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Existence is the ability of an entity to interact with physical
reality Reality is the sum or aggregate of all that is real or existent within a system, as opposed to that which is only imaginary Imaginary may refer to: * Imaginary (sociology), a concept in sociology * The Imaginary (psychoanalysis), a concept by ...

reality
. In
philosophy Philosophy (from , ) is the study of general and fundamental questions, such as those about Metaphysics, existence, reason, Epistemology, knowledge, Ethics, values, Philosophy of mind, mind, and Philosophy of language, language. Such questio ...

philosophy
, it refers to the
ontological Ontology is the branch of philosophy Philosophy (from , ) is the study of general and fundamental questions, such as those about reason, Metaphysics, existence, Epistemology, knowledge, Ethics, values, Philosophy of mind, mind, and Ph ...

ontological
property Property is a system of rights that gives people legal control of valuable things, and also refers to the valuable things themselves. Depending on the nature of the property, an owner of property may have the right to consume, alter, share, r ...
of
being In philosophy Philosophy (from , ) is the study of general and fundamental questions, such as those about reason, Metaphysics, existence, Epistemology, knowledge, Ethics, values, Philosophy of mind, mind, and Philosophy of language, ...

being
.


Etymology

The term ''existence'' comes from
Old French Old French (, , ; Modern French French ( or ) is a Romance language The Romance languages, less commonly Latin or Neo-Latin languages, are the modern languages that evolved from Vulgar Latin Vulgar Latin, also known as Popular o ...
''existence'', from
Medieval Latin Medieval Latin was the form of Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language A classical language is a language A language is a structured system of communication Communication (from Latin ''communicare'', meaning "to share ...
.


Context in philosophy

Materialism Materialism is a form of philosophical monism which holds matter In classical physics and general chemistry, matter is any substance that has mass and takes up space by having volume. All everyday objects that can be touched are ultimate ...
holds that the only things that exist are
matter In classical physics and general chemistry, matter is any substance that has mass and takes up space by having volume. All everyday objects that can be touched are ultimately composed of atoms, which are made up of interacting subatomic particl ...
and
energy In physics Physics is the that studies , its , its and behavior through , and the related entities of and . "Physical science is that department of knowledge which relates to the order of nature, or, in other words, to the regula ...

energy
, that all things are composed of material, that all actions require energy, and that all
phenomena A phenomenon (; plural phenomena) is an observable fact or event. The term came into its modern philosophical Philosophy (from , ) is the study of general and fundamental questions, such as those about reason, existence, knowledge ...

phenomena
(including
consciousness Consciousness, at its simplest, is or of internal and external existence. Despite millennia of analyses, definitions, explanations and debates by philosophers and scientists, consciousness remains puzzling and controversial, being "at once t ...

consciousness
) are the result of the interaction of matter.
Dialectical materialism Dialectical materialism is a philosophy of science, philosophy of history, history, and Nature (philosophy), nature developed in Europe and based on the writings of Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels. Dialectic#Marxist dialectic, Marxist dialectics, ...
does not make a distinction between
being In philosophy Philosophy (from , ) is the study of general and fundamental questions, such as those about reason, Metaphysics, existence, Epistemology, knowledge, Ethics, values, Philosophy of mind, mind, and Philosophy of language, ...

being
and existence, and defines it as the objective reality of various forms of matter.
Idealism In philosophy Philosophy (from , ) is the study of general and fundamental questions, such as those about reason, Metaphysics, existence, Epistemology, knowledge, Ethics, values, Philosophy of mind, mind, and Philosophy of language, l ...

Idealism
holds that the only things that exist are
thoughts Thought (or thinking) encompasses an "aim-oriented flow of ideas and associations that can lead to a reality-oriented conclusion". Although thinking is an activity of an existential value for humans Humans (''Homo sapiens'') are the mo ...

thoughts
and
ideas A mental representation (or cognitive representation), in philosophy of mind Philosophy of mind is a branch of philosophy that studies the ontology and nature of the mind and its relationship with the body. The mind–body problem is a paradigm ...

ideas
, while the material world is secondary. In idealism, existence is sometimes contrasted with transcendence, the ability to go beyond the limits of existence. As a form of
epistemological idealismEpistemological idealism is a subjectivist position in epistemology Epistemology (; ) is the Outline of philosophy, branch of philosophy concerned with knowledge. Epistemologists study the nature, origin, and scope of knowledge, epistemic Just ...
,
rationalism In philosophy Philosophy (from , ) is the study of general and fundamental questions, such as those about reason, Metaphysics, existence, Epistemology, knowledge, Ethics, values, Philosophy of mind, mind, and Philosophy of language, ...
interprets existence as cognizable and rational, that all things are composed of strings of reasoning, requiring an associated idea of the thing, and all phenomena (including
consciousness Consciousness, at its simplest, is or of internal and external existence. Despite millennia of analyses, definitions, explanations and debates by philosophers and scientists, consciousness remains puzzling and controversial, being "at once t ...

