Rapaport. Routley Review (1984)

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  • International Phenomenological Society

    Exploring Meinong's Jungle and Beyond by Richard RoutleyReview by: William J. RapaportPhilosophy and Phenomenological Research, Vol. 44, No. 4 (Jun., 1984), pp. 539-552Published by: International Phenomenological SocietyStable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/2107619 .Accessed: 17/05/2013 16:08

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  • Critical Notices Exploring Meinong's Jungle and Beyond. RICHARD ROUTLEY. Canberra: Australian National University, Research School of Social Sciences, I979. Pp. XiX1, I03 5.

    the theory [of objects] should . . . be about every thing -

    (just as this text is intended to be, in principle at least, about everything). (348)'

    I. Exploring Routley's Jungle

    Exploring Meinong's Jungle and Beyond is a lengthy work (over iooo pages) of wide scope, its cast of characters ranging from Abelard to Zeno. The nom- inal star is Meinong, of course, yet the real hero is Reid.' Topically, Richard Routley presents us with a virtual encyclopedia of contemporary philosophy, containing original philosophical and logical analyses, as well as a valuable historical critique of Meinong's work.3 Josiah Royce once offered the image of a map that represents that which it

    maps in every detail.4 Routley's guide to Meinong's "jungle" suffers from an analogous complexity, in addition to being somewhat of a patchwork of pre- viously published material, material that has only circulated in manuscript, and much else besides - not always seamlessly stitched together. My goal in this review is to offer a map of a map - a guide to Routley's jungle. Among the pleasant surprises are the first version in print of the legendary

    proof that the existence of God is equivalent to the Axiom of Choice (I33), a demonstration of Quine's unintentional (because unintentional) theism (I34), and the geographical location of an existing Golden Mountain (I43).

    On a more serious level, there are valuable discussions of free logics and impossibilia (75 ff., I37 ff.); a nice set of counterexamples to Russellian and other standard description theories (i18 ff.); a long discussion of current theories of proper names (I45 ff.); an important discussion of language change - something all too often left out of formal accounts of language (344 ff.); chapters devoted to tense logic and the philosophy of time (36i ff.), to a rebuttal to Quine's "On What There Is" (4II ff.), and to refutations of standard objections to Meinongian theories (4z7 ff.) - the latter two being somewhat redundant in view of recent scholarship, yet useful nonetheless; a chapter on fiction (537 ff.); a lengthy attack on empiricism (740 ff.), which develops out of a rejection of abstractions (such as sets) (73z), out of which

    I Numerals in parentheses refer to page numbers of Routley's book. 2 Cf., e.g., chap. 6, "The Theory of Objects as Commonsense," especially pp. 529 ff., and chap. I 2, sec. i.

    3 See, inter alia, chap. 5, "Three Meinongs." 4 Royce i899; cited in Borges i98i: 234; cf. Rapaport I978: i63 f.


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  • also arises philosophies of mathematics and science (769 ff.); and an appendix on "ultralogic" (advertised as a universal logic). As I said, the book is encyclopedic in scope. There is also an immensely

    useful bibliography of Meinong scholarship to I978 and a reasonably ade- quate index - as well as lovely photographs of a real jungle and a scattering of Escher engravings.

    On the other hand, Routley is occasionally a bit too informal in his nonfor- mal discussions. E.g., "to have a reference is to exist" (39): But what has a reference, viz., a word, is not what exists, viz., the referent. He is also rather superficial in places. E.g., he claims that his Advanced Independence Thesis (AIT) (that nonentities have a nature) entails the falsehood of Existentialism (that existence precedes essence) since AIT entails that essence precedes exis- tence (5i): But surely this can only be taken lightly, for the Existentialist motto is to be understood as meaning that a person is only an F if he acts as an F (and even that has to be explicated), yet surely some properties of per- sons (e.g., non-"personality" properties) are determined before (or at least simultaneously with) their existence. And he can be annoyingly cavalier (albeit humorous), continually referring to Leibniz's Law as Leibniz's Lie (e.g., 96) or to NBG set theory as "No Bloody Good" (zz4). Other impedences to the exposition are a high degree of dependence upon

