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Thinking the Impossible: The Gestalt of a Round Square

Carlo Ierna


In this article I connect two concepts that played central roles in the School of Meinong: the notion of impossible objects and that of Gestalt. Ehrenfels claims that Widerspruch or incompatibility would be a temporal Gestalt quality, specifically the trying and failing to build an intuitive presentation. Where, when, and how does this process break down exactly? Meinong’s Graz students developed a more detailed production theory for the presentation of Gestalten (Vorstellungsproduktion) which can help to determine how the failure to produce one Gestalt can generate another, which moreover is typical of impossible objects. There are three contributions to Meinong’s 1904 volume Untersuchungen zur Gegenstandstheorie und Psychologie, the ones by Mally, Benussi, and Ameseder, that provide helpful analyses to clarify the incompatibility Gestalt. These suggest three options to refine the analysis of the Gestalt of impossible objects. The conclusion is that the failure of the Vorstellungsproduktion itself is not enough, the incompatibility relation between the foundations must also play a role.

© 2019 Walter de Gruyter GmbH, Berlin/Munich/Boston
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