"Meinong's Ontology. (1)
I. We must turn, in the first place, to a philosophical discipline which is not as yet part of the tradition, which is therefore in a certain
sense new, and about which I have said some things which were intended to be of a fundamental nature. To begin with, it is impossible to give a regular
definition of entity [Gegenstand]; for genus and differentia are lacking, since everything is an entity. However, the etymology of the word '
gegenstehen' yields at least an indirect characteristic, since it points to the experiences which apprehend entities; but these experiences must not
be thought of as somehow constituting the entities. Every inner experience, at least every sufficiently elementary one, has such an entity; and insofar as the
experience finds an expression – hence first of all in the words and sentences of language – this expression has a meaning[Bedeutung], and this
meaning is always an entity. All knowledge, too, deals therefore with entities.
But large and important groups of entities have found no home in the traditional sciences; these sciences, moreover, are for the most part
exclusively concerned with a knowledge of reality [Wirklichen], while even unreal things with being, things without being, possibilities, and even
impossibilities can be objects of knowledge, namely, of a knowledge which is of interest to the as yet theoretically naive person only, as it were, when it
promises to serve as a means for knowledge of reality. In contrast to such a preference for reality, which, in fact, has been overcome so far in no science,
there exists the obvious need for a science which deals with entities without any restriction, especially without restriction to the special case of existence,
so that it can be called existence-free [daseinsfrei]. This science about entities as such, or about pure entities, I have called the theory of
Much of what belongs to this theory has already been studied under the title 'Logic' (especially: 'Pure Logic'); and that modern mathematical
logic belongs completely to the realm of the theory of entities is only concealed by its goal of being a calculus, which seems to favor an extensive
externalization [Veräusserlichung] in the sense of the logic of extensions, while it is just a complete internalization [Verinnerlichung]
which the theory of entities strives for and makes possible. People have dealt with topics from the theory of entities since antiquity under the heading of
'Metaphysics', and especially, under the heading of 'Ontology' as part of metaphysics; and they have not always failed to recognize the characteristic feature
of freedom from existence. But as a goal in itself, the concept of a theory of what is free from existence has, so far as I can see, never been espoused.
According to this concept, there belongs to the theory of entities everything that can be made out about entities irrespective of their existence (for example,
whatever it is that holds for the class of all colors which make up the 'color space,' as distinguished from the 'color body' which is restricted to the
psychologically given); hence, everything that is a matter of a priori knowledge, so that the a priori can be treated as a defining characteristic of the kind
of knowledge of which the theory of entities consists.
What belongs to the theory of entities is thus what is rational. Insofar [as it is that], it is therefore anything but a newly discovered
country, but rather, in regard to one of its most important parts, mathematics, the justly admired standard of scientific precision. What is new is, perhaps,
an insight into the peculiarity of this country and into the nature of its boundaries – unless one should rather speak of its boundlessness. In this respect,
it is a kind of companion piece to metaphysics which tries to comprehend the totality of reality, while the theory of entities, because of its freedom from
existence, tries to encompass also everything that is not real. Naturally, this freedom from existence does not mean that entities as such cannot have
existence in the true sense. The fact that the kind of consideration and knowledge peculiar to the theory of entities therefore also appears where it can be
applied to existents, constitutes one of the main values of the postulation of the new science.
Just as the concept of an entity in general is to be determined, at least cum grano salis, with an eye on apprehension, so are the
main groups of entities characterized in regard to the main groups of apprehending experiences; and apprehensions are, as mentioned, all elementary
experiences. Corresponding to the four main groups of the latter – to presentation [Vorstellen], thought [Denken], emotion [Fühlen], and desire [Begehren] – there are, therefore, four main groups of entities: objects [Objekte], objectives [Objektive],
dignitatives [Dignitative], and desideratives [Desiderative]. However, the characteristics of the latter are not derived from the
characteristics of the apprehending experiences. For this reason, nothing stands in the way of assigning to the immeasurable realm of objects, for example,
also the inner experiences, even though these inner experiences cannot be given through presentations, but can only be apprehended through self-presentation or
with the help of imagination."
(1) This is a translation of a part of Meinong's contribution to the book Die Philosophie der Gegenwart in Selbstdarstellungen
(Leipzig, 1923). The part is entitled 'Zur Gegenstandstheorie'. Meinong's contribution to the book was written at the beginning of 1920, shortly
before his death on November 27, 1920. Meinong's terminology is at times rather idiosyncratic. I have, therefore, sometimes used his own Latin terms.
From: Reinhardt Grossmann - Meinong - London, Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1974, pp. 224-229.