Alexius Meinong
Alexius Meinong Ritter von Handschuchsheim

(1853-07-17)17 July 1853
Died27 November 1920(1920-11-27) (aged 67)
EducationUniversity of Vienna (PhD, 1874)
Era20th-century philosophy
RegionWestern philosophy
Academic advisorsFranz Brentano
Main interests
Ontology, theory of objects, philosophy of language, philosophy of mind, value theory
Notable ideas
Theory of objects, nonexistent objects, Meinong's jungle, nuclear vs. extranuclear (constitutive vs. extra-constitutive) properties (konstitutorische vs. außerkonstitutorische Bestimmungen) of objects,[2][3][4] the existence–subsistence–absistence distinction
Meinong von Handschuchsheim family arms, granted with the title of Ritter in 1851.

Alexius Meinong Ritter von Handschuchsheim (17 July 1853 – 27 November 1920) was an Austrian philosopher, a realist known for his unique ontology. He also made contributions to philosophy of mind and theory of value.[9]: 1–3 


Alexius Meinong's father was officer Anton von Meinong (1799–1870), who was granted the hereditary title of Ritter in 1851 and reached the rank of Major General in 1858 before retiring in 1859.

From 1868 to 1870, Meinong studied at the Akademisches Gymnasium, Vienna. In 1870, he entered the University of Vienna law school where he was drawn to Carl Menger's lectures on economics.[10] In summer 1874, he earned a doctorate in history by writing a thesis on Arnold of Brescia.[11] It was during the winter term (1874–1875) that he began to focus on history and philosophy. Meinong became a pupil of Franz Brentano, who was then a recent addition to the philosophical faculty. Meinong would later claim that his mentor did not directly influence his shift into philosophy, though he did acknowledge that during that time Brentano may have helped him improve his progress in philosophy.[12] Meinong studied under Brentano with Edmund Husserl, who would also become a notable and influential philosopher.[13]: 1–7  Both their works exhibited parallel developments, particularly from 1891 to 1904.[13] Both are recognized for their respective contribution to philosophical research.[14]

In 1882, Meinong became a professor at the University of Graz[10] and was later promoted as chair of its philosophy department. During his tenure, he founded the Graz Psychological Institute (Grazer Psychologische Institut; founded in 1894) and the Graz School of experimental psychology. Meinong supervised the doctorates of Christian von Ehrenfels (founder of Gestalt psychology) and Adalbert Meingast, as well as the habilitation of Alois Höfler and Anton Oelzelt-Newin.[15][failed verification]



Main article: Russellian view

Meinong wrote two early essays on David Hume, the first dealing with his theory of abstraction, the second with his theory of relations, and was relatively strongly influenced by British empiricism. He is most noted, however, for his edited book Theory of Objects (full title: Investigations in Theory of Objects and Psychology, German: Untersuchungen zur Gegenstandstheorie und Psychologie, 1904), which grew out of his work on intentionality and his belief in the possibility of intending nonexistent objects. Whatever can be the target of a mental act, Meinong calls an "object."[3]

His theory of objects,[16] now known as "Meinongian object theory,"[4] 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, they must have some sort of being. Meinong thus distinguishes the "being" of a thing, in virtue of which it may be an object of thought, from a thing's "existence", which is the substantive ontological status ascribed to—for example—horses but not to unicorns. Meinong called such nonexistent objects "homeless";[17] others have nicknamed their place of residence "Meinong's jungle" because of their great number and exotic nature.

Historically, Meinong has been treated, especially by Gilbert Ryle,[18]: 8–9  as an eccentric whose theory of objects was allegedly dealt a severe blow in Bertrand Russell's essay "On Denoting" (1905) (see Russellian view). However, Russell himself thought highly of the vast majority of Meinong's work and, until formulating his theory of descriptions, held similar views about nonexistent objects.[19] Further, recent Meinongians such as Terence Parsons and Roderick Chisholm have established the consistency of a Meinongian theory of objects, while others (e.g., Karel Lambert) have defended the uselessness of such a theory.[20]

Meinong is also seen to be controversial in the field of philosophy of language for holding 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"[21] and that they stand "beyond being and non-being".[21] 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.[22] These properties are genuinely possessed whether the object exists or not, and so existence cannot be a mere property of an object.[12]

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:[23]: 37–52 

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.[24] 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. Its absistence is evidenced by our act of intending it, which is logically prior to our denying that it has being.[25]

Object and subject

Meinong distinguishes four classes of "objects":[26]: 133 

To these four classes of objects correspond four classes of psychological acts:




