Thursday, September 25, 2008


What “Exists” And Has "Existence"?
Note: Do NOT Click on the Footnote Reference Numbers--They will take you away from this page. Just use them to reference the footnotes.
“Existence” is often referred to as the "Universal Truth.” Sadly, not everyone who asks questions about universal truths knows that they are asking about existence, nor are they always aware of what a “universal” is, nor what “truth” (or “fact” or “reality”) means. It is not uncommon for people to ask, “What is truth?” or “What is reality?” It is not uncommon for them to ask, "Do I exist?"

Often when asking about the “universal truth” it is with the expectation that a secret and mystic explanation will be given, and that perhaps it will be years before they can “divine” what the wise man told them is “the answer to life.”
But more than likely they harbor the wish that they, too, will comprehend this secret, divine, or mystic explanation in one single lecture, in a moment of revelation. Cartoons depict people climbing to the top of a mountain to consult a “wise man.” The comic strip B.C.1 integrated the “wise man” right into the prehistoric era of man, where the “wise men of mysticism,” Socrates and Plato, belong, for those two men are the modern stereotype of the "wise man on the mountain" in Western culture, though both were better thinkers, than to offer the silliness for which they are portrayed.

People who ask about “reality” or “facts” don't always understand that they, too, are asking about existence. Existence is the universal preoccupation of our intellectual lives, because we want to know, “Where did it come from?”

When it is not phrased as "What is reality?" or "How do I know I exist?" or "Isn't the whole world subjective?", or “What exists and what does not?”--then it is provoked of us in the angry, defiant tone of the statement "Prove that I exist!" More often than not it is stated, “Prove God does not exist.”

Knowledge of what exists and what does not has become smudged and greyed, when “existence” has come to be seen merely as the reality of one's “perceptions”; the lines have been blurred, sometimes erased altogether. A person can be convinced that the ego is necessarily egotistical; that nothing one does in life can have any meaning because “in the end we all die”; and that being “dust in the wind” is more significant to the life one leads, than is a statement such as "I rise in the morning to the work of a Man," where "Man" has greater, not less, meaning.

What is the purpose of following a principled life if in the end you just wind up dead? We will get to the answer.

II Definitions

Consciousness and “existents” (things that exist) must exist. But existence itself is not possible to perceive without consciousness. That fact implies the existence of at least one one thing within existence: consciousness. If one thing exists in existence, it becomes the proof of the existence of existence.

The "universal truth" is the following: "Existence exists." It is also equally as true that “Existents exist”, and neither statement can be true without the other also being true.

Existents (noun) are any thing and all things that exist, have existed, and can exist. From the “strings” in string theory—even if strings are someday proved not to exist, they still exist as ideas—to the spaghetti on your plate and the plate under the spaghetti, all things exist as physical reality, or as mental reality. Nothing exists that is not either material or mental. The Laws of Nature, for example, are nothing more than mental means of understanding cause-and-effect. The Physics of Gravity are not the same to day as they were when Newton devised the principle. At one time we had no concept of gravity at all, not as Newton proposed it. At one time the Earth was thought to be at the center of the universe, and thus everything fell here because we all know things cannot "fall up."
When we "measure gravity," we are not measuring a thing that exists except as it exists as an effect. We are really measuring our method of understanding gravity. But gravity as a force is an effect, and in truth does not exist except as a means of understanding that effect. Gravity only really "exists" as a method of comprehension; so it is not empirical, but rather conceptual. Someday it is possible we find a different method of understanding the effect, and abandon the idea of gravity altogether. Then wouldn't we feel silly having called it an object of material existence, rather than as the effect that material objects have on each other?
Effects are the mind's intellectual means of understanding. Effects do not exist outside the mind. Before Newton, the apple was not "pulled" to earth, it "fell" to earth. Tomorrow we may describe it differently. But an apple will always be something that can be held and dissected with a knife. Magnetism and sound waves cannot be held and dissected, except within the mind.
Ideas are existents because they have existence in the mind. Rocks and gas, and muons, and Harry Potter, trolls and fairies and elves are existents, if not in empirical, “material” reality, then at least as subjective reality, i.e., concepts, in our heads. Concepts are subjective existents. Spaghetti is an objective existent. Spaghetti as the idea of spaghetti is a subjective existent.

