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What do we define as 'existence' and what kind of existence can we recognize?

  1. Apr 12, 2003 #1
    In several threads the subject of existence arises.

    What do we define as 'existence' and what kind of existence can we recognize?

    First and foremost we should recognize that existence in the real sense (something that exists outside of our mind, has existence on it's own) is material existence. It has the basic properties of movement/change (all existence requires it to change/move in time), and it is therefore existence in a spatiotemporal way.

    On the other hand we can recognize another category of existence, which is ultimately dependend on the mind itself. The set of numbers or geometrical shapes, etc., belong to this category.
    Last edited by a moderator: Feb 4, 2013
  2. jcsd
  3. Apr 12, 2003 #2
    Re: Existence

    As I see it (and I've sort of mentioned this, in another thread), everything exists. There is nothing (E.i.N.S. --> "There isn't anything) that doesn't exist.
  4. Apr 12, 2003 #3
    I go with the dictionary definition and just add that existence is demonstrably paradoxical, that is, it does not make rational sense. It is this irrational character or paradox that we can recognize.

    Thoughts are real in some sense as well. Whether we merely perceive existence or also create existence is debatable. As for existence having the basic properties of movement/change, Zeno successfully debated this issue.

    Logic is based on reductio ad absurdum, faith that some things are absurd. If existence really is irrational, then everything is absurd. Therefore logic may simply be a way of catagorizing absurdities with existence being the most absurd thing or process yet discovered.
  5. Apr 12, 2003 #4
    Re: Re: Existence

    I would not say that. There are a lot of "things" that don't exist, but which can be thought of.

    Look at some examples:

    There isn't an atomic element above a mass of X
    ( I believe X to be about 250 units of mass if I'm right)

    There isn't a building on earth with a height of 1 km or longer

    There isn't a rocket/spaceship that can travel faster then 1/2 c.


    So, in fact there are a lot of things, that can be thought of, but which don't exist. Some of them in theory could exist, and others are impossible to exist.

    Some other issue, worth mentioning. For instance a poem. Does it exist and if so, what kinf of existence is it. We might be intrigued in calling it "real existence", cause a poem can be written down on paper, or be spoken out (sound waves), or taped on cassette.
    But if all that would be destroyed, would that also destroy the poem?
    Probably not, as long as there would be a mind, who could remember and reproduce the poem. But when all such minds would be extinct, the poem could said to have died as well. But it could "revive" again, when someone would reinvent or reproduce the poem, without having had any information regarding the previously existing poem.
    Can a poem, or any other "existing" thing which belongs to the category of existence dependend on the mind, exist without the mind?

    Take for example artihmetic. What kind of existence is that of the rules or logic of arithmetic? It isn't material, so one ought to say, it depends on the mind. But suppose the totality of civilization would be destroyed. Not a single living mind alive. Millions of years pass by, and evolution comes up with a new kind of mankind. Civilization starts again, and they happen to reinvent arithmetics.
    Now, if we can call arithmetic and other such thing universal, the question is, do they depend on the mind? Or do they belong to a different kind of existence, which ain't material, but is not dependend on the mind neither, but belong to the domain of "eternal truths", just lying there for all eternity to be picked up by any mind?

    Just some question on this issue of existence.
    Last edited: Apr 12, 2003
  6. Apr 13, 2003 #5
    Re: Existence: What exists, if anything exists?

    In this post it was already assumed, there is an existing world.
    But of that, there hasn't been given any proof.

    The most fundamental issue here is wether or not the world exists, if anything at all exists. And this is more as just arguing that we might have an perception of the world, but nothing real is causing that perception, at least not outside the perception itself.
    Even if only perceptions exist, still 'something' exists (the perception itself).

    This is a rudimentary conclusion. Existence contains at least the process of perceiving, which just proofs 'something' must be there.
    We can the go on and ask: what is perceiving (what is doing the perception) and what is it that is perceived (the object or source of the perception), if anything at all can be assumed.

    One of the question which can be adressed, if at least we call the 'thing' that is perceving a real thing (our mind), if the source or origin of that what we perceive comes from outside the 'thing' that perceives (our mind) or not.

    At least in considering in how my mind is perceiving things, I get the impression that there is a clear and distinct line between 'inner perceptions' (thoughts, and dreams) and 'real perceptions' (looking at the sky, experiencing gravity of lack thereof, feeling cold/warm).

    It is not a proof, but an indicition, something might be 'outside' my mind, that caused the perceptions.

    We leave the issue at this, and turn maybe back to this later.

    Let us concentrate once more on the 'fundamental question' and try to reason from there.
    What does it mean for the world to be exist, or what would it mean for the world to not-exist.

    Is it possible for the world to be in a form or state-of-affairs in which nothing whatsoever is existing? And if so, what is the reason that there IS an existing world (if there is one) instead of not an existing world.
    On the other hand, if we can find a reason that entitles us to say or to proof that the inexistence of the world is impossible, then we can argue that there is not a reason for the world to exist, rather then not exist, since the latter possibility is excluded.

    There is a rather shorthanded argument available that simple says for langue-logical reasons that, because of the way we define existence, that non-existence simply cannot be. Existence is a possibility, non-existence is not.

    Which simply means, whatever can be the case in the world, there is always an existing world, rather then not a world. And from that it can be argued that there can be no reason for the world to exist.

    The argument used is of course rather tautological. But according to some (many) this tautology does not address well enough the issue of why there would be something, rather then nothing.

