Now, Imagine an Actually Existing Unicorn: On Russellian Worries for Modal Meinongianism

Andreas De Jong

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Modal Meinongianism provides the semantics of sentences involving intentional verbs Priest (Towards Nonbeing, Oxford University Press, Oxford, 2016). To that end, Modal Meinongianism employs a pointed non-normal quantified modal logic model. Like earlier Meinongian views Modal Meinongianism has a characterisation principle (QCP), that claims that any condition whatsoever is satisfied by some object in some world. Recently, Everett (The nonexistent, Oxford University Press, Oxford, 2013, 169, p. 36) has proposed an argument against QCP that, if successful, gives rise to problems identical to those Russell (Mind 14:530–538, 1905, p. 533) raised for Naïve Meinongianism, namely that it allows for true contradictions, and allows us to define anything into existence. Everett claims that the ordinary meanings of “actual” license an inference pattern, such that if an object satisfies Actual A at some world, then that object satisfies A in the actual world. Given that actual world is the designated point of evaluation for truth simpliciter, QCP would fall prey to Russell’s criticisms. As opposed to Everett, I argue that, even if we grant Everett the assumption that “actual” is a modal indexical that rigidly refers to the actual world, it does not conform to the inference pattern above. This is because when an object satisfies Actual A at some world, this alters the assertoric force of “actual”, because “actual” is interpreted in the scope of some modal or intentional operator. I also explain that Everett’s proposed example carries existential commitment because the problematic noun-phrase occurs outside the scope of a modal or intentional operator.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 23 Apr 2020


Dive into the research topics of 'Now, Imagine an Actually Existing Unicorn: On Russellian Worries for Modal Meinongianism'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this