Quine thought that only that which exists can be referred to, or in other words 'to be is to be the value of a bound variable'.
However, what of his equally famous fictional characters Wyman and McX? If we cannot really refer to nonexistent entities, then in what way is the reader meant to understand Wyman and McX?
More generally (and more to the point beyond rhetorical speech), does Quine consider the possibility that the fictional subjects we quantify over aren't a mysterious subdivision of 'existents'?
One of his criticisms of the Meinongian account of fictional entities is that it requires talking about 'being' in a mysterious and unclear way.
But couldn't we just postulate that the mind has the ability to quantify over nonexistents?
Why should our ability to imagine something nonexistent at the present moment and quantify over it immediately qualify the Meinongian suggestion that this subject being quantified over is itself qualified as a sort of diminished existent?
In other words, why must we believe that the only two approaches to referencing a nonexistent is the Quinean minimalism which holds the whole operation to be a farce and the Meinongian postulation which paradoxically attributes existence to nonexistents?
Perhaps what is immediately referenced in our language and logic is existentially impartial, like a mental form void of existence outside of its pure dependence on mental activity. The fictional entity (the mental form) as a fictional entity does not have being whereas our concept of the fictional entity (our mental activity) as a concept does.