bertrandrussellbigI hope that you’re all having fun with some after-Christmas shopping. Alayna and I are busy celebrating Christmas with my family. That being said, I’ve taken the time to come up with a philosophical problem for you to solve and write a story about. Around the turn of the 20th century a philosopher named Alexius Meinong posited a theory of being (not dissimilar from the idea used by Anselm in his ontological argument for God’s existence) that differentiated ‘being’ from ‘existence.’ Meinong argued that we can speak meaningfully of things that don’t exist such as a golden tower, a unicorn, a dragon, aliens, or the illuminati. These are all things that have being in a common vocabulary, even if they don’t have actual existence in the physical world. That is to say that you and I can argue about the abilities, physiology, habits, intelligence, and psychology of dragons even though there are no actual dragons in the world. For Meinong, as for Anselm, existence was merely a property of being, not an essential part of the nature of being, and thus a being that had the property of existence might be better or more perfect than a being that did not have the property of existence (thus, again Richard Dawkins, the God who created the world and exists actually is significantly better than the God who created the world and does not exist), but it is no less real of a being. He further distinguishes this from impossible beings, such as a square circle, or a non-existent existence, that are self-contradictory, arguing that these things can have no being because we cannot speak meaningfully about them.

MeinongHowever, Bertrand Russell, in his essay On Denoting, later argued that Meinong’s theory was deeply flawed. He argued that it was self-contradictory in that it wound up positing such things as that the present King of France both did and did not exist, or both was and was not real. He also argued that Meinong’s theory was ontologically promiscuous in that it would lead to a multiplication of worlds–Russell accepted the world of existence, and argued that anything that did not exist could not have being. Meinong and Anselm accepted a world of existence and a world of being, in which things could have being and reality without actually existing in the physical world. However, Russell argued that this move simply begged for a further move, such as the positing of a world of things that could not exist, or even beyond to more ridiculous possible worlds.

Over the last hundred years both Russell and Meinong have had their defenders, and now I’d like you to join them. I want you to write a 1000 word story that answers the following question in light of this debate: Is Santa Claus Real?

Enjoy!

santa-claus

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