History of Literature

German literature


Alexius Meinong

Austrian philosopher and psychologist

born July 17, 1853, Lemberg, Galicia, Austrian Empire [now Lviv, Ukraine]
died Nov. 27, 1920, Graz, Austria

Austrian philosopher and psychologist remembered for his contributions to axiology, or theory of values, and for his Gegenstandstheorie, or theory of objects.

After studying under the philosophical psychologist Franz Brentano from 1875 to 1878 in Vienna, he joined the faculty of philosophy at the University of Graz, where he remained as a professor from 1889 until his death. With Brentano he helped promote the Austrian school of values but eventually dissented from Brentano’s views on epistemology.

In his major work, Über Annahmen (1902; “On Assumptions”), Meinong discussed the assumptions men make in believing they know or do not know a particular truth. Like Brentano, Meinong considered intentionality, or the direction of attention to objects, to be the basic feature of mental states. Yet he drew his own distinction between two elements in every experience of the objective world: “content,” which differentiates one object from another, and “act,” by which the experience approaches its object.

Anticipating the work of the Phenomenologists, Meinong maintained that objects remain objects and have a definite character and definite properties (Sosein) even if they have no being (Sein). Thus, “golden mountain” is an object existing as a concept, even though no golden mountains exist in the world of sense experience. Bertrand Russell was among those influenced by this aspect of Meinong’s thought. Like every other type of object knowable by different mental states, values could also be classified as objects existing independently of the experience of values and of the world of sense experience. Two examples of value feeling are Seinsfreude, the experience of joy in the existence of a particular object, and Seinsleid, the experience of sadness at the object’s existence.

Meinong’s Gegenstandstheorie is discussed in his Gesammelte Abhandlungen, 2 vol. (1913–14; “Collected Treatises”), and in John N. Findlay, Meinong’s Theory of Objects (1933). His other important writings include Über Möglichkeit und Wahrscheinlichkeit (1915; “On Possibility and Probability”) and Über emotionale Präsentation (1917).




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