Round square copula

Round square copula

The "Round square copula" is a common example of the Dual Copula Strategy used in reference to the problem of nonexistent objects as well as their relation to problems in modern Philosophy of language. The issue arose, most notably, between the theories of Alexius Meinong, Bertrand Russell - Gilbert Ryle playing a minor part as well in the eventual dismissal of Meinong's object theory (see Meinong's 1904 book, "Theory of Objects").

How it works

The example is meant to demonstrate what is at stake when debating nonexistence in the philosophy of language. It is just one of many examples of the Dual Copula Strategy, used to make a distinction between relations of properties and individuals, it entails creating a sentence that isn't supposed to make sense by forcing the term "is" into ambiguous meaning. The Dual Copula Strategy itself is just one of three strategies for avoiding the paradoxes that Meinong's theory is open to. See below, for the "other worlds strategy" and the "nuclear-extranuclear strategy".

According to the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy [sep entry|nonexistent-objects/#DuaCopStr|Dual Copula Strategy] , by borrowing Edward Zalta's notational method ("Fb" stands for "b exemplifies" the property of being "F"; "bF" stands for "b encodes" the property of being "F"), and using a revised version of Meinongian object theory which makes use of a dual copula distinction ("MOTdc"), we can say that the object called "the round square" encodes the property of being round, the property of being square, all properties implied by these, and no others. But it is true that there are also infinitely many properties being exemplified by an object called the round square (and, really, any object) - e.g. the property of not being a computer, and the property of not being a pyramid. Note that this strategy has forced "is" to abandon its predicative use, and now functions abstractly.

When one now analyzes the round square copula using the "MOTdc", one will find that it now avoids the three common paradoxes: (1) it violates the law of contradiction, (2) it claims the property of existence without actually existing, and (3) it produces counterintuitive consequences. Firstly, the "MOTdc" shows that the round square does not exemplify the property of being round, but the property of being round and square. Thus, there is no subsequent contradiction. Secondly, it avoids the conflict of existence/non-existence by claiming non-physical existence: by the "MOTdc", it can only be said that the round square simply does not exemplify the property of occupying a region in space. Finally, the "MOTdc" avoids counterintuitive consequences (like a 'thing' having the property of nonexistence) by stressing that the round square copula can be said merely to encode the property of being round and square, not actually exemplifying it. Thus, logically, it does "not" belong to any set or class.

In the end, what the "MOTdc" really does is created a kind of object: a nonexistent object that is very different from the objects we might normally think of. Occasionally, references to this notion, while obscure, may be called "Meinongian objects."

Criticism and other strategies

Making use of the notion of "non-physically existent" objects is "highly" controversial in philosophy, and created the buzz for many articles and books on the subject during the first half of the 20th century. There are other strategies for avoiding the problems of Meinong's theories, but they suffer from serious problems as well.

The "other worlds" strategy

:"For the main page on this topic, see Other worlds strategy."

First is the "Other worlds" strategy. Similar to the ideas explained with Possible worlds theory, this strategy employs considering that logical principles and the law of contradiction have limits, but without assuming that everything is true. Enumerated and championed by Graham Priest, who was heavily influenced by Richard Routley, this strategy forms the notion of "noneism." In short, assuming there exist infinite possible and impossible worlds, objects are freed from necessarily existing in all worlds, but instead may exist in impossible worlds (where the law of contradiction does not apply, for example) and not in the actual world. Unfortunately, accepting this strategy entails accepting the host of problems that come with it, such as the ontological status of impossible worlds.

The "nuclear-extranuclear" strategy

:"For the main page on this topic, see Nuclear-extranuclear strategy."

Secondly, there is the strategy of nuclear-extranuclear properties. According to Meinong, it is possible to distinguish the natural (nuclear) properties of an object, from its external (extranuclear) properties. Terence Parsons identifies four types of extranuclear properties: ontological, modal, intentional, technical - although it should be noted that philosophers dispute Parson's claims in number and kind. Additionally, Meinong states that nuclear properties are either constitutive or consecutive, meaning properties that are either explicitly contained or implied/included in a description of the object. Essentially the strategy denies the possibility for objects to have only one property, and instead they may have only one "nuclear" property. Meinong himself, however, found this solution to be inadequate in several ways and its inclusion only served to muddle the definition of an object.


ee also

*Philosophy of language
*Set theory
*Edward Zalta
*List of paradoxes
*On Denoting
*Philosophical realism

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