An “existent” is anything that exists; therefore, existents exit in existence. Proof of the correctness of this statement is as follows;

If: existence did not exist, You would not—could not—exist in any form, not as an independent objective existent in an independent, objective, empirical universe and in your own empirical body;
nor could you exists as a subjective existent in someone's mind, or in the “godhead,” or as figment within another mind of any sort;
nor could you exists as an existent in your own mind whether or not you believed your mind was the only existent in existence--as some people do believe.

(To be existent in your own mind, and to argue that all other things in existence are created by your consciousness is called “Solipsism.” This is also called the Primacy of Consciousness.2 But it is a fallacy nonetheless, having no basis in empirical reality. It still requires the acknowledgment that at least one thing, your consciousness, is an existent. Solipsism is sometimes the reason for asking “If a tree falls in a forest and no one is there to hear it, does it still make a sound?”; with the resultant answer usually being something like: “No, because a 'sound' is something heard, and if you were not there "sound" as a thing that is heard would not exist; Who would hear it if no one was there? Thus, no sound is made." 3 If A Tree Falls In the Forest--the Primacy of Existence
The correct answer, however, is that in this context, with "sound" and "noise" being the same and equal, they are the effects of the falling tree. You do not have to watch an apple tree to know that its fruit will fall to the ground. It can do that without your being there.

(I have seen the question asked—more than once—“If I die, or close my eyes, does the world cease to exist?” That is the same as, "If I'm not there to hear the sound, does the falling tree make a noise?")

If existence did not exist, You, in any form whatsoever would not exist because there would be no existents whatever. In what medium can an existent such as "consciousness" exist except in the medium of existence? Even if we discovered that the only existence is in “the godhead,” at least one thing would exist--the godhead. Certainly nothing can be an existent in the absence of existence.

The "axiomatic concept"4 that "existence exists" began at least no later than Aristotle, who used it as formulaic. The formula "A is A" means literally that a “thing” cannot be something else. To Aristotle it means first and foremost that “Existence exists.”

The Axiomatic Concept becomes “just” an Axiom. The first “A” in the formula is any “object” you want to put in the formula; the second “A” is its non-contradictory identity, called the “subject,” no matter which “identity” one chooses as the subject.

For example, Man can be identified as “an upright primate with opposable thumbs”; or as “the animal with grammatical and syntactic vocal patterns," or as “the rational animal.” Neither of the first two descriptions contradicts what we know “Man” is, but the first two descriptions are more general than the third, which is an absolute particular, i.e., it is the ultimate standard definition. Those descriptions do not contradict each other, but the identity of “rational animal” supersedes any other description because it is the most particular of all the descriptions of “Man.”

The “most particular definition” of a thing is found in the “axiom”5. And that “most particular definition” is called the “essence” of a thing. “Rational animal” is the ultimate, most particular definition of the concept “Man.” The “essence” of a thing is always contextual. The “essence” of the concept “latch” can be either a thing that keeps something else, like a door, closed; or it can mean to secure something like a door with that thing called a “latch.” One is a noun; one is a verb.
But if you are talking about “latching” on to a husband, the meaning of the verb again changes. There is no contradiction in these differences, because in each case we are not talking about the same thing.

But in the case of the question, “What is the essence of Homo sapiens?”, it can only be “the rational animal” because Bigfoot walks upright also, but we don't know if he is rational, yet we know that the only known rational animal is Man. Bigfoot might be rational, but he is not Homo sapiens; he might be called Homo sasquatch or some such thing. But we are looking for the definition, the essence, the ultimate description of Homo sapiens. At present, he is the only known rational animal, and rationality takes precedence over "opposible thumb," or any other description we can devise.