consciousness
) are the result of an understanding of the imprint from the noumenal world in which lies beyond the thing-in-itself. In
scholasticism Scholasticism was a medieval In the history of Europe The history of Europe concerns itself with the discovery and collection, the study, organization and presentation and the interpretation of past events and affairs of the people ...
, existence of a thing is not derived from its
essence Essence ( la, essentia) is a polysemic Polysemy ( or ; from grc-gre, πολύ-, , "many" and , , "sign") is the capacity for a word or phrase to have multiple meanings, usually related by contiguity of meaning within a semantic field. Polysem ...
but is determined by the creative volition of God, the dichotomy of existence and essence demonstrates that the dualism of the created universe is only resolvable through God.
Empiricism In philosophy Philosophy (from , ) is the study of general and fundamental questions, such as those about existence Existence is the ability of an entity to interact with physical reality Reality is the sum or aggregate of all th ...
recognizes existence of singular facts, which are not derivable and which are observable through empirical experience. The exact definition of existence is one of the most important and fundamental topics of
ontology Ontology is the branch of philosophy Philosophy (from , ) is the study of general and fundamental questions, such as those about existence Existence is the ability of an entity to interact with physical reality Reality is the sum o ...

ontology
, the philosophical study of the nature of
being In philosophy Philosophy (from , ) is the study of general and fundamental questions, such as those about reason, Metaphysics, existence, Epistemology, knowledge, Ethics, values, Philosophy of mind, mind, and Philosophy of language, ...

being
, existence, or reality in general, as well as of the basic categories of being and their relations. Traditionally listed as a part of the major branch of philosophy known as
metaphysics Metaphysics is the branch of philosophy that studies the first principles of being, identity and change, space and time, causality, necessity and possibility. It includes questions about the nature of consciousness and the relationship between ...

metaphysics
, ontology deals with questions concerning what things or
entities Entity may refer to: Computing * Character entity reference, replacement text for a character in HTML or XML * Entity class, a thing of interest within an entity–relationship model or diagram * SGML entity, a primitive data type in Standard Gen ...
exist or can be said to exist, and how such things or entities can be grouped, related within a
hierarchy A hierarchy (from the Greek: , from , 'president of sacred rites') is an arrangement of items (objects, names, values, categories, etc.) in which the items are represented as being "above", "below", or "at the same level as" one another. Hierarch ...

hierarchy
, and subdivided according to similarities and differences.


Historical conceptions

In the
Western Western may refer to: Places *Western, Nebraska, a village in the US *Western, New York, a town in the US *Western Creek, Tasmania, a locality in Australia *Western Junction, Tasmania, a locality in Australia *Western world, countries that ide ...

Western
tradition of philosophy, the earliest known comprehensive treatments of the subject are from
Plato Plato ( ; grc-gre, wikt:Πλάτων, Πλάτων ; 428/427 or 424/423 – 348/347 BC) was an Classical Athens, Athenian philosopher during the Classical Greece, Classical period in Ancient Greece, founder of the Platonist school of thoug ...

Plato
's ''
Phaedo ''Phædo'' or ''Phaedo'' (; el, Φαίδων ''Phædo'' or ''Phaedo'' (; el, wikt:Φαίδων, Φαίδων, ''Phaidōn'' ), also known to ancient readers as ''On The Soul'', is one of the best-known dialogues of Plato's middle period, al ...

Phaedo
'', ''
Republic A republic () is a form of government A government is the system or group of people governing an organized community, generally a state State may refer to: Arts, entertainment, and media Literature * ''State Magazine'', a month ...
'', and ''
Statesman A statesman or stateswoman typically is a politician A politician is a person active in party politics A political party is an organization that coordinates candidate A candidate, or nominee, is the prospective recipient of an award or ho ...
'' and
Aristotle Aristotle (; grc-gre, Ἀριστοτέλης ''Aristotélēs'', ; 384–322 BC) was a Greek philosopher A philosopher is someone who practices philosophy Philosophy (from , ) is the study of general and fundamental quest ...

Aristotle
's ''
Metaphysics Metaphysics is the branch of philosophy that studies the first principles of being, identity and change, space and time, causality, necessity and possibility. It includes questions about the nature of consciousness and the relationship between ...
'', though earlier fragmentary writing exists. Aristotle developed a comprehensive theory of being, according to which only individual things, called substances, fully have to be, but other things such as relations, quantity, time, and place (called the
categories Category, plural categories, may refer to: Philosophy and general uses *Categorization Categorization is the human ability and activity of recognizing shared features or similarities between the elements of the experience of the world (such ...
) have a derivative kind of being, dependent on individual things. In Aristotle's ''Metaphysics'', there are
four causes The four causes or four explanations are, in Aristotelianism, Aristotelian thought, four fundamental types of answer to the question "why?", in Posterior Analytics, analysis of change or movement in nature: the Four_causes#Material, material, the ...
of existence or change in nature: the material cause, the formal cause, the efficient cause and the final cause. The
Neo-Platonist Neoplatonism is a strand of Platonic philosophy that emerged in the second century AD against the background of Hellenistic philosophy and religion Religion is a social system, social-cultural system of designated religious behaviour, b ...
s and some early
Christian Christians () are people who follow or adhere to Christianity, a monotheistic Abrahamic religion based on the life and teachings of Jesus in Christianity, Jesus Christ. The words ''Christ (title), Christ'' and ''Christian'' derive from the Koi ...