    earlier work (especially Goddard and Routley I973); misprints and missing symbols (perhaps unavoidable in a book this size);5 annoying shifts of nota- tion (e.g., from -f to f (9z f.)); unexplained abbreviations (e.g., 'r-opaque' (I03)); and a habit of using notation before or without explaining it (e.g., 'qu(a)' (Iz3)). One's impression is that much of the book consists of in-house memos for the cognoscenti.

    II. Routley's Project

    If Meinong and Reid are the heroes of this work, then the "Reference Theory" (RT) - the theory that "truth and meaning are functions just of ref- erence" (i) - is the villain. Routley sees his task as offering a different para- digm, noneism, which "aims at . . . a very general theory of all items what- soever" (5). Where RT and its classical logic fail to provide solutions to problems of non-existence, intensionality, deducibility, significance, and con- text (ii), the noneist Theory of Items will - it is claimed - not only solve all of these, but also enable philosophers to treat adequately for the first time problems from the history of philosophy (including Reid's philosophy, Epicu- reanism, nihilism, sophism, fatalism, the Third Man), the philosophy of reli- gion, the logic of perception, quantified tense logic, the problem of universals, and more (8-II). Noneism is Routley's patent medicine for all philosophical ills. While Routley does offer arguments against RT, his basic approach is

    Copernican in spirit: RT is all right in a narrow region, but, while it can be extended somewhat (though not without criticism), it cannot be extended without distortion to the realm of intensionalia and non-entities. Therefore Routley suggests taking the intensional (better: non-referential) view as cen- tral. He takes subjects of sentences not to occur referentially unless explicitly

    5 Routley does at least apologize in advance for such lapses (vi).


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  • stated (5 8 f.). The approach is not to replace natural language (as Reference Theorists

    want), but to use and extend it (ii). If the fabric of language can be pictured as having peaks and valleys - referential and non-referential features - then Routley's scheme may be described as a "flattening out" to the non-referen- tial (or non-existentially-loaded) level.6 Routley's insistence on the importance of natural language underlies much of what he does here (and has done elsewhere). Insofar as the history of logic can be seen as an attempt (inter alia!) to understand natural language, then what Routley is calling attention to is a certain stagnation that has set in: Logicians have made cer- tain abstractions or simplifications that they have then deified, requiring lan- guage to change, rather than changing logic to match language (cf. Rapaport i98i). Consider, as a relevant example, the material conditional - a useful, important abstraction, but a simplification of the ordinary-language use of 'if-then', which, as Routley and the Anderson-Belnap team have tried to show, does have a logic of its own (cf. I40, z89 ff.).

    III. Meinong's Theses

    This book is really about Routley's Theory of Items, and I shall turn to his basic theses presently. But since it is nominally about Meinong's Theory of Objects, I must pause to quibble with Routley's statements of some of Mein- ong's principles.

    Principle Mi - "Everything whatever - whether thinkable or not . . . is an object" (z) - is either false or misleading. For Meinong, objects (Gegenstdnde) are always objects of thought, hence thinkable at least in prin- ciple, although some objects, viz., those whose Sosein involves a large or infinite number of determinations (i.e., properties, on most interpretations), may not be thinkable in practice. Routley does not seem to be equating "object" with "object of thought," but rather with "thing" (in a non-existen- tially-loaded sense). Even more disquieting, Routley later takes 'object' in the Meinongian sense: "knowledge of nonentities [which the context clearly indi- cates to mean "object"] may be obtained by a range of cognitive procedures, e.g. perception, imagination, dreams, memory, inference" (35z) - yet he seems to think that here he's disagreeing with Meinong.