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Alexius Meinong

Alexius Meinong (July 17, 1853 - November 27, 1920) was an Austrian philosopher.


Meinong was born in Lemberg, Austria (now L'viv in Ukraine) and died in Graz, Austria. He studied at the Academic Gymnasium, Vienna and later the University of Vienna where he read history and philosophy as a pupil of Franz Brentano. He was professor and Chair of Philosophy at the University of Graz where he founded the Graz psychological institute (in 1894) and the Graz School of experimental psychology.

Meinong supervised the promotion of Christian von Ehrenfels (founder of Gestalt psychology), as well as the habilitation of Alois Höfler and Anton Oelzelt-Newin.


He is most noted for his Theory of Objects (Über Gegenstandstheorie, 1904) which grew out of his work on intentionality and his belief in the possibility of intending nonexistent objects. The theory 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. Historically, Meinong has been treated as an eccentric who was dealt a well-deserved death blow in Bertrand Russell's famous essay "On Denoting", especially by Gilbert Ryle. However, Russell himself spoke (and wrote) highly of the vast majority of Meinong's work. Further, Meinongians such as Terence Parsons and Roderick Chisholm established the consistency of a Meinongian theory of objects, while others (e.g., Karel Lambert) have defended the usefulness of such a theory.

Meinong is also controversial in the field of Philosophy of Language for his views on existence. Meinong posits that "existence" is merely a property of an object, just as color or mass might be a property. Thus, according to Meinong, a figure such as Sherlock Holmes would lack the property of existence, just as Sherlock Holmes lacks the property of being a female.


Modalities of Being

Meinong distinguishes three modalities of being:

  • Existence (Existenz, verb: existieren), or actual reality (Wirklichkeit), which denotes the material being of an object
  • Subsistence (Bestand, verb: bestehen)
  • Being-given (Gegebenheit, as in the German use es gibt, i.e. "there are", "it is given").

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 the minimal mode of being, all objects are at the very least "given" and this mode of being does not have a negation. Indeed, if somebody were to negate the being of an object or affirm the non-being (Nichtsein) of the object, we would have the paradox that it would have to "be-given" in order to negate it.

The object and the acts of the subject

Meinong distinguishes four classes of "objects":

  • "Object" (Objekt), which can be real (like notes in a melody) or ideal (like the concepts of difference, identity, etc.)
  • "Objective" (Objectiv), e.g. the affirmation of the being (Sein) or non-being (Nichtsein), of a being-such (Sosein), or a being-with (Mitsein) - parallel to existential, categorical and hypothetical judgements
  • "Dignitative", e.g. the true, the good, the beautiful
  • "Desiderative", e.g. duties, ends, etc.

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

  • (re)presentation (das Vorstellen), for objects
  • thought (das Denken), for the objectives
  • feeling (das Fühlen), for dignitatives
  • desire (das Begehren), for the desideratives.




  • Meinong, A. (1885). Über philosophische Wissenschaft und ihre Propädeutik
  • Meinong, A. (1894). Psychologisch-ethische Untersuchung zur Werttheorie
  • Meinong, A., ed. (1904). Untersuchung zur Gegenstandstheorie und Psychologie
  • Meinong, A. (1910). Über Annahmen, 2nd ed.
  • Meinong, A. (1915). Über Möglichkeit und Wahrscheinlichkeit
  • Meinong, A. (1917). Über emotionale Präsentation


  • Meinong, A. (1877). "Hume Studien I. Zur Geschichte und Kritik des modernen Nominalismus" in Sitzungsbereiche der phil.-hist. Classe der kais. Akademie der Wissenschaften, 78:185-260.
  • Meinong, A. (1882). "Hume Studien II. Zur Relationstheorie" in Sitzungsbereiche der phil.-hist. Classe der kais. Akademie der Wissenschaften, 101:573–752.
  • Meinong, A. (1891). "Zur psychologie der Komplexionen und Relationen" in Zeitschrift für Psychologie und Physiologie der Sinnesorgane, II:245–265.
  • Meinong, A. (1899). "Über Gegenstände höherer Ordnung und deren Verhältniss zur inneren Wahrnehmung" in Zeitschrift für Psychologie und Physiologie der Sinnesorgane, 21, pp. 187-272.

Books together with other authors

  • Höfler, A. and Meinong, A. (1890). Philosophische Propädeutik. Erster Theil: Logik. F. Tempsky / G. Freytag, Vienna.

Posthumously edited works

  • Haller, R., Kindinger, R., and Chisholm, R., editors, (1968-78.) Gesamtausgabe, 7 vols., Akademische Druck- und Verlagsgesellschaft, Graz.
  • Meinong, A. (1965). Philosophenbriefe, ed. Kindinger, R., Akademische Druck- und Verlagsanstalt, Graz.



  • Albertazzi, L., Jacquette, D., and Poli, R., editors (2001). The School of Alexius Meinong. Ashgate, Aldershot. ISBN 1-84014-374-6
  • Chisholm, R. (1982). Brentano and Meinong Studies. Rodopi, Amsterdam.
  • Dölling, E. (1999). Wahrheit Suchen und Wahrheit Bekennen. Alexius Meinong: Skizze seines Lebens. Rodopi, Amsterdam - Atlanta. ISBN 90-420-0774-5
  • Findlay, J. N. (1963). Meinong's Theory of Objects and Values, 2nd ed. Oxford, Clarendon Press.
  • Grossman, R. (1974). Meinong. Routledge & Kegan Paul, London - Boston. ISBN 0-7100-7831-5
  • Haller, R., editor (1972). Jenseits von Sein und Nichtsein. Akademische Druck- und Verlagsanstalt, Graz.
  • Lindenfeld, D. F. (1980). The Transformation of Positivism: Alexius Meinong and European Thought, 1880-1920. University of California Press, Berkeley/Los Angeles/London. ISBN 0-520-03994-7
  • Rollinger, R. D. (1993). Meinong and Husserl on Abstraction and Universals. Number XX in Studien zur Österreichischen Philosophie. Rodopi, Amsterdam – Atlanta. ISBN 90-5183-573-6


  • Chrudzimski, A. (2005). "Abstraktion und Relationen beim jungen Meinong". In [Schramm, 2005], pages 7–62.
  • Dölling, E. (2005). "Eine semiotische Sicht auf Meinongs Annahmenlehre". In [Schramm, 2005], pages 129–158.
  • Kenneth, B. (1970). "Meinong’s Hume Studies. Part I: Meinong’s Nominalism". in Philosophy and Phenomenological Research, 30:550–567.
  • Kenneth, B. (1971). "Meinong’s Hume Studies. Part II: Meinong’s Analysis of Relations". in PPR, 31:564–584.
  • Rollinger, R. D. (2005). "Meinong and Brentano". In [Schramm, 2005], pages 159–197.
  • Schermann, H. (1972). "Husserls II. Logische Untersuchung und Meinongs Hume-Studien I. In [Haller, 1972], pages 103–116.


  • Schramm, A., editor (2005). Meinong Studies - Meinong Studien, Vol. I, Ontos Verlag. (yearly periodical)

See also

External links

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