Christian
philosophers argued about whether existence had any reality except in the mind of God. Some taught that existence was a snare and a delusion, that the world, the flesh, and the devil existed only to tempt weak humankind away from God. In
Hindu philosophy Hindu philosophy encompasses the philosophies, world views and teachings of Hinduism Hinduism () is an Indian religion and ''dharma'', or way of life. It is the Major religious groups, world's third-largest religion, with over 1.2 billi ...
, the term
Advaita ''Advaita Vedānta'' (; sa, अद्वैत वेदान्त, IAST The International Alphabet of Sanskrit Transliteration (IAST) is a transliteration scheme that allows the lossless romanisation of Brahmic family, Indic scripts ...
refers to its idea that the true self, Atman, is the same as the highest metaphysical Reality (Brahman). The
Upanishads The Upanishads (; sa, उपनिषद् ) are Vedic period, late Vedic Sanskrit texts of Hindu philosophy which supplied the basis of later Hindu philosophy.Wendy Doniger (1990), ''Textual Sources for the Study of Hinduism'', 1st Edition ...
describe the universe, and the human experience, as an interplay of
Purusha ''Purusha'' (' or ) is a complex concept whose meaning evolved in Vedic FIle:Atharva-Veda samhita page 471 illustration.png, upright=1.2, The Vedas are ancient Sanskrit texts of Hinduism. Above: A page from the ''Atharvaveda''. The Vedas (, , ...
(the eternal, unchanging principles, consciousness) and
PrakṛtiPrakriti or Prakruti (from Sanskrit language Sanskrit (; attributively , ; nominally , , ) is a classical language A classical language is a language A language is a structured system of communication used by humans, including speech (sp ...
(the temporary, changing material world, nature).The former manifests itself as Ātman (Soul, Self), and the latter as Māyā. The Upanishads refer to the knowledge of Atman as "true knowledge" (''Vidya''), and the knowledge of
Maya Maya may refer to: Civilizations * Maya peoples The Maya peoples () are an ethnolinguistic group of indigenous peoples Indigenous peoples, also referred to as First people, Aboriginal people, Native people, or autochthonous people, are cu ...
as "not true knowledge" (''Avidya'', Nescience, lack of awareness, lack of true knowledge). The
medieval philosopher ; picture from the ''Hortus deliciarum Image:Hortus Deliciarum - Hell.jpg, Hell, as illustrated in ''Hortus deliciarum''. __NOTOC__ ''Hortus deliciarum'' (Latin language, Latin for ''Garden of Delights'') is a medieval manuscript compiled by Herrad ...
Thomas Aquinas Thomas Aquinas (; it, Tommaso d'Aquino, lit=Thomas of Aquino; 1225 – 7 March 1274) was an Italian Dominican Dominican may refer to: * Someone or something from or related to the Dominican Republic The Dominican Republic ( ; es, ...

Thomas Aquinas
argued that God is pure being, and that in God
essence Essence ( la, essentia) is a polysemic Polysemy ( or ; from grc-gre, πολύ-, , "many" and , , "sign") is the capacity for a word or phrase to have multiple meanings, usually related by contiguity of meaning within a semantic field. Polysem ...
and existence are the same. More specifically, what is identical in God, according to Aquinas, is God's essence and God's ''actus essendi''. At about the same time, the
nominalist In metaphysics Metaphysics is the branch of philosophy Philosophy (from , ) is the study of general and fundamental questions, such as those about reason, Metaphysics, existence, Epistemology, knowledge, Ethics, values, Philosophy of ...
philosopher
William of Ockham William of Ockham (; also Occam, from la, Gulielmus Occamus; 1287 – 1347) was an English Franciscan friar, Scholasticism, scholastic philosopher, and theologian, who is believed to have been born in Ockham, Surrey, Ockham, a small village in ...

William of Ockham
argued, in Book I of his '' Summa Totius Logicae'' (''Treatise on all Logic'', written some time before 1327), that Categories are not a form of Being in their own right, but derivative on the existence of individuals.


Dharmic "middle way" view

The Indian philosopher
Nagarjuna Nāgārjuna (c. 150 – c. 250 CE; ; ) was an Indian Mahāyāna Buddhist thinker, scholar-saint and philosopher. He is widely considered one of the most important Buddhist philosophers.Garfield, Jay L. (1995), ''The Fundamental Wisdom of the M ...

Nagarjuna
(c. 150–250 CE) largely advanced existence concepts and founded the
Madhyamaka Madhyamaka ("middle way" or "centrism"; ; Tibetic languages, Tibetan: ''dbu ma pa'') also known as ''śūnyavāda'' (the Śūnyatā, emptiness doctrine) and ''niḥsvabhāvavāda'' (the no Svabhava, ''svabhāva'' doctrine) refers to a tradition o ...
school of
Mahāyāna Mahāyāna (; "Great Vehicle") is a term for a broad group of Buddhist traditions, texts, philosophies Philosophical Philosophy (from , ) is the study of general and fundamental questions, such as those about reason, existence, ...
Buddhism. In Eastern philosophy,
Anicca Impermanence, also known as the philosophical problem This is a list of the major unsolved problems in philosophy Philosophy (from , ) is the study of general and fundamental questions, such as those about reason, Metaphysics, exis ...
(Sanskrit ''anitya'') or "
impermanence Impermanence, also known as the philosophical problem of change, is a philosophical concept addressed in a variety of religions and philosophies. In Eastern philosophy it is notable for its role in the Buddhism, Buddhist three marks of existence ...

