Sunday, November 05, 2006

"Pauvre Poirot"

I’m going to run through Caplan’s The End of the Picture argument in section 3.3 (p. 40-43) in point form. Then do a question and comment recap at the end.

Objects that couldn’t exist: “…refer to complex objects that have as essential constituents or members possible objects that happen to be incompossible.”

Caplan: ‘Poirot’ is not one of these, rather, it refers to objects that don’t exist.

Therefore, they must be merely possible objects.

Caplan: But, there are too many merely possible objects.

Therefore, ‘Poirot’ is not a merely possible object, perhaps ‘Poirot' is an incomplete (Meinongian) object.

Accordingly, an incomplete object: “refers to a definite object: namely, the incomplete object that has the properties of being…” so and so and / or lacks the properties so and so.

So, (A) an incomplete object “would be possible only if they could have many more properties than they actually have.”

and / or

(B) “would be possible only if they could lose some properties that they actually have.”

Caplan: ‘Poirot’ can’t be incomplete because:

(1) “incomplete objects aren’t complex objects that have as essential constituents or members possible objects that happen to be incompossible.”
(2) “…incomplete objects are incomplete; they lack most ordinary properties.”

Therefore, if ‘Poirot’ cannot refer to an incomplete object then it is implausible that ‘Poirot’ refers to an object that:
Could exist but doesn’t actually,
Couldn’t exist,
Once existed buy doesn’t anymore,
Will exist but doesn’t yet,
And could exist but doesn’t actually.

Then, ‘Poirot’ doesn’t refer to an object that doesn’t exist, and, doesn’t refer to an object that exists.

So, ‘Poirot’ is empty. ‘Poirot’ doesn’t refer to anything at all.

According to this argument there is only two options presented to us either we accept that objects like ‘Poirot’ are empty or that they do refer to incomplete objects. But, as Caplan points out in objections (1) and (2) they can’t be incomplete. So what to do? Say we don’t want to accept the ‘empty’ view (just for the sake of entertainment at this point…), then we have to deny either objection (1) or (2). I’m voting for (2). As for objection (1), I agree with Caplan that incomplete objects, at least ones like ‘Poirot’, are not complex objects that happen to be incompossible. ‘Poirot’ is just not the same kind of thing as ‘Nothan’, and should not be referred to as such. So, that leaves (2). At this point I will not argue for (2) because I’m hesitant as to what the conclusion means, is coming from, implications of and how it works.

As the story goes…

Incomplete objects are incomplete (they lack most ordinary properties), so I’m assuming this means they must gain some ordinary properties? What exactly are the ordinary properties that they require? And if they gain these properties then doesn’t that mean according to the definition, (A), of incomplete objects that by virtue of them gaining (or possibly gaining) the properties they become possible? No good. How about saying that incomplete objects have too many properties, and that they fall into the other category, (B), of incomplete objects? This option seems fine to me… for now…


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