Existence as a verb

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  • #1
Eh
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It seems that in philosophy existence has 2 meanings. It can be taken to be an entity itself (the universe, God, etc.) or the proper definition of "the act of existing". But looking at statements made by philosophers (asking what can exist, and what does exist) seems to indicate that existence is treated as a verb. That is, exists seems to be something an objects does, or is a property of the thing itself. Saying santa does not exist, seems to indicate santa is missing the property of existence.

But this is absurd. If we compare a santa that exists and a santa that does not, we will not be able to find a single difference between them to isolate the property of existence. So clearly, existence is not a property at all. However, saying a certain thing does not exist clearly does have meaning, as in the case of santa. I can see the need for such a term in languages to note the difference between a real entity, and one that is merely imagined. To our ancestors living in caves, there must have been a way to stress the difference between only imagining (or dreaming) that terrible monster outside waiting to eat everyone, and there bere a monster actually outside the cave.

So it would seem existence and non-existence can be defined as real vs. imaginary. But how in the world did us stupid humans come to use such a concept as a verb? English is not the only language where there is the case. What about some of the worlds older languages? Did they have existence also as the equivalent to a verb?
 

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  • #2
wuliheron
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So it would seem existence and non-existence can be defined as real vs. imaginary. But how in the world did us stupid humans come to use such a concept as a verb? English is not the only language where there is the case. What about some of the worlds older languages? Did they have existence also as the equivalent to a verb?

Existence might somehow be a verb because it may be synonymous with change alone or both change and static perfection. Einstein, for example, compared it to beautifully symmetric jewel.

Most definitely primitive people also viewed existence as synonymous with change, growth, evolution, and life itself. An evolving continuum or organic ecology of creation and destruction. Some peoples actual languages, for example, have no verb to be. They cannot say the cloud is coming. The Navaho nation I believe it was sainted Einstein for proving their worldview.
 
  • #3
Mentat
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Originally posted by Eh
It seems that in philosophy existence has 2 meanings. It can be taken to be an entity itself (the universe, God, etc.) or the proper definition of "the act of existing". But looking at statements made by philosophers (asking what can exist, and what does exist) seems to indicate that existence is treated as a verb. That is, exists seems to be something an objects does, or is a property of the thing itself. Saying santa does not exist, seems to indicate santa is missing the property of existence.

But this is absurd. If we compare a santa that exists and a santa that does not, we will not be able to find a single difference between them to isolate the property of existence. So clearly, existence is not a property at all. However, saying a certain thing does not exist clearly does have meaning, as in the case of santa. I can see the need for such a term in languages to note the difference between a real entity, and one that is merely imagined. To our ancestors living in caves, there must have been a way to stress the difference between only imagining (or dreaming) that terrible monster outside waiting to eat everyone, and there bere a monster actually outside the cave.

So it would seem existence and non-existence can be defined as real vs. imaginary. But how in the world did us stupid humans come to use such a concept as a verb? English is not the only language where there is the case. What about some of the worlds older languages? Did they have existence also as the equivalent to a verb?

Remember that verbs do not always describe action, there are also "being verbs". For example, "I think therefore I am"; this has both kinds of verb, but I'm focusing on the last one ("am"). It is a being verb, and describes the fact that Descartes existed (or that "he was").
 
  • #4
zk4586
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Isn't this just Kant all over again?
 
  • #5
Mentat
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Originally posted by zk4586
Isn't this just Kant all over again?

How do you mean?
 
  • #6
zk4586
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Saying santa does not exist, seems to indicate santa is missing the property of existence.

But this is absurd. If we compare a santa that exists and a santa that does not, we will not be able to find a single difference between them to isolate the property of existence. So clearly, existence is not a property at all.

Isn't that basically the same thing Kant said to dismantle the Ontological argument in The Critique of Pure Reason?
 
  • #7
wuliheron
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Originally posted by Mentat
Remember that verbs do not always describe action, there are also "being verbs". For example, "I think therefore I am"; this has both kinds of verb, but I'm focusing on the last one ("am"). It is a being verb, and describes the fact that Descartes existed (or that "he was").

