SOPhiA 2022

Salzburgiense Concilium Omnibus Philosophis Analyticis

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Programme - Talk

Abstract objects and ascription
(Metaphysics and Ontology, English)

A It is claimed by several authors that fictional and/or mythical names refer to existing, abstract objects (e.g. Salmon 1998; van Inwagen 1977). A problem connected to this position is that abstract fictional or mythical objects cannot instantiate __ qua their abstract nature __ many properties we wish them to instantiate. For example, if Sherlock Holmes is considered to be an abstract object, he cannot be __ strictly speaking __ a detective. Nonetheless, it seems that Sherlock Holmes stands in a specific relation to the property of being a detective which does not hold between him and the property of being a king. The question I address in my talk is how this relation is best spelled out.

I argue that the relation in question should be conceived as an ascribing-relation or ascription-relation. The idea to use the notion of ascribing in this way originally stems from van Inwagen (1977). Van Inwagen treats ascribing as a technical notion which is restricted to the case of fiction and later uses the word __holding__ to denote the relation he has in mind (2003). In contrast to this understanding of ascribing, I argue for a notion of ascribing which is broader and remains closer to our everyday usage of the word __ascribe__. This way, also the case of mythical objects can be covered. I argue that ascription obtains iff an authoritative source regarding an object (abstract or not) predicates a property of this object (or performs a similar act). The ascription is a mere ascription iff the respective object does not instantiate the property.


Salmon, Nathan (1998): Nonexistence. In: Nous 32 (3), 277__319.

van Inwagen, Peter (1977): Creatures of Fiction. In: American Philosophical Quarterly 14 (4), 299__308.

van Inwagen, Peter (2003): Existence, ontological commitment, and fictional entities. In: Michael J. Loux: The Oxford handbook of metaphysics. 1. publ. Oxford: Oxford Univ. Press, 131__157.

Time: 14:40-15:10, 07 September 2022 (Wednesday)
Location: SR 1.006

Urban Wieser 
( University of Vienna , Austria)

Testability and Meaning deco