III Existence in Metaphysics6 and in Epistemology7
"Existence exists" is the epistemological axiomatic concept; "existents exist" is the metaphysical axiomatic concept.
This means it cannot be said that “existence” does not exist; and it cannot be said that existents do not exist. To say either one, is to deny that whatever means by which you comprehend such things and come to deny them also does not exist!

These axiomatic concepts have, therefore, been argued if not utilized by all philosophers, and none disagrees, at least by default, that existence exists because it would require the statement that "existents do not exist."

As axiomatic concepts, they are the given, the self-evident, and describe all things that have existed, exist now, and ever will exist. Therefore, since no philosopher can disagree that existence does not exist, even if he acknowledges it with Solipsism, all must agree that existence cannot never have existed, at the risk of contradicting that. To say that "nothingness" existed before "existence" existed is an obvious contradiction.

Creation from non-existence is, therefore, not the "default position" to argue from. Creationists make it the default position. But why should it be said that at one time God was the only existent? There is no way to jump from the world we know, to the world in which nothing we know exists, and God is something we cannot know except by what is known as "revealed revelation." But as Thomas Paine said, such a revelation is revelation only to the person who had it. It does not have to be believed by any other living person.
("Revealed naturalism" is something different, where the existence of God is taken from the belief--or the logic--that all things must have been created, that they could not have always has "Being," to make "Being" the default position of existence. A theist's "default position" is that at one time only God existed.)

To argue from the theists' default position is to contradict the axiomatic definition of the word "existence", not to mention contradicting the axiom of physics that states that matter does not cease to exist, it only changes forms. God had to make Creation out of things that already existed, because the matter he used never disappears, unless the laws of physics is wrong. If the laws of Physics is wrong, why do we go on trying to understand anything at all? (If you don't believe in God, it's OK; this idea then becomes a sidebar for later discussion.)

Since matter, according to the accepted laws of physics, does not cease to exist, it must always exist in the future and cannot have been created or it cannot have always had the nature of being existent. If we admit that God exists, we must also admit that he used material in the Creation that exhibits the physics of not ever having been non-existant.

That goes directly back to the concept that the "absence of existents" is not the default position. The "absence" of a thing is not the existence of the absence of a thing. "Absence" of existence cannot be an "existent." It is from these axiomatic concepts that all other concepts, axioms, propositions and thoughts are derived. Axiomatic concepts are the most particularized definition (denotation) of existents. The concept “existence” is derived from the perception of “existents,” the very fact of which proves that at least one this exists in existence, even if that one thing is the consciousness of a Solipsist.

1Johnny Hart;
2Ayn Rand: “Introduction to Objectivist Epistemology”
3This is not even the true meaning of the question, but for most people that meaning has been lost or never found. We will examine that Q&A in Chapter &.
4“An axiomatic concept is the identification of a primary fact of reality, which cannot be analyzed, i.e., reduced to other facts or broken into component parts....all other concepts, all axioms, propositions and thought—consists of axiomatic concepts.”
Introduction to Objectivist Epistemology; Ayn Rand;
5 “An axiom is a statement that identifies the base of knowledge and of any further statement pertaining to that knowledge, a statement necessarily contained in all others, whether any particular speaker chooses to identify it or not. An axiom is a proposition that defeats its opponents by the fact that they have to accept it and use it in the process of any attempt to deny it.” Galt's Speech; “For the New Intellectual”; Ayn Rand
6 “Metaphysics” is the identification of the “essence” of a thing, as well as all the constituent identities, and whether or not they exist in the first place. And if one is found to exist, like “Goldilocks”, only in the mind and literature, but not in empirical physics, its placement in the importance of all things metaphysical may be low. All things metaphysical have a placement in a hierarchy of values that your mind determines. Your spouse would probably come before Goldilocks, your dog before your shoes.
7 “Epistemology” is the method by which identifications are discovered, identified, and verified as true or real. It is a hard-wired faculty of the mind, ready at birth to go to work identifying the new world, just as the lungs are ready to go to work breathing. But neither faculty works until birth.