impermanence
" describes existence. It refers to the fact that all conditioned things ( sankhara) are in a constant state of flux. In reality there is no thing that ultimately ceases to exist; only the appearance of a thing ceases as it changes from one form to another. Imagine a leaf that falls to the ground and decomposes. While the appearance and relative existence of the leaf ceases, the components that formed the leaf become particulate material that goes on to form new plants. Buddhism teaches a middle way, avoiding the extreme views of eternalism and
nihilism Nihilism (; ) is a philosophy, or family of views within philosophy, expressing some form of towards life or towards fundamental concepts such as knowledge, existence, and the meaning of life. Different nihilist positions hold variously th ...
. The middle way recognizes there are vast differences between the way things are perceived to exist and the way things really exist. The differences are reconciled in the concept of Shunyata by addressing the existing object's served purpose for the subject's identity in being. What exists is in non-existence, because the subject changes.
Trailokya''Trailokya'' ( sa, त्रैलोक्य; pi, tiloka, ; Chinese: 三界) has been translated as "three worlds,"Rhys Davids & Stede (1921-25), p. 301, entry for "Ti-" (retrieved at http://dsal.uchicago.edu/cgi-bin/philologic/getobject.pl?p.1 ...

Trailokya
elaborates on three kinds of existence, those of desire, form, and formlessness in which there are karmic rebirths. Taken further to the
Trikaya The Trikāya doctrine ( sa, त्रिकाय, lit. "three bodies"; , ) is a Mahayana Buddhist teaching on both the nature of reality and the nature of Buddhahood. The doctrine says that Buddha has three ''kāyas'' or ''bodies'', the '' Dhar ...
doctrine, it describes how the Buddha exists. In this philosophy, it is accepted that Buddha exists in more than one absolute way.


Early modern philosophy

The
early modern The early modern period of modern history Human history, or world history, is the narrative of 's past. It is understood through , , , and , and since the , from and s. Humanity's written history was preceded by its , beginning with ...
treatment of the subject derives from
Antoine Arnauld Antoine Arnauld (6 February 16128 August 1694) was a France, French Roman Catholic theology, theologian, philosopher and mathematician. He was one of the leading intellectuals of the Jansenist group of Port-Royal Abbey, Paris, Port-Royal and had ...

Antoine Arnauld
and
Pierre Nicole Pierre Nicole (19 October 1625 – 16 November 1695) was one of the most distinguished of the French Jansenists. Life Born in Chartres, he was the son of a provincial barrister, who took in charge his education. Sent to Paris in 1642 to study th ...

Pierre Nicole
's ''Logic'', or ''The Art of Thinking'', better known as the ''
Port-Royal Logic ''Port-Royal Logic'', or ''Logique de Port-Royal'', is the common name of ''La logique, ou l'art de penser'', an important textbook on logic first published anonymously in 1662 by Antoine Arnauld and Pierre Nicole, two prominent members of the Jan ...
'', first published in 1662. Arnauld thought that a
proposition In logic and linguistics, a proposition is the meaning of a declarative sentence (linguistics), sentence. In philosophy, "Meaning (philosophy), meaning" is understood to be a non-linguistic entity which is shared by all sentences with the same mea ...
or
judgment Judgement (or US spelling judgment) is also known as ''adjudication Adjudication is the legal process by which an arbitration, arbiter or judge reviews evidence (law), evidence and argumentation, including legal reasoning set forth by opposing ...

judgment
consists of taking two different ideas and either putting them together or rejecting them: The two terms are joined by the verb "is" (or "is not", if the predicate is denied of the subject). Thus every proposition has three components: the two terms, and the " copula" that connects or separates them. Even when the proposition has only two words, the three terms are still there. For example, "God loves humanity", really means "God is a lover of humanity", "God exists" means "God is a thing". This theory of judgment dominated logic for centuries, but it has some obvious difficulties: it only considers proposition of the form "All A are B.", a form logicians call
universal Universal is the adjective for universe. Universal may also refer to: Companies * NBCUniversal, a media and entertainment company ** Universal Animation Studios, an American Animation studio, and a subsidiary of NBCUniversal ** Universal TV, a te ...
. It does not allow propositions of the form "Some A are B", a form logicians call
existential Existentialism ( or ) is a form of philosophical inquiry that explores the problem of human existence and centers on the lived experience of the thinking, feeling, acting individual. In the view of the existentialist, the individual's starting ...
. If neither A nor B includes the idea of existence, then "some A are B" simply adjoins A to B. Conversely, if A or B do include the idea of existence in the way that "triangle" contains the idea "three angles equal to two right angles", then "A exists" is automatically true, and we have an
ontological proof An ontological argument is a Philosophy, philosophical argument, made from an ontology, ontological basis, that is advanced in support of the existence of God. Such arguments tend to refer to the state of being or Existence, existing. More specif ...
of A's existence. (Indeed, Arnauld's contemporary famously argued so, regarding the concept "God" (discourse 4, Meditation 5)). Arnauld's theory was current until the middle of the nineteenth century.
David Hume David Hume (; born David Home; 7 May 1711 NS (26 April 1711 OS) – 25 August 1776) Cranston, Maurice, and Thomas Edmund Jessop. 2020 999999 or triple nine most often refers to: * 999 (emergency telephone number) 250px, A sign on a beach ...

