Philosophy Index

Alexius Meinong

An Austrian philosopher, Alexius Meinong (1853–1920) is best known for his theory of objects, a detailled ontology that expresses the organization of objects, both those in and apart from existence.

Meinong’s theory considers anything to be an object (Gegenstand) if it can be considered and examined by the mind. Therefore, Meinong counts as objects not only physical things, but also abstract objects, such as numbers, and even things that are impossible, such as round squares.

In general, Meinong divides objects into three categories:

  1. Existent objects (Existenz), which are actual objects in the physical, temporal world
  2. Subsistent objects (Bestand), such as numbers, which are objects that have non-temporal, unextended being
  3. Being-given (Gegebenheit) or absistent objects, which are objects without being, such as a round square

While object theory, or theories of beings, in most other philosophers consider all objects to have a sense of being, Meinong’s being-given category is not one of being at all — merely objects of which an agent can speak, but do not have any actuality or even possibility of being.

The category of being-given was named “absistence” by South African philosopher J. N. Findlay. Bertrand Russell offered a criticism of Meinong’s object theory, saying that it allowed contradictions with respect to the objects without being.

Meinong was a student of philosopher and psychologist Franz Brentano. His work is heavily influenced both by Brentano’s psychological/phenomenological approach to philosophy, and by British empiricism.

Selected Works

  • Über philosophische Wissenschaft und ihre Propädeutik (1885)
  • Untersuchung zur Gegenstandstheorie und Psychologie (1904)
  • Über Annahmen (1910)

Vitals

Name: Alexius Meinong
Born: July 17, 1853
Died: November 27, 1920