Meinong’s Multifarious Being and Russell’s Ontological Variable: Being in Two Object Theories across Traditions at the Turn of the 20th Century

Ivory Pribram-Day 1
  • 1 Université Paris 1 Panthéon-Sorbonne,, Paris, France


This paper discusses the problems of an ontological value of the variable in Russell’s philosophy. The variable is essential in Russell’s theory of denotation, which among other things, purports to prove Meinongian being outside of subsistence and existence to be logically unnecessary. I argue that neither Russell’s epistemology nor his ontology can account for the ontological value of the variable without running into qualities of Meinongian being that Russell disputed. The problem is that the variable cannot be logically grounded by Russell’s theory of denotation. As such, in so far as being is concerned, Meinong and Russell’s theories are much closer than is typically thought. The arguments are supported with concerns raised by Russell, Frege, and Moore regarding the ontological value of the variable. The problem can be summarised as follows: the variable is the fundamental denoting-position of a formal theory that is meant to explain the structure of the ontological. If such a formal theory is meant to ground the ontological, then the formal must also represent the actual structure of the ontological. Yet the variable, the fundamental symbol of denotation in a theory that defines objects, is ontologically indefinable.

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