The Selection Problem

Revue Internationale de Philosophie 262:519-537 (2012)
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Abstract

In 'Fiction and Fictionalism', Mark Sainsbury has recently dubbed “Selection Problem” a serious trouble for Meinongian object theories. Typically, Meinongianism has been phrased as a kind of realism on nonexistent objects : these are mind-independent things, not mental simulacra, having the properties they have independently from the activity of any cognitive agent. But how can one single out an object we have no causal acquaintance with, and which is devoid of spatiotemporal location, picking it out from a pre-determined, mind-independent set ? In this paper, I set out a line of response by distinguishing different ways in which a thing may not exist. I show that the selection problem (a) does not arise for past, currently nonexistent objects ; (b) may not arise also for future existents (provided one massages naïve intuitions a bit) ; and (c) even for mere possibilia ; but (d) is a real snag for purely fictional objects, such as Holmes or Gandalf. As for (d), I propose a solution that forces Meinongianism to introduce a kind of ontological dependence of purely fictional nonexistents upon existents. The strategy complicates the intuitively simple, naïve Meinongian framework a bit, but looks quite promising.

Author's Profile

Franz Berto
University of St. Andrews

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