Saturday, March 7, 2009

Existence!

Existence! What does it mean to you?

I always supposed that this was an easy one that we could all agree on. Turns out that there is a crucial difference between what we imagine is plainly obvious when we're talking about things such as tables and chairs, plants and animals, rocks and air and other 'stuff' that can be said to exist..

How about space though? And time?

Most folk will agree that existence is a state, as in the sixth definition of the word here:-

6. form: any form or quantifiable condition in which a physical substance can be, depending on its temperature and other circumstances.

Trust me the other definitions have to do with land boundaries and mental and physical messes.

But of course we'd be comparing things in a state of existence with things that used to exist which would make the existence of particular things a process, a process that ends.

And there's the other option of comparing things that exist to things that don't exist at all. Non-existent things still kind of exist as ideas, characters and objects in books and such.

That's where things take a sharp left into the Twilight Zone. That's where, if you are a Christian, you can go to a church meeting and swear that you saw Jesus, four hundred feet tall, standing in a field telling you that you must succeed in your effort to collect money for some project and the people listening to you HAVE TO believe you!(at least in their capacity as Christians they do.)

Common sense can fly right out the window at the drop of the proverbial hat. Their God exists through all time yet outside of all time, which is a special meaning of the word existence reserved for non-existent things.

Now, if you are a religious philosopher at heart you will no doubt have your special meaning of the word which CAN include the gods or the avatars ot 'the God' that you believe in. No doubt you'll be screaming 'red flag' and 'epistemological nightmare' and drivel like this even though you'd laugh with me at the idea of a four hundred foot Jesus!

Can we really know things? Can we be certain that we can't be certain of anything?

I think that we can be certain of quite a lot of things. Just right off the top of my head, I am certain that I am going to die, I will one day, in fact, cease to exist.

When I started following the arguments set out by Dinesh D'Souza's allies and other Christians using his blog for their own agenda I was sure that there were two words with two meanings. Existence, what we all know about things inside our Universe, and existance, everything including imaginary realms that we can never 'get to' at least while we're alive.

But no, it was just a misspelling, an alternate spelling.

13 comments:

oneblood said...

I was just talking last night with another atheist I like about "what religion does for people."

He thinks all religion (including alien seeking) is nutty except for what people get out of it.

A 400 ft. Jesus is just fine by me if that will help you through the mire, and help you not to be judgmental. In a way it almost doesn't matter if he exists.

Why?

Because our hold on what makes a life purposeful or useful, is tenuous at best and mostly subjective.

pboyfloyd said...

Any thoughts on my question, "Existence! What does it mean to you?

Brad said...

The Higgs Boson isn't physical, it just interacts with other physical particles!

Prove me wrong...

pboyfloyd said...

As I understand it, the Higgs boson hasn't been discovered.

You could say anything about Higgs bosons at this time, right?

Meanwhile I'm saving my pennies. One day I'll build the largest particle accelerator to discover the properties of the mysterious Higgs boson.

Prove me wrong yerself!

Any thoughts on my original question?

Not only that but space certainly exists everywhere, is that physical or non-physical existence?

oneblood said...

Since that's ambiguous at face value, I will answer it this way.

To me existence means my brain gaining and using information. Once that's gone my existence won't mean squat, to me at least.

And as far as this...

"Their God exists through all time yet outside of all time, which is a special meaning of the word existence reserved for non-existent things."

I hope that if the human race survives for another couple thousand years, they will look back at statements like that and laugh.

They will see that everybody lives in some sort of paradigm and every paradigm has presuppositions attached. Especially when associated with words like 'time' and 'space' and 'god.'

No offense to you or me pboy, and as much as part of me doesn't want this to be the case, there probably won't be any atheism or theism in a couple thousand years.

But then again humanity loves to live out paradoxes, and to factionalize all while consuming things. Like it said in Fight Club, "Planet Starbucks."

Harvey said...

To me existence means that which I can perceive with my senses and/or that which I can conceive of with my mind. I know that this comes down to the philosophical question "If a tree falls in the forest.....", but it seems to me that existance (or reality, if you prefer) is, of necessity, personal. If I can conceive of an idea, it "exists" for me. Is it real? Even though I may not be able ever to "prove" its reality, it still exists. Once I can no longer perceive or conceive of something, it ceases to exist (at least for me).

Harvey said...

To me existence means that which I can perceive with my senses and/or that which I can conceive of with my mind. I know that this comes down to the philosophical question "If a tree falls in the forest.....", but it seems to me that existance (or reality, if you prefer) is, of necessity, personal. If I can conceive of an idea, it "exists" for me. Is it real? Even though I may not be able ever to "prove" its reality, it still exists. Once I can no longer perceive or conceive of something, it ceases to exist (at least for me).

pboyfloyd said...

Well, we seem to be clear about one thing.

"Existence" is about as clear as mud when it comes to things like gods and Higgs bosons, space and 'trees falling in the forest'.

oneblood said...

""Existence" is about as clear as mud when it comes to things like gods and Higgs bosons, space and 'trees falling in the forest'."

-----------------------------------

I think Harvey and I were relatively materialistic about existence.

Even though ambiguous it's a good question. So I'll ponder it.

If it makes you feel any better pboy we're all pretty clear on what a porcupine is.

mac said...

I think if something exists it should be able to be quantified.

But, hey, I'm somewhat of a dumbass when it comes to these sort of things.

pboyfloyd said...

Well, I'm 100% with you here mac.

If it exists as a thing it should have size, height, width, length, mass, stuff like that. It ought to have temperature, something above absolute zero! It should have some kind of body, detectable by some kind of waves bouncing off it. That kind of thing.

mac said...

I found this one. Well, my son sent it to me ;-)

Existence

The Maze Monster said...

the first question of philosophy is "why is there something... instead of nothing...?"

and the answer is simple...

because nothingness is unstable lol