Thursday, August 7, 2008

The Big Question of Existence

What “Exists”?
“Existence” is often referred to as the "Universal Truth.” It is common for people to ask, “What is truth?” or “What is reality?” They are asking about Existence, the Big Question.
Cartoons depict people climbing to the top of a mountain to consult a “wise man,” to get the answer to a question that is burning in their minds. 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.

Often when asking about the “Big Question” 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 the universe.” (That is why the mystics belong in the pre-history of philosophy.

But more than likely they harbor the wish that they, too, will comprehend this secret and divine or mystic explanation in one single lecture, in a revelatory moment. Sometimes, as with “Yahweh,” a single word which if spoken would do something. There are those who even say that word, when spoken correctly, will destroy the world.
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 not only want to know, “Where did it come from?” but it is the cognoscenti of our intellect. It is the object for which our consciousness pines and on which it is inextricably linked—cognoscenti are objects. Our consciousness is the subject of those objects.
When the Big Question 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, the Big Question is provoked of us in the angry, defiant tone of the indignant statement "Prove that I exist!"

Yes, people actually get angry about logic, and demand that someone talke them out of their irrationally induced life of skepticism. More often than not the Big Question is yet another but equal statement, “Prove God does not exist.”

Knowledge of what exists and what does not has become smudged and greyed when “existence” comes to be seen as “perceptions”. Don't you often hear the question, “Is reality our perceptions?” [continued]
1Johnny Hart; ]

[continued] The lines of knowing what exists and what does not 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” has some significance to the life one must lead.
They can be convinced there is the possibility the sun won't rise in the morning, that the dog who got out won't get hit by a car, so they don't worry or hurry, then the dog gets hit, proving the human is flawed because he has been convinced of that (Kant) or because he wants to be convinced of that. Sketpicism has convinced him he cannot be right because there is the possiblity that he his not right.
Those two concepts of being “dust in the wind” and “in the end we all just die anyway” are the most skeptical arguments for un-reason in today's verbal arsenal on existence. Those questions have a lot of people flummoxed. What is the purpose of following a principled life if in the end you just wind up dead? We will get to the answer.

Consciousness and “Existents” Must Exist

But this concept of existence itself is not possible to comprehend without consciousness, and that very fact as a thing in itself implies the existence of at least one one thing in existence: consciousness. If one thing exists in existence, it becomes the proof of the existence of existence. That is how a tautology works, and why it must work. It cannot be defeated without at least one unworkable concept going to its grave, or another one proving to work right along it. Aristotle out; Copernicus and Galileo in.

(You can also say this is the time that traditional metaphysics went to its grave, because Aristotle out means his metaphysics. In came physics, standing alone in the mind of one man, and his metaphysics were different from Aristotle's. It was modernly cosmological, and ever since the cosmology of astro-physics has become more remote from its roots. I met a cosmologist in his office on a university campus, where he proceeded to call ideas of metaphysics other than those of physics to be “Bunk!”

“Science was born as a result and consequence of philosophy; it cannot survive without a philosophical (particularly epistemological) base. If philosophy perishes, science will be next to go,” wrote Ayn Rand, in “For the New Intellectual.”
In her “Introduction to Objectivist Epistemology,” she writes, “It is not the special sciences that teach man to think; it is philosophy that lays down the epistemological criteria of all special sciences.”

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.
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 the idea 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—could not—exist in any form, not as an independent objective existent in an independent, objective, empirical universe;
nor as a subjective existent in someone's mind or in the “godhead” or as figment within another mind;
nor as an existent in Your own mind whether or not you believed Your mind was the only existent in existence.

(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.
1 But it is a fallacy, 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, “No, because a 'sound' is something heard, and if you were not there to create the falling tree it could not fallen in the first place.2

(I have seen the question asked—more than once—“If I die, or close my eyes, does the world cease to exist?”)

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. Certainly nothing can be an existent in the absence of existence.

The "axiomatic concept"
3 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 [continued]

1Ayn Rand: “Introduction to Objectivist Epistemology”
2This 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 &.
[3“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; © The Objectivist, Inc. ]]

[continued] Existence exists.”

The Axiomatic Concept (see Note 3 above) 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.” None of these description contradicts what we know “Man” is, but the first two descriptions are more general as differentia than the second, which is more particular. (Differentia is the difference between two or more things. The cagegory the two or more things are in are called a genus.) They 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”
1. 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.
Existence in Metaphysics
2 and in Epistemology3 See Chapter $"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 [continued]

[[1An 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
2 “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.
3 “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. ]]

[continued] 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 .
The Default Position on Creation Non-existence is 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?
To argue this 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. (If you don't believe in God, it's OK; this is just a sidebar.)
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.

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