The SEP entry on Richard (Routley) Sylvan says

From 1965 on, Sylvan argued that, through the influence of Quine, contemporary philosophy is committed to a fundamental mistake. Such a mistake, labelled the “Ontological Assumption” (cf. 1980), is represented by the view that one cannot make true statements about what does not exist. In opposition to this idea, Sylvan develops a theory about (non-existent) objects or, in Sylvan’s jargon, items--noneism.

[Noneism is] a very general theory of all items whatsoever, of those that are intensional and those that are not, of those that exist and those that do not (…); it is a theory of the logic and properties and kinds of properties of all items (1980, 5–6)

Sylvan’s intuition is that, in order to be able to say something true about non-existent items, we need to allow for the possibility that non-existent items have properties. For instance, in order to be able to say that ‘Sherlock Holmes is a detective’ is true, Sherlock Holmes needs to have the property of being a detective.

This all seems very straightforward to me (with practically no understanding of ontology), but I take it this view is (was?) rather controversial. So how does Sylvan's view differ from (at the time) mainstream ontological views?

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    What Sylvan advocates is more commonly called Meinongianism. Apart from that, philosophy, including some of Quine's own students, is no longer committed to Quine's criterion of ontological commitment, see e.g. Leng, What's Wrong With Indispensability? One does not, however, need an ontology of nonexistent objects to drop it. A more common alternative is fictionalism, where "true" is replaced by "true according to a story". – Conifold Feb 1 '20 at 20:49

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