David Hume
argued that the claim that a thing exists, when added to our notion of a thing, does not add anything to the concept. For example, if we form a complete notion of Moses, and superadd to that notion the claim that Moses existed, we are not adding anything to the notion of Moses.
Kant Immanuel Kant (, , ; 22 April 1724 – 12 February 1804) was a German philosopher A philosopher is someone who practices philosophy Philosophy (from , ) is the study of general and fundamental questions, such as those about r ...

Kant
also argued that existence is not a "real" predicate, but gave no explanation of how this is possible. Indeed, his famous discussion of the subject is merely a restatement of Arnauld's doctrine that in the proposition "God is omnipotent", the verb "is" signifies the joining or separating of two concepts such as "God" and "omnipotence".
Schopenhauer Arthur Schopenhauer (; ; 22 February 1788 – 21 September 1860) was a German German(s) may refer to: Common uses * of or related to Germany * Germans, Germanic ethnic group, citizens of Germany or people of German ancestry * For citize ...
claimed that “everything that exists for knowledge, and hence the whole of this world, only object in relation to the subject, the perception of the perceiver, in a word, representation.” According to him there can be "No object without subject" because "everything objective is already conditioned as such in manifold ways by the knowing subject with the forms of its knowing, and presupposes these forms..."''The World as Will and Representation'', vol. I, § 7


Predicative nature

John Stuart Mill John Stuart Mill (20 May 1806 – 7 May 1873), also cited as J. S. Mill, was an English philosopher, Political economy, political economist, Member of Parliament (United Kingdom), Member of Parliament (MP) and civil servant. One of the most i ...
(and also Kant's pupil
Herbart Johann Friedrich Herbart (; 4 May 1776 – 14 August 1841) was a Germany, German philosopher, psychologist and founder of pedagogy as an academic discipline. Herbart is now remembered amongst the post-Kantian philosophers mostly as making the gre ...

Herbart
) argued that the predicative nature of existence was proved by sentences like "A
centaur A centaur ( ; grc, κένταυρος, kéntauros; ), or occasionally hippocentaur, is a creature from Greek mythology Greek mythology is the body of myth Myth is a folklore genre Folklore is the expressive body of culture share ...

centaur
is a poetic fiction" or "A
greatest number Greatest may refer to: * ''Greatest!'', a 1959 album by Johnny Cash * ''Bee Gees Greatest'', a 1979 album by Bee Gees * Greatest (The Go-Go's album), ''Greatest'' (The Go-Go's album), 1990 * Greatest (Duran Duran album), ''Greatest'' (Duran Duran a ...
is impossible" (Herbart).
Franz Brentano Franz Clemens Honoratus Hermann Josef Brentano (; ; 16 January 1838 – 17 March 1917) was an influential German philosopher, psychologist, and Catholic priest whose work strongly influenced not only students Edmund Husserl, Sigmund Freud Si ...
challenged this; so also (as is better known) did
Frege Frege is a surname. Notable people with the surname include: * Carola Frege (born 1965), German scholar *Élodie Frégé, French singer and actress *Gottlob Frege (1848 – 1925), German philosopher, logician, and mathematician. * Livia Fre ...
. Brentano argued that we can join the concept represented by a noun phrase "an A" to the concept represented by an adjective "B" to give the concept represented by the noun phrase "a B-A". For example, we can join "a man" to "wise" to give "a wise man". But the noun phrase "a wise man" is not a sentence, whereas "some man is wise" is a sentence. Hence the copula must do more than merely join or separate concepts. Furthermore, adding "exists" to "a wise man", to give the complete sentence "a wise man exists" has the same effect as joining "some man" to "wise" using the copula. So the copula has the same effect as "exists". Brentano argued that every categorical proposition can be translated into an existential one without change in meaning and that the "exists" and "does not exist" of the existential proposition take the place of the copula. He showed this by the following examples: : The categorical proposition "Some man is sick" has the same meaning as the existential proposition "A sick man exists" or "There is a sick man." : The categorical proposition "No stone is living" has the same meaning as the existential proposition "A living stone does not exist" or "there is no living stone". : The categorical proposition "All men are mortal" has the same meaning as the existential proposition "An immortal man does not exist" or "there is no immortal man". : The categorical proposition "Some man is not learned" has the same meaning as the existential proposition "A non-learned man exists" or "there is a non-learned man". Frege developed a similar view (though later) in his great work ''
The Foundations of Arithmetic ''The Foundations of Arithmetic'' (german: Die Grundlagen der Arithmetik) is a book by Gottlob Frege, published in 1884, which investigates the philosophical Philosophy (from , ) is the study of general and fundamental questions, such a ...
'', as did
Charles Sanders Peirce Charles Sanders Peirce ( ; September 10, 1839 – April 19, 1914) was an American philosopher, ian, mathematician and scientist who is sometimes known as "the father of ". He was known as a somewhat unusual character. Educated as a chemist an ...