    There is also a remarkable philosophy that puts the issue in a different perspective, and that argues that, seen from a determined point of view, there is no conflict between an existing world and an non-existing world, they in fact are one and the same, and so it can be stated that in fact, the world does not realy exist.

    This philosophy is called http://www.hedweb.com/witherall/zero.htm" [Broken].

    The position of this philosophy is summarized in the next quote.

    What the validity is of such an approach, is up to the reader.

    [to be continued]
    Last edited by a moderator: May 1, 2017
  7. Apr 13, 2003 #6

    More to the point, its validity depends upon the standards the individual chooses to apply. The webpage you posted states first and foremost:

    This assertion is utter bunk in my opinion. His metaphysics merely attempt to replace the paradox of existence with zero or the concept of nothingness. In this respect it resembles countless religions I can think of that also claim to explain existence better than others. What all of them fail to address other than through denial is the central issue of the paradox of existence.

    The idea that somehow nothing equals something is just one of countless paradoxical ways to express the paradox of existence. Even if you are attempting to merely assert it is the simplest paradoxical explanation of existence, it has plenty of competition. That the author quotes Buddhist and Taoist ideas without acknowledging this issue demonstrates that he may have no real clue what the idea of the "ineffable" Tao really means.
  8. Apr 13, 2003 #7
    The ratio of the volume of any finite element compared to infinity is Zero.

    Using any given point in space as an X,Y,Z axis, one may theoretically extend equidistant lines to infinity through the limitless spectrum of polar coordinates. The procedure inscribes a sphere which theoretically encompasses the Universe. By definition, the selected point is the center of that sphere - and the center of the Universe. Since the same can be done for all points, it means every position in the cosmos is its center. There is Zer differential.

    If, for every quality there exists a reciprocal opposite, then the logical equivalent of 'nothing' exists.

    It is the balance of nature - not a process of cause and effect - which reconciles the phenomenon of existence with the principles of logic.
  9. Apr 13, 2003 #8
    So....nothing is a quality and a quality is nothing. Nice paradox.
  10. Apr 13, 2003 #9
    No. Nothing is a balance of qualities and anti-qualities the sum of which is Zero. Matter and anti-matter seem to satisfy this idea, but I think that is much too simplistic -

    http://www.theory-of-reciprocity.com/entity.htm [Broken]
    Last edited by a moderator: May 1, 2017
  11. Apr 13, 2003 #10
    OK, nothing is a balance and a balance is nothing. Another nice paradox.

    I'm sure you must appreciate the paradox of anything you can say about nothing other than what to say what it is not..... something.
  12. Apr 13, 2003 #11
    Re: Re: Re: Existence

    Remember, I refer to conceptual existence as part of the whole set of things that exist. IOW, everything that you can possibly imagine exists, even if only "in your head", so to speak.
  13. Apr 13, 2003 #12
    the reality of life

    to me, what i see is a dream and so that's my view.
  14. Apr 14, 2003 #13
    Re: Re: Re: Re: Existence

    The topic of this thread is "existence" and is a discussion to explore existence, and categories of existence.

    You claim that everything exists. I claim it is not the case, since I can think of certain objects with certain properties, that do not realy exist.

    You merely say, that even if such objects are missing from the real world, we can still 'think' about them. I agree. But this 'thought' of a real object (for instance my mental picture of an apple) is not the same as the apple itself.

    Even when the 'thought' is real, it does no belong to something in the real world, it is merely an abstraction from it, by manipulating the properties of real objects (using extrapolation, combination, etc).
  15. Apr 14, 2003 #14
    I agreed with you, up to here. Even you saw the need to put quotation marks around "nothing". In doing so, however, you have invited a semantic argument. I will not pursue an argument about the word, "nothing", out of respect for the member who started the thread, and out of an interest in the actual theme of the thread.
  16. Apr 14, 2003 #15
    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Existence

    So you disagree that concepts/thoughts are something?
  17. Apr 14, 2003 #16
    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Existence

    There is of course real activity in the brain involved in that, so that is 'something'.

    However the issue we were discussing weather anything exists. I presented some examples of things, we can think of (as concepts), but which do not realy exist.

    We can think of a spacecraft that can reach speeds up to 1/2 c, but such a (human made) spacecraft is not existing.
    Last edited: Apr 14, 2003
  18. Apr 14, 2003 #17
    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Existence

    No, I mean the thought itself. I'm pretty much asking if you are a nihilist.
  19. Apr 14, 2003 #18
    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Existence

    Yes, I was referring to 'the thought itself' which can for sure be states as being 'something'. It involves measurable entities (electric currents, etc).

    But the 'thing' the thought (which is an entity itself) refers to in the real world, is not necessarliy existent.

    For instance airplanes were present as 'thoughts' in our minds, before an actual functional airplane was ever built.

    I do not know wy I seem to be a nihilist, but I prefer not to be seen as a nihilist.
  20. Apr 14, 2003 #19
    For the sake of clarity, please consider nothing=Ø

    For every value (quantitative, qualitative, positional) in the Universe there exists an equal and opposite value.
    up vs down
    -1 vs +1
    *quality vs anti-quality
    (*this is somewhat more complicated than just positive/negative or matter/antimatter)

    Newton had it right. His 3rd law was a reflection of a deeper principle of nature - he just didn't take it far enough.

    http://www.theory-of-reciprocity.com/evurev.gif [Broken]

    Theory of Reciprocity
    Last edited by a moderator: May 1, 2017
  21. Apr 14, 2003 #20


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    We still haven't discovered negative mass yet, haven't we?
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