Lambert, Mally, and the Principle of Independence


Edward N. Zalta


Grazer Philosophische Studien, 25/26, 1985/1986, 447-459


In this paper, the author analyzes critically some of the ideas found in Karel Lambert's recent book, Meinong and the Principle of Independence (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1983). Lambert attempts to forge a link between the ideas of Meinong and the free logicians. The link comes in the form of a principle which, Lambert says, these philosophers adopt, namely, Mally's Principle of Independence, which Mally himself later abandoned. Instead of following Mally and attempting to formulate the principle in the material mode as the claim that an object can have properties without having any sort of being, Lambert formulates the principle in the formal mode, as (something equivalent to) the rejection of the traditional constraint on the principle of predication. The principle of predication is that a formula of the form `Fa' is true iff the general term `F' is true of the object denoted by the object term `a'. The traditional constraint on this predication principle is that for the sentence `Fa' to be true, not only must the object term have a denotation, but it must also denote an object that has being. According to Lambert, the free logicians violate this constraint by suggesting that `Fa' can be true even if the object term has no denotation, whereas Meinong violates this constraint by proposing `Fa' can be true even when the object term denotes an object that has no being. Lambert then tries to `vindicate' the Principle of Independence, thereby justifying both the work of the free logicians and Meinong.

By way of criticism, the author points out that there is an alternative framework from which one may deny most of Lambert's conclusions. The alternative is based on the work of Ernst Mally, and though it employs a second form and principle of predication, it is nevertheless traditional in the sense that the traditional constraint on predication is preserved. Moreover, the framework is Meinongian in spirit. In this framework, (1) one need not commit one to `beingless objects' to explain intentional phenomena, (2) one need not suppose that the Principle of Independence is true or that Mally was wrong to have abandoned it, (3) one may retain the traditional constraint on predication, and (4) one may retain the most important principle governing complex properties, which Lambert says should be given up.

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