Charles Sanders Peirce
(but Peirce held that the possible and the real are not limited to the actual, individually existent). The Frege-Brentano view is the basis of the dominant position in modern Anglo-American philosophy: that existence is asserted by the
existential quantifier In predicate logic First-order logic—also known as predicate logic, quantificational logic, and first-order predicate calculus—is a collection of formal systems used in mathematics, philosophy, linguistics, and computer science. First-order l ...
(as expressed by Quine's slogan "To be is to be the value of a variable." — ''On What There Is'', 1948).


Semantics

In
mathematical logic Mathematical logic is the study of formal logic within mathematics. Major subareas include model theory, proof theory, set theory, and recursion theory. Research in mathematical logic commonly addresses the mathematical properties of formal sys ...
, there are two quantifiers, "some" and "all", though as Brentano (1838–1917) pointed out, we can make do with just one quantifier and negation. The first of these quantifiers, "some", is also expressed as "there exists". Thus, in the sentence "There exists a man", the term "man" is asserted to be part of existence. But we can also assert, "There exists a triangle." Is a "triangle"—an abstract idea—part of existence in the same way that a "man"—a physical body—is part of existence? Do abstractions such as goodness, blindness, and virtue exist in the same sense that chairs, tables, and houses exist? What
categories Category, plural categories, may refer to: Philosophy and general uses *Categorization Categorization is the human ability and activity of recognizing shared features or similarities between the elements of the experience of the world (such ...
, or kinds of thing, can be the subject or the predicate of a proposition? Moreover, does "existence" exist? In some statements, existence is implied without being mentioned. The statement "A bridge crosses the Thames at Hammersmith" cannot just be about a bridge, the Thames, and Hammersmith. It must be about "existence" as well. On the other hand, the statement "A bridge crosses the Styx at Limbo" has the same form, but while in the first case we understand a real bridge in the real world made of stone or brick, what "existence" would mean in the second case is less clear. The
nominalist In metaphysics Metaphysics is the branch of philosophy Philosophy (from , ) is the study of general and fundamental questions, such as those about reason, Metaphysics, existence, Epistemology, knowledge, Ethics, values, Philosophy of ...
approach is to argue that certain noun phrases can be "eliminated" by rewriting a sentence in a form that has the same meaning but does not contain the noun phrase. Thus argued that "Socrates has wisdom", which apparently asserts the existence of a reference for "wisdom", can be rewritten as "Socrates is wise", which contains only the referring phrase "Socrates". This method became widely accepted in the twentieth century by the analytic school of philosophy. However, this argument may be inverted by realists in arguing that since the sentence "Socrates is wise" can be rewritten as "Socrates has wisdom", this proves the existence of a hidden referent for "wise". A further problem is that human beings seem to process information about
fictional characters In fiction, a character is a person or other being in a narrative (such as a novel, Play (theatre), play, television series, film, or video game). The character may be entirely fictional or based on a real-life person, in which case the distinc ...
in much the same way that they process information about real people. For example, in the
2008 United States presidential election The 2008 United States presidential election was the 56th quadrennial United States presidential election, presidential election, held on Tuesday, November 4, 2008. The Democratic Party (United States), Democratic ticket of Barack Obama, the ...
, a politician and actor named
Fred Thompson Freddie Dalton Thompson (August 19, 1942 – November 1, 2015) was an American politician, attorney, lobbyist, columnist, actor and radio personality. A member of the Republican Party, he served as a United States Senator The United ...

Fred Thompson
ran for the
Republican Party Republican Party is a name used by many political parties A political party is an organization that coordinates candidates to compete in a country's elections. It is common for the members of a political party to have similar ideas about polit ...
nomination. In polls, potential voters identified Fred Thompson as a "law and order" candidate. Thompson plays a fictional character on the television series ''
Law and Order In modern politics, law and order, also known as tough on crime and the War on Crime, is demands for a strict criminal justice 350px, United States criminal justice system flowchart. Criminal justice is the delivery of justice Justice, on ...
''. The people who make the comment are aware that ''Law and Order'' is fiction, but at some level, they may process fiction as if it were fact, a process included in what is called the Paradox of Fiction. Another example of this is the common experience of actresses who play the villain in a soap opera being accosted in public as if they are to blame for the actions of the characters they play. A scientist might make a clear distinction between objects that exist, and assert that all objects that exist are made up of either matter or energy. But in the layperson's
worldview A worldview or world-view is the fundamental cognitive Cognition () refers to "the mental action or process of acquiring knowledge and understanding through thought, experience, and the senses". It encompasses many aspects of intellectual ...

worldview
, existence includes real, fictional, and even contradictory objects. Thus if we reason from the statement "
Pegasus Pegasus ( gr, Πήγασος, ''Pḗgasos''; la, Pegasus, Pegasos) is a mythical Myth is a folklore genre Folklore is the expressive body of culture shared by a particular group of people; it encompasses the traditions common to t ...