Books together with other authors

Posthumously edited works

English translations

See also


  1. ^ Gestalt Theory: Official Journal of the Society for Gestalt Theory and Its Applications (GTA), 22, Steinkopff, 2000, p. 94: "Attention has varied between Continental Phenomenology (late Husserl, Merleau-Ponty) and Austrian Realism (Brentano, Meinong, Benussi, early Husserl)".
  2. ^ Alexius Meinong, 1915 Über Möglichkeit und Wahrscheinlichkeit, Barth, p. 176. Reprinted in Alexius Meinong, 1972, Über Möglichkeit und Wahrscheinlichkeit, in Rudolf Haller and Rudolf Kindinger (eds.), Alexius Meinong Gesamtausgabe VI, Graz: Akademische Druck- und Verlagsanstalt.
  3. ^ a b Marek, Johann. "Alexius Meinong". In Zalta, Edward N. (ed.). Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.
  4. ^ a b Reicher, Maria. "Nonexistent Objects". In Zalta, Edward N. (ed.). Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.
  5. ^ Héctor-Neri Castañeda, "Thinking and the Structure of the World: Discours d'Ontologie", Critica 6(18):43–86 (1972).
  6. ^ Graham Priest, Towards Non-Being: The Logic and Metaphysics of Intentionality, Oxford University Press, 2005, p. vii.
  7. ^ Dale Jacquette, Meinongian Logic: The Semantics of Existence and Nonexistence, Walter de Gruyter, 1996, p. 12.
  8. ^ Liliana Albertazzi, Immanent Realism: An Introduction to Brentano, Springer, 2006, p. 321.
  9. ^ Jacquette, D., Alexius Meinong, The Shepherd of Non-Being (Berlin/Heidelberg: Springer, 2015), pp. 1–3.
  10. ^ a b Albertazzi, Liliana; Libardi, Massimo; Poli, Roberto (1995). The School of Franz Brentano. Dordrecht: Kluwer Academic Publishers. p. 132. ISBN 978-0-7923-3766-9.
  11. ^ Albertazzi, L., Jacquette, D., & Poli, R., eds., The School of Alexius Meinong (Abingdon-on-Thames, Routledge, 2017), p. 51.
  12. ^ a b Albertazzi, L., Jacquette, D., & Poli, R., eds., The School of Alexius Meinong (Abingdon-on-Thames, Routledge, 2017), p. 502.
  13. ^ a b Rollinger, R. D. (1993). Meinong and Husserl on Abstraction and Universals: From Hume Studies I to Logical Investigations II. Atlanta, GA: Rodopi. pp. 1–7. ISBN 978-90-5183-573-1.
  14. ^ Spiegelberg, Herbert (1981). The Context of the Phenomenological Movement. Dordrecht: Springer. pp. 146. ISBN 978-90-481-8262-6.
  15. ^ Haller, R., ed., Meinong and the Theory of Objects (Amsterdam/Atlanta: Editions Rodopi B.V., 1996), p. 8.
  16. ^ Meinong, "Über Gegenstandstheorie", in Alexius Meinong, ed. (1904). Untersuchungen zur Gegenstandstheorie und Psychologie, Leipzig: Barth, pp. 1–51.
  17. ^ In Über die Stellung der Gegenstadntheorie im System der Wissenschaften.
  18. ^ Ryle, G., "Intentionality-Theory and the Nature of Thinking", in R. Haller, ed., Jenseits von Sein und Nichtsein (Graz: Akademische Druck- und Verlagsanstalt, 1972), pp. 8–9. Ryle here compliments Meinong in two ways, first, rather backhandedly, for showing us what not to do in theorizing about intentional content. But the second compliment echoes Russell's admiration for Meinong's acute observation in pinpointing problems, his habit of tenaciously inferring consequences, and his nose for fine distinctions.
  19. ^ See Russell's article, "Meinong's Theory of Complexes and Assumptions", reprinted in his collection, Essays in Analysis, ed. Douglas Lackey (New York: George Braziller, 1973) This anthology contains five pieces dealing with Meinong's work, three of them reviews in which Russell expresses a good deal of admiration, in spite of significant misgivings about Meinong's ontology.
  20. ^ Sierszulska, A., Meinong on Meaning and Truth: A Theory of Knowledge (Heusenstamm: Ontos Verlag, 2005), pp. 159–160.
  21. ^ a b Meinong, A. "The Theory of Objects" in Realism and the Background of Phenomenology, ed. Roderick Chisholm (Glencoe, Ill: Free Press, 1960). p. 86.
  22. ^ Findlay, J. N., Meinong's Theory of Objects. Oxford University Press, 1933, p. 49.
  23. ^ Chisholm, R. M., "Homeless Objects", in Brentano and Meinong Studies (Amsterdam: Rodopi, 1982), pp. 37–52.
  24. ^ Though Meinong speaks of it loosely as a "third order of being" in his "The Theory of Objects" in Realism and the Background of Phenomenology, ed. Roderick Chisholm (Glencoe, Ill: Free Press, 1960), p. 84.
  25. ^ A version of the argument is given in "The Theory of Objects", Realism and the Background of Phenomenology, ed. Roderick Chisholm (Glencoe, Ill: Free Press, 1960), p. 85.
  26. ^ Albertazzi, L., ed., The Dawn of Cognitive Science: Early European Contributors (Berlin/Heidelberg: Springer, 2001), p. 133.
  27. ^ Lapointe, S., ed., Philosophy of Mind in the Nineteenth Century: The History of the Philosophy of Mind, Vol. 5 (Abingdon-on-Thames: Routledge, 2019), pp. 209–210.

Further reading