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A Problem for Ontological Pluralism and a Half-Meinongian Solution


According to K. McDaniel’s and J. Turner’s Ontological Pluralism, there are many ways of being that are more fundamental than being in general. In this paper, I shall analyze some constraints on this doctrine. Among other, ontological pluralists are committed to the idea that there are no things that have no way of being at all and that it is not legitimate to quantify over ways of being. Later on, I shall introduce a problem for ontological pluralism: if there is a privileged way of being an ontological pluralist (characterized by the claim that there are only some definite ways of being), then, given those constraints, ontological pluralists cannot logically express that privileged way. Finally, I shall justify the acceptance of a Half-Meinongian solution to this problem, that is roughly grounded on the acceptance of entities that have no way of being at all.

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  1. 1.

    I label here this doctrine “actualism”, even if it should be distinguished from actualism in the metaphysics of modality, i.e., from the doctrine according to which there is only one, absolutely actual possible world.

  2. 2.

    A minimal truthmaker for a proposition is the smallest portion of reality that could make that proposition true. Thus, a minimal truthmaker for the proposition expressed by (1) (see below) provided by ways of being themselves (without any appeal to being in general) is the smallest portion of reality containing some way of being, but not being in general, that makes it true that (1).

  3. 3.

    For my use of “actualism” and “actualist” in this article, see note 1.

  4. 4.

    McDaniel 2009 concedes that it is possible to construct such properties, but he claims that they are only identical with properties such as the property of enjoying a mode (or a way) of being, rather than with ways of being themselves. Following this line of reasoning, it would turn out, for example, that the property of enjoying existence as an object is different from existence as an object. Preliminarily, it should be remarked that there is only a verbal difference between enjoying existence as an object and existing as an object: Obama’s enjoying existence as an object seemingly is nothing more than Obama’s existing as an object, and vice versa. Moreover, I must confess that I do not see any reason for distinguishing – at a non-merely-verbal level – between enjoying existence as an object (i.e., existing as object) and existence as an object, as I do not see any reason for distinguishing – at a non-merely-verbal level – between enjoying humanity (i.e., being human) and humanity itself. Perhaps, one could invoke something similar to the Fregean distinction between properties and their correlates (or, in Fregean terms, between concepts and their correlates): roughly, being human (a property) is distinct from humanity (its correlate) (see Frege 1960: 42-55). According to Frege, the correlate of a property is not a property, but an object (even if we will not suggest that ways of being are objects). In a similar fashion, existence as an object is a way of being, while enjoying existence as an object (i.e., existing as an object) is a property. Yet, being inspired by Russell’s criticisms (see Russell 1996: 44-46), we could observe that “existence as an object” is nothing more than the result of the nominalization of the grammatical predicate “existing as an object” and that one cannot change or eliminate the reference of a predicate by simply nominalizing it. Thus, we cannot change or eliminate the reference of the grammatical predicate “existing as an object” to the property of enjoying existence as an object (i.e., of existing as an object) by simply nominalizing it. In sum, it seems to me that we have no reason for denying that “enjoying existence as an object”, “existing as an object” and “existence as an object” stand for one and the same thing and that that thing is a property. However, it also seems to me that one can restate the arguments in this section and in section 3 in order to meet this distinction, by introducing different symbols for ways of being and the properties of enjoying ways of being and by reformulating all the theses along these lines.

  5. 5.

    I use here “relation” in a weak, non-ontologically-committing sense.


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Correspondence to Michele Paolini Paoletti.

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Paoletti, M.P. A Problem for Ontological Pluralism and a Half-Meinongian Solution. Philosophia 43, 463–473 (2015). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11406-015-9581-y

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  • Ontological Pluralism
  • Existence
  • Quantifier