Pegasus
flies" to the statement "Pegasus exists", we are not asserting that Pegasus is made up of atoms, but rather that Pegasus exists in the worldview of classical myth. When a mathematician reasons from the statement "ABC is a triangle" to the statement "triangles exist", the mathematician is not asserting that triangles are made up of atoms but rather that triangles exist within a particular
mathematical model A mathematical model is a description of a system A system is a group of Interaction, interacting or interrelated elements that act according to a set of rules to form a unified whole. A system, surrounded and influenced by its environm ...
.


Modern approaches

According to
Bertrand Russell Bertrand Arthur William Russell, 3rd Earl Russell (18 May 1872 – 2 February 1970) was a British polymath A polymath ( el, πολυμαθής, , "having learned much"; la, homo universalis, "universal human") is an individual whose know ...
's
Theory of Descriptions The theory of descriptions is the philosopher Bertrand Russell's most significant contribution to the philosophy of language. It is also known as Russell's theory of descriptions (commonly abbreviated as RTD). In short, Russell argued that the ...
, the negation operator in a singular sentence can take either wide or narrow scope: we distinguish between "some S is not P" (where negation takes "narrow scope") and "it is not the case that 'some S is P'" (where negation takes "wide scope"). The problem with this view is that there appears to be no such scope distinction in the case of proper names. The sentences "Socrates is not bald" and "it is not the case that Socrates is bald" both appear to have the same meaning, and they both appear to assert or presuppose the existence of someone (Socrates) who is not bald, so that negation takes a narrow scope. However, Russell's theory analyses proper names into a logical structure which makes sense of this problem. According to Russell, Socrates can be analyzed into the form 'The Philosopher of Greece.' In the wide scope, this would then read: It is not the case that there existed a philosopher of Greece who was bald. In the narrow scope, it would read the Philosopher of Greece was not bald. According to the direct-reference view, an early version of which was originally proposed by
Bertrand Russell Bertrand Arthur William Russell, 3rd Earl Russell (18 May 1872 – 2 February 1970) was a British polymath A polymath ( el, πολυμαθής, , "having learned much"; la, homo universalis, "universal human") is an individual whose know ...
, and perhaps earlier by
Gottlob Frege Friedrich Ludwig Gottlob Frege (; ; 8 November 1848 – 26 July 1925) was a German philosopher, logician, and mathematician. He worked as a mathematics professor at the University of Jena, and is understood by many to be the father of analy ...
, a proper name strictly has no meaning when there is no object to which it refers. This view relies on the argument that the semantic function of a proper name is to tell us ''which'' object bears the name, and thus to identify some object. But no object can be identified if none exists. Thus, a proper name must have a bearer if it is to be meaningful.


Existence in the wide and narrow senses

According to the "two sense" view of existence, which derives from
Alexius Meinong Alexius Meinong Ritter von Handschuchsheim (17 July 1853 – 27 November 1920) was an Austrian philosopher A philosopher is someone who practices philosophy. The term ''philosopher'' comes from the grc, φιλόσοφος, , translit=phil ...
, existential statements fall into two classes. # Those asserting existence in a ''wide'' sense. These are typical of the form "N is P" for singular N, or "some S is P". # Those asserting existence in a ''narrow'' sense. These are typical of the form "N exists" or "Ss exist". The problem is then evaded as follows. "Pegasus flies" implies existence in the wide sense, for it implies that ''something'' flies. But it does not imply existence in the narrow sense, for we deny existence in this sense by saying that Pegasus does not exist. In effect, the world of all things divides, on this view, into those (like
Socrates Socrates (; ; –399 BC) was a Greek philosopher from Athens Athens ( ; el, Αθήνα, Athína ; grc, Ἀθῆναι, Athênai (pl.) ) is the capital city, capital and List of cities in Greece, largest city of Greece. Athens domi ...

Socrates
, the planet
Venus Venus is the second planet from the Sun. It is named after the Venus (mythology), Roman goddess of love and beauty. As List of brightest natural objects in the sky, the brightest natural object in Earth's night sky after the Moon, Venus can ...

Venus
, and New York City) that have existed in the narrow sense, and those (like
Sherlock Holmes Sherlock Holmes () is a fictional detective created by British author Sir Arthur Conan Doyle Sir Arthur Ignatius Conan Doyle (22 May 1859 – 7 July 1930) was a British writer and physician. He created the character Sherlock Holmes ...

Sherlock Holmes
, the goddess
Venus Venus is the second planet from the Sun. It is named after the Venus (mythology), Roman goddess of love and beauty. As List of brightest natural objects in the sky, the brightest natural object in Earth's night sky after the Moon, Venus can ...
, and
Minas Tirith Gondor is a fictional kingdom in J. R. R. Tolkien's writings, described as the greatest realm of Men A man is an adult male Male (♂) is the sex of an organism that produces the gamete known as sperm. A male gamete can fuse with a la ...

Minas Tirith
) that do not. However, common sense suggests the non-existence of such things as
fictional characters In fiction, a character is a person or other being in a narrative (such as a novel, Play (theatre), play, television series, film, or video game). The character may be entirely fictional or based on a real-life person, in which case the distinc ...
or places.