Yes, but nouns such as "paradox" can describe actions as well as objects. Verbs axiomatically describe the relationships of objects. This is precisely the difficulty you encounter with modern physics describing everything as pure energy without any reference to any sort of classical objects. It is also the exact same difficulty I have had with describing the paradox of existence more conventionally as simply a "mystery."

On the one hand, existence is a mystery while, on the other hand, it is not a mystery. Obviously we are here and our existence tends to make a great deal of sense in many respects, but in other ways it makes no sense whatsoever. This is precisely the same situation we encounter with QM where exactly what QM describes is unknown, but it certainly describes whatever it is with incredible precision.

Thus, by the dualistic nature of logic and language there are limitations to what we can describe. More holistic languages and mathematics expand upon this capacity, but are still finite and limited. A purely infinite language to describe such things would be infinitely vague and, therefore, semantically as meaningless as describing everything as pure energy.

Because of this situation we are resigned to describing nature in definitive finite terms and existence in vague terms which might be infinite. The more definitive our descriptions of nature, the more vague our definitions of existence and vice versa. Each approach has its own unique advantages and disadvantages, and a final definitive answer as to which way of describing things is better appears to be impossible to achieve.

This situation is why it does not matter if "existence as a verb" is absurd or not. Whatever description we choose either leads to absurdities or is so vague as to be useless.
 
  • #8
Eh
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Originally posted by Mentat
Remember that verbs do not always describe action, there are also "being verbs". For example, "I think therefore I am"; this has both kinds of verb, but I'm focusing on the last one ("am"). It is a being verb, and describes the fact that Descartes existed (or that "he was").

That's the whole point. To be is really not a meaningful verb on it's own. It doesn't actually say anything about a thing, nor does it add any properties. To be - stupid, young, afraid, blue, rich, poor etc. has meaning. But "to be" on it's own means nothing. In other words, when you say something is (or exists), you are really saying something is what, exactly? This is what makes being and existence as a verb silly.
 
  • #9
Eh
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Originally posted by zk4586
Isn't that basically the same thing Kant said to dismantle the Ontological argument in The Critique of Pure Reason?

Yes, it is. What I'm wondering about is how the distinction between real and imaginary things ever came to be a verb in our languages.
 
  • #10
wuliheron
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Originally posted by Eh
Yes, it is. What I'm wondering about is how the distinction between real and imaginary things ever came to be a verb in our languages.

It came to be because grammer demands a metaphysics. English is interesting in this respect, because it can accomodate so many inconsistencies and exceptions, yet, still possess a meaningfully finite grammer based on a metaphysics.
 
  • #11
Eh
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But the "verb" does not help metaphysics. We can call santa imaginary without creating a verb to describe his lack of realness, so to speak. We also have other ways of saying something does not exist: There is no santa, santa is absent from the universe, etc.

It just seems like a very odd thing one would want to make into a verb, when there are already more meaningful words. But obviously there is some tradition behind it.
 
  • #12
wuliheron
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Originally posted by Eh
But the "verb" does not help metaphysics. We can call santa imaginary without creating a verb to describe his lack of realness, so to speak. We also have other ways of saying something does not exist: There is no santa, santa is absent from the universe, etc.

It just seems like a very odd thing one would want to make into a verb, when there are already more meaningful words. But obviously there is some tradition behind it.

It is odd only from certain metaphysical points of view. Metaphysics are fundamental, and each type by definition contradicts the others. All of them, however, are pretty much equally absurd as well as reasonable in the final analysis.

As thespians like to point out, there are only seven to at most eleven basic stories to be told. Each in turn can be told in nested serial fashion so that the next story has room to include the last. The final story is, of course, the most enigmatic within which all of the others can be found.

This basic idea also apparently applies to metaphysics as well. There are just a few rudamentary kinds of metaphysics, with possibly around ten to the twenty-sixth power permutations between them. A remarkably large, but finite number capable of statistical analysis. Thus, a profound understanding of the language underlying metaphysics, logic, and mathematics is required to place such an analysis in any of several meaningful contexts.
 
  • #13
Dissident Dan
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Existence is a noun. Exist is a verb.
 
