Is Lewis a Meinongian?


Bernard Linsky and Edward N. Zalta


Australasian Journal of Philosophy, 69/4, December 1991, 438-453


The views of David Lewis and the Meinongians are both often met with an incredulous stare. This is not by accident. The stunned disbelief that usually accompanies the stare is a natural first reaction to a large ontology. Indeed, Lewis has been explicitly linked with Meinong, a charge that he has taken great pains to deny. However, the issue is not a simple one. `Meinongianism' is a complex set of distinctions and doctrines about existence and predication, in addition to the famously large ontology. While there are clearly non-Meinongian features of Lewis' views, it is our thesis that many of the characteristic elements of Meinongian metaphysics appear in Lewis' theory. Moreover, though Lewis rejects incomplete and inconsistent Meinongian objects, his ontology may exceed that of a Meinongian who doesn't accept his possibilia. Thus, Lewis explains the truth of ``there might have been talking donkeys'' by appealing to possibilia which are talking donkeys. But the Meinongian need not accept that there exist things which are talking donkeys. Indeed, we show that a Meinongian even need not accept that there are nonexistent things which are talking donkeys!

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