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I should now like to discuss some points in connection with unreal objects, and the theories of Meinong and Russell, indicating the realistic assumptions which underlie their solutions, and which alone create the problem. This will serve as an introduction to the larger question of denoting, meaning, and context.

There are two questions here involved: that of the existence of unreal objects, and that of the truth or falsity of statements about unreal objects. And again, in the case of unreal objects, there are objects of hallucination, objects of imagination, and objects denoted, but apparently neither believed in nor assumed (the round square). It is chiefly with the last that these two authors are engaged. With regard to all of these types of object I would recall what I have said of the relations of real and ideal, and would urge the following contention: the problem is wholly factitious, and owes its origin to the false assumption of epistemology–the assumption that there is one world of external reality which is consistent and complete: an assumption which is not only ungrounded but in some sense certainly false. Reality contains irreducible contradictions and irreconcilable points of view. How this statement is consistent with a monistic metaphysic I shall endeavour to show in another place.

I wish to touch upon the facts of visual hallucination first because, while the problem is essentially the same as that dealt with by Meinong and Russell, it appears in a more readily apprehensible form, and because it has by some been reduced to a different explanation from that of unreal objects in judgment, whereas I believe the hallucination to be in virtually the same position as the round square; both are non-existent, and both are intended objects. Both assert their reality, though perhaps in a difference of degree. Professor Holt says ( The New Realism) in stating the claim of an hypothetical opponent:

not the distorted image as such, but the distorted image which asserts itself to be, or which the realist asserts to bethe real object,– . . . this is the crux for realism. 1

This appears to involve a petitio principii: it is not admitted that there is a “distorted image as such.” In the case of the stick in water (which is quite distinct from the phenomena of hallucination), there is if you please “distorted image as such”; if, that is, you abstract the stick under normal conditions and choose to call that the stick. But here you have only a case of completion of partial aspects of the same object; you say, for example, that it is one and the same object which you intend under two aspects, and the two aspects, when added together, give an object which is essentially continuous with each aspect in its meaning. And this, I think, constitutes the difference between so-called sense illusion and hallucination: the difference of direction of self completion of the object as first presented. In this sense the assertion of Professor Holt is essentially correct; if it is interpreted as meaning that there is nothing in the immediate presentation of the object to determine its reality or unreality; it is I believe mistaken so far as it means that there is in an absolute sense a given object which is not internally related to its own completion. And the degree to which this claim (as it may be called) is realised without practical falsification of the first presentation is the degree of truth of the first presentation. The stick under water is continuous with the stick out of water, in a way in which an hallucination is not; for the latter can complete itself only backward, i.e., the experience has its relations in the direction of neural process, not in the direction which the image intends. It is by this capacity of indefinite self-completion, and not by any ear-marks, that we judge the reality of a presentation; but without this capacity, or the claim, we could not have even a presentation.


Published By:   Johns Hopkins University Press