  • #14
wuliheron
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Originally posted by Dissident Dan
Existence is a noun. Exist is a verb.

The issue is not how we ordinarilly use the word, but the reality behind the word which different philosophies question. Note that what we observe is a universe of constant change, and the definition of nouns must accomodate this reality. Because the noun "existence" is so vague, it is often simply described as a verb which saves the added step of defining it as a verb.
 
  • #15
Eh
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Originally posted by Dissident Dan
Existence is a noun. Exist is a verb.

Yes, and what does existence mean? The act or condition of existing. Very circular.
 
  • #16
Dissident Dan
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or "the state, condition, or act of being". That seems to fit very well to me. I've noticed that a lot of dictionaries give those circular definitions, and it really annoys me.

Although, really, "to exist" is a synonym of "to be".
 
  • #17
Eh
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Yes, and being suffers from the same problems. To be? To be what, exactly?
 
  • #18
Mentat
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Originally posted by Eh
That's the whole point. To be is really not a meaningful verb on it's own. It doesn't actually say anything about a thing, nor does it add any properties. To be - stupid, young, afraid, blue, rich, poor etc. has meaning. But "to be" on it's own means nothing. In other words, when you say something is (or exists), you are really saying something is what, exactly? This is what makes being and existence as a verb silly.

What you have really discovered is the flaw of Aristotelian Logic. You see, Aristotelian Logic doesn't allow for one to postulate something circular (such as "the being that exists"). However, whenever one refers to an object, they take for granted it's existence (at least at a conceptual level), and thus the postulation that something does exist, is circular.
 
  • #19
Eh
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No, the problem is defining what it means to exist in the first place.
 
  • #20
Mentat
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Originally posted by Eh
No, the problem is defining what it means to exist in the first place.

What it means to exist, is to be existent. Anything that can be referred to is existent. Anything that can't be referred to, is also existent. The truth is: Everything exists.
 
  • #21
Dissident Dan
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I don't see the point of defining "to exist" or "to be". We all know what these mean. "exist" and "be" are symbols, and they can only be defined through other symbols. What you end up with is circular reasoning, eventually, with any words. Language is circular. The best you can do to get away from the symbolism of language is being able to point to something and say what it is. For example, point at a tree and say "tree".

Of course, existence isn't something that we can point at. So you're left with the circularity. Of course, through one way or another, we all eventually learn what it means to be.
 
  • #22
Mentat
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Originally posted by Dissident Dan
I don't see the point of defining "to exist" or "to be". We all know what these mean. "exist" and "be" are symbols, and they can only be defined through other symbols. What you end up with is circular reasoning, eventually, with any words. Language is circular. The best you can do to get away from the symbolism of language is being able to point to something and say what it is. For example, point at a tree and say "tree".

Of course, existence isn't something that we can point at. So you're left with the circularity. Of course, through one way or another, we all eventually learn what it means to be.

Very good point, Dissident Dan. It is one of the marvels of the human mind - that we can concieve of abstracts, and relate them to each other through the use of language, even though the linguistic definition is really circular (and thus logically nonsensical) at it's heart.
 
  • #23
wuliheron
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Originally posted by Mentat
Very good point, Dissident Dan. It is one of the marvels of the human mind - that we can concieve of abstracts, and relate them to each other through the use of language, even though the linguistic definition is really circular (and thus logically nonsensical) at it's heart.

LOL, or that the reality is circular and our linear logical definitions are false. Logic itself is based on our "linguistic definitions" whether they be circular, linear, or lateral.
 
  • #24
Mentat
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Originally posted by wuliheron
LOL, or that the reality is circular and our linear logical definitions are false. Logic itself is based on our "linguistic definitions" whether they be circular, linear, or lateral.

Actually, reality cannot be definably (or demonstrably) circular, as the only reasoning that can rationally determine whether something is circular, is non-circular reasoning.
 
  • #25
wuliheron
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Originally posted by Mentat
Actually, reality cannot be definably (or demonstrably) circular, as the only reasoning that can rationally determine whether something is circular, is non-circular reasoning.

Oh well, I guess you know how to demonstrate that for me!
 
