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Is 'existence' a concept or an actual state?

  1. Mar 10, 2009 #1
    Is 'existence' a concept or an actual state? Does it take a brain and its processing abilities in order to conceptualize an external world? It seems to be true. But, does it take a brain and its processing abilities to actualize an external world? Hmmm.......

    Any takers out there?
     
  2. jcsd
  3. Mar 10, 2009 #2
    Re: existence

    No, the universe does not exist because you are experiencing it, however to experience it takes conscientious.
     
  4. Mar 11, 2009 #3
    Re: existence

    Of course, you do not want to make definite statements. So long as we are not able to observe beyond our own conscious, we can not make definite statements.
     
  5. Mar 15, 2009 #4
    Re: existence

    This is a very good idea. In order to actualize it I don't believe that you can prove one way or the other. I am not against the idea until you go back so far in time (with the current belief of the origins of the universe being the big bang theory) to a point at which there was not "life" or "mind". Then you create the necessity of a mind that is self actualized to hold the universe in existence. Then if nothing is holding you in existence, you cease to exist. I am in a room alone, but am not being actualized by another mind (unless I say God is actualizing me). It gets to be a very involved concept.
     
  6. Mar 15, 2009 #5
    Re: existence

    Thats entirely dependent on how one defines the universe.
     
  7. Mar 15, 2009 #6

    Pythagorean

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    Re: existence

    from a materialistic point of view, you experience it because it exists.
     
  8. Mar 15, 2009 #7
    Re: existence

    Not just from a materialism point of view. Unicorns 'exist', they just don't exist 'the same way' my computer does.
     
  9. Mar 15, 2009 #8

    Pythagorean

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    Re: existence

    As a materialist, this still holds. Unicorns do exist: as a configuration of the physical components of the human brain.
     
  10. Mar 15, 2009 #9
    Re: existence

    Yes, but it also holds for idealists, phenomenologists and even solipsists.
     
  11. Mar 15, 2009 #10

    Pythagorean

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    Re: existence

    Ah, I see.

    I didn't mean to exclude them from the circle, but I can only speak for materialism (and even then only my interpretation of it.) I tend to be an idealist when the mood is right.
     
  12. May 19, 2009 #11
    Re: existence

    It tends to be forgotten, I think, that there's a clear and eminently practical difference between materialism and idealism and that it does indeed involve existence.

    I am 77 years old and hence, in a few years time, an event will occur which will involve pretty radical rearrangement of the molecules which compose my body and especially my brain.

    Immediately following this event, I will either continue to be conscious or otherwise; hence, (Descartes), I will either continue to exist or stop existing. I'd prefer the former, but my preference is of course irrelevant to the case.

    Whether materialism does or does not represent the case is, however, a matter of practical importance. What is it felt that physics may have to say in the matter?

    Actual experimentation is possible, with the (philosophically unusual) rider that reporting of the observations involved is not currently considered possible.
     
  13. May 19, 2009 #12
    Re: existence

    It seems that the notions of Bishop Berkeley (whom Dr Johnson failed to refute by kicking a stone) have surfaced again as the concept of the "participatory universe", promoted by Wheeler and Pickering among others.

    The proposal here is that the universe either does not exist, or remains in a state of "suspended existence", until observed.

    This does not seem to me as far-fetched as it may appear, since on the 'Copenhagen Interpretation' the probability waveform of any material particle does not 'collapse' into actuality unless and until observed (Schrodinger's pussy-cat and all that); and the Copenhagen Interpretation itself seems to be supported by the experiments performed w.r.t. 'action at a distance' perfomed by Alain Aspect and others.

    What, then, constitutes "observation"?

    It must, surely, imply conscious experience and, specifically, that this must be undertaken by a non-material entity, since everything material involved in experimental observation (e.g. a microscope or a particle accelerator) is itself subject to quantum uncertainty and hence to similar "non-actuality until collapse."

    Are there any known references here, and/or is this idea considered sound?
     
  14. Jun 18, 2009 #13
    Re: existence

    Existence is an operator on a propositional function that tells us whether a name is empty or not. For example, to say: 'Unicorns exist' is not to say that there is some thing...a unicorn, that has some property (mysterious no doubt) that is existence or 'Being'. It's to say that the term 'unicorn' is not empty. To deny that unicorns exist, or say 'Unicorns do not exist' is neither to apply the even stranger notion of nonexistence, or subsistence, or any other weird idea philosophers have came up with, but simply to say that the term 'unicorn', as used in a proposition, is empty. We should likewise not say things like 'Unicorns exist as ideas' but rather should say (even though this is arguable) that 'The idea of unicorn exists'...in which case (arguably) the term 'idea of unicorn' is not an empty name.
     
  15. Jun 18, 2009 #14
    Re: existence

    Hello all,

    Pythagorean, you wrote ‘from a materialistic point of view, you experience it because it exists. ‘

    Could we then say, taking our source from your writings, that something can be said to exist before any human brain can conceive of it ?

    I mean, we can surely ask, as I’m doing now, but could the assertion that something has to exist before a human brain can conceptualize of it, be ?…


    Regards,

    VE

    edit: of course the assertion can be... guess I'll stick to the first question ;

    Could we then say, taking our source from your writings, that something can be said to exist before any human brain can conceive of it ?
     
    Last edited: Jun 18, 2009
  16. Jul 2, 2009 #15

    Pythagorean

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    Re: existence

    I'm fairly sure this is the case with trees and rocks and such.
     
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