & Co.

  • Kim Jaegwon, Korman Daniel and Sosa Ernest 2012. Metaphysics: An Anthology. Malden, ma: Wiley-Blackwell.

  • Kripke Saul 1980. Naming and Necessity. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press.

  • Lambert Karel 1983. Meinong and the Principle of Independence: Its Place in Meinong’s Theory of Objects and its Significance in Contemporary Philosophical Logic. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Lewis David 1990. “Noneism or Allism.” Mind 99, 2331.

  • Lewis David 1983. “New Work for a Theory of Universals.” Australasian Journal of Philosophy 61, 343377.

  • McKay Thomas and Nelson Michael 2010. “The De Re/De Dicto Distinction.” The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Edward N. Zalta (ed.), url = http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/prop-attitude-reports/dere.html.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Meinong Alexius 1960. “The Theory of Objects.” In Realism and the Background of Phenomenology, edited by Roderick Chisholm et al., Glencoe: The Free Press, 76117.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Moltmann Friederike 2004. “Properties and Kinds of Tropes: New Linguistic Facts and Old Philosophical Insights.” Mind 113, 141.

  • Moltmann Friederike 2013. “Reference to Numbers in Natural Language.” Philosophical Studies 162, 499536.

  • Parsons Terence 1980. Nonexistent Objects. New Haven, ct: Yale University Press.

  • Perry John 1979. “The Problem of the Essential Indexical.” Nous 13, 321.

  • Priest Graham 2005. Towards Non-being: The Logic and Metaphysics of Intentionality. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

  • Quine Willard Van Orman 1948/2012. “On What There Is.” Review of Metaphysics 2, 21–38. Reprinted in: Metaphysics: An Anthology, edited by Jaegwon Kim et al., Malden, ma: Wiley-Blackwell, 7–15.

    • Export Citation
  • Quine Willard Van Orman 1951/1961. “Two Dogmas of Empiricism.” The Philosophical Review 60, 2043. Reprinted in: From a Logical Point of View (2nd ed.), New York: Harvard University Press (1961), 20–46.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Quine Willard Van Orman 1951/1963. “On Carnap’s View of Ontology.” Philosophical Studies 2/5, 65–72. Reprinted in: The Ways of Paradox and Other Essays, Random House, New York (1963), 126134.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Reicher Maria 2005. “Russell, Meinong, and the Problem of Existent Nonexistents.” In: On Denoting: 1905–2005, edited by Bernard Linsky and Imaguire Guido, München: Philosophia Verlag, 167193.

    • Export Citation
  • Reicher Maria 2014. “Nonexistent Objects”, The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Winter 2014 Edition), Edward Zalta (ed.), url = http://plato.stanford.edu/archives/win2014/entries/nonexistent-objects/.

  • Schiffer Stephen 1996. “Language Created, Language Independent Entities.” Philosophical Topics 24, 149167.

  • Schiffer Stephen 2003. The Things We Mean. New York, NY : Oxford University Press.

  • Schiffer Stephen 2006. “Replies.” Philosophy and Phenomenological Research Vol. lxxiii (1), 233243.

  • Schaffer Jonathan 2009. “On What Grounds What.” In: Metametaphysics, edited by David Chalmers, David Manley, and Ryan Wasserman, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 347–83.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Wright Crispin 1983. Frege’s Conception of Numbers as Objects. Aberdeen, Scotland: Aberdeen University Press.

  • Yablo Stephen 1998/2012. “Does Ontology Rest on a Mistake?” Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society, ns, supplementary volume 72, 229–61. Reprinted in: Metaphysics: An Anthology, edited by Jaegwon Kim et al., Malden, ma: Wiley-Blackwell, 40–58.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Zalta Edward 1983. Abstract Objects: An Introduction to Axiomatic Metaphysics. Dordrecht: D. Reidel.

  • Zalta Edward 1986. “Lambert, Mally and the Principle of Independence.” Grazer Philosophische Studien 25, 447459.

Content Metrics

All Time Past Year Past 30 Days
Abstract Views 267 161 4
Full Text Views 211 6 0
PDF Downloads 21 5 0