  • #26
Eh
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Originally posted by Mentat
What it means to exist, is to be existent. Anything that can be referred to is existent. Anything that can't be referred to, is also existent. The truth is: Everything exists.

To be existent is to exist, so that is also circular. Even so, if everything exists, then the verb exists becomes completely redundant. If the indentity of all objects includes existence, then saying object a exists, is really saying A is A. Existence really seems to be a concept used to tell the difference between something that is real or not. But the verb is the only problem.
 
  • #27
Eh
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Originally posted by Dissident Dan
I don't see the point of defining "to exist" or "to be". We all know what these mean. "exist" and "be" are symbols, and they can only be defined through other symbols.

Based on common use in our language, it clearly seems to mean "real" as opposed to imaginary. But when we use it as a verb, it appears to be a property like color or size. That's why so many people to this day are still convinced by Anslem's ontological argumment. Maybe it's just a question of linguistics.
 
  • #28
wuliheron
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Originally posted by Eh
Based on common use in our language, it clearly seems to mean "real" as opposed to imaginary. But when we use it as a verb, it appears to be a property like color or size. That's why so many people to this day are still convinced by Anslem's ontological argumment. Maybe it's just a question of linguistics.

Existence may be beyond the concept of the real, imaginary, or linguistic because all of these things exist. The doubt around the issue seems to revolve around its vague yet immenent and obvious nature. In other words, it revolves around the paradox of existence.
 
  • #29
Iacchus32
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Originally posted by Eh
So it would seem existence and non-existence can be defined as real vs. imaginary. But how in the world did us stupid humans come to use such a concept as a verb? English is not the only language where there is the case. What about some of the worlds older languages? Did they have existence also as the equivalent to a verb?
Even the word "sitting," although passive (I think that's the key), is still a verb. It can also be construed as a noun as well I believe.
 
  • #30
Eh
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That's just it. If we use imaginary/real as a definition of existence, then we end up having to say imaginary things don't exist. But then, since exist has no other definition, it can be accepted. Otherwise, the word would have no meaning.

Sitting is ok, since it is clearly an action.
 
  • #31
wuliheron
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Originally posted by Eh
That's just it. If we use imaginary/real as a definition of existence, then we end up having to say imaginary things don't exist. But then, since exist has no other definition, it can be accepted. Otherwise, the word would have no meaning.

Sitting is ok, since it is clearly an action.

Not quite, I can easily assert that there are things beyond human imagination that cannot exist even conceptually. Thus existence covers not simply the real and imaginary, but those areas outside of human cognition, perception, and reality. Thus, existence approaches the ineffable which is also more vague than the concepts of real and imaginary, but still has a distinct meaning.
 
  • #32
Eh
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Give an example.
 
  • #33
wuliheron
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Originally posted by Eh
Give an example.

The best mathematicians in the world, for example, can only visualize the simplest four dimensional objects. Thus there are demonstrable limitations to human imagination and, by inference, things which are both beyond imagination and impossible.
 
  • #34
Eh
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Yes, but we can only imagine the equation or math aspect of the concept. That aspect we would say exists, or is not real.

Likewise, a circle square cannot exist. But it exists as a contradictory concept, even if it's only a notion of 2 words together.
 
  • #35
wuliheron
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Originally posted by Eh
Yes, but we can only imagine the equation or math aspect of the concept. That aspect we would say exists, or is not real.

Likewise, a circle square cannot exist. But it exists as a contradictory concept, even if it's only a notion of 2 words together.

Here you are touching upon epistomology and ontology and finally getting to point. We can assert that ontology is merely an epistomological idea or, conversely, that epistomology is merely a denial of ontology. This forum, however, is dedicated to or biased towards epistomology rather than ontology. I sincerely hope that doesn't sound too off the wall and out of the blue in the context of this discussion.

Can we imagine a square circle? People on LSD report seeing colors that don't exist in the normal range of the humanly perceivable spectrum according to science. These are no doubt interesting avenues of exploration, but without proof of some kind science assumes by default their imagination is getting carried away. This includes not least of all the sciences of cognition and linguistics.
 

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