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Existence as a verb

  1. May 30, 2003 #1

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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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  3. May 30, 2003 #2
    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.
     
  4. May 31, 2003 #3
    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").
     
  5. May 31, 2003 #4
    Isn't this just Kant all over again?
     
  6. May 31, 2003 #5
    How do you mean?
     
  7. May 31, 2003 #6
    Isn't that basically the same thing Kant said to dismantle the Ontological argument in The Critique of Pure Reason?
     
  8. May 31, 2003 #7
    Re: Re: Existence as a verb

    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.
     
  9. May 31, 2003 #8

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    Re: Re: Existence as a verb

    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.
     
  10. May 31, 2003 #9

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    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.
     
  11. May 31, 2003 #10
    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.
     
  12. May 31, 2003 #11

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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.
     
  13. May 31, 2003 #12
    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.
     
  14. May 31, 2003 #13
    Existence is a noun. Exist is a verb.
     
  15. May 31, 2003 #14
    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.
     
  16. Jun 1, 2003 #15

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    Yes, and what does existence mean? The act or condition of existing. Very circular.
     
  17. Jun 1, 2003 #16
    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".
     
  18. Jun 1, 2003 #17

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    Yes, and being suffers from the same problems. To be? To be what, exactly?
     
  19. Jun 1, 2003 #18
    Re: Re: Re: Existence as a verb

    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.
     
  20. Jun 1, 2003 #19

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    No, the problem is defining what it means to exist in the first place.
     
  21. Jun 1, 2003 #20
    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.
     
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