European views

Influenced by the views of Brentano's pupil
Alexius Meinong Alexius Meinong Ritter von Handschuchsheim (17 July 1853 – 27 November 1920) was an Austrian philosopher A philosopher is someone who practices philosophy. The term ''philosopher'' comes from the grc, φιλόσοφος, , translit=phil ...
, and by
Edmund Husserl , thesis1_title = Beiträge zur Variationsrechnung (Contributions to the Calculus of Variations) , thesis1_url = https://fedora.phaidra.univie.ac.at/fedora/get/o:58535/bdef:Book/view , thesis1_year = 1883 , thesis2_title ...

Edmund Husserl
, Germanophone and Francophone philosophy took a different direction regarding the question of existence.


Anti-realist arguments

Anti-realism In analytic philosophy, anti-realism is an Epistemology, epistemological position first articulated by British philosopher Michael Dummett which encompasses many varieties such as metaphysical, mathematical, semantic, scientific, moral and epistemi ...
is the view of idealists who are skeptics about the physical world, maintaining either: (1) that nothing exists outside the
mind The mind is the set of faculties responsible for mental phenomena A phenomenon (; plural phenomena) is an observable fact or event. The term came into its modern philosophical Philosophy (from , ) is the study of general and fun ...

mind
, or (2) that we would have no access to a mind-independent reality even if it may exist. Realists, in contrast, hold that perceptions or
sense data The theory of sense data is a view in the philosophy of perception The philosophy of perception is concerned with the nature of perceptual experience and the status of perceptual data, in particular how they relate to beliefs about, or knowledg ...
are caused by mind-independent objects. An "anti-realist" who denies that other minds exist (i. e., a
solipsist Solipsism (; ) is the philosophy, philosophical idea that only one's mind is sure to exist. As an epistemology, epistemological position, solipsism holds that knowledge of anything outside one's own mind is unsure; the Philosophical skepticism, e ...
) is different from an "anti-realist" who claims that there is no fact of the matter as to whether or not there are unobservable other minds (i. e., a logical
behaviorist Behaviorism is a systematic approach to understanding the behavior of humans and other animals. It assumes that behavior is either a reflex In biology Biology is the natural science that studies life and living organisms, including their ...
).


See also

* ''
Cogito ergo sum is a philosophical Philosophy (from , ) is the study of general and fundamental questions, such as those about reason, existence, knowledge Knowledge is a familiarity, awareness, or understanding of someone or something, such as ...

Cogito ergo sum
'' *
Conservation law (physics) In physics Physics (from grc, φυσική (ἐπιστήμη), physikḗ (epistḗmē), knowledge of nature, from ''phýsis'' 'nature'), , is the natural science that studies matter, its Motion (physics), motion and behavior through Sp ...
*
Existence precedes essence The proposition that existence precedes essence (french: l'existence précède l'essence) is a central claim of existentialism Existentialism ( or ) is a form of philosophical inquiry that explores the problem of human existence and centers o ...
*
Existence theorem In mathematics Mathematics (from Ancient Greek, Greek: ) includes the study of such topics as quantity (number theory), mathematical structure, structure (algebra), space (geometry), and calculus, change (mathematical analysis, analysis). It ...
*
Existential quantification In predicate logic First-order logic—also known as predicate logic, quantificational logic, and first-order predicate calculus—is a collection of formal systems used in mathematics, philosophy, linguistics, and computer science. First-order ...
*
Existentialism Existentialism ( ) is a form of philosophy, philosophical inquiry that explores the problem of human existence and centres on the experience of thinking, feeling, and acting. In the view of the existentialist, the individual's starting point ha ...
*
Human condition The human condition is all of the characteristics and key events that compose the essentials of human existence, including birth Birth is the act or process of bearing or bringing forth offspring, also referred to in technical contexts as pa ...
* Religious views on the self *
Solipsism Solipsism (; ) is the philosophical Philosophy (from , ) is the study of general and fundamental questions, such as those about reason, existence, knowledge Knowledge is a familiarity, awareness, or understanding of someone or s ...
*
Three marks of existence In Buddhism, the three marks of existence are three characteristics ( Pali: ''tilakkhaa''; Sanskrit Sanskrit (, attributively , ''saṃskṛta-'', nominalization, nominally , ''saṃskṛtam'') is a classical language of South Asia belonging t ...
*
Universal quantification In mathematical logic Mathematical logic is the study of formal logic within mathematics. Major subareas include model theory, proof theory, set theory, and recursion theory. Research in mathematical logic commonly addresses the mathematical ...


References


Further reading

*
Aristotle Aristotle (; grc-gre, Ἀριστοτέλης ''Aristotélēs'', ; 384–322 BC) was a Greek philosopher A philosopher is someone who practices philosophy Philosophy (from , ) is the study of general and fundamental quest ...

Aristotle
, ''The Metaphysics'', translated by Hugh Lawson-Tancred, Penguin Classics, 1999, *
Antoine Arnauld Antoine Arnauld (6 February 16128 August 1694) was a France, French Roman Catholic theology, theologian, philosopher and mathematician. He was one of the leading intellectuals of the Jansenist group of Port-Royal Abbey, Paris, Port-Royal and had ...

Antoine Arnauld
and
Pierre Nicole Pierre Nicole (19 October 1625 – 16 November 1695) was one of the most distinguished of the French Jansenists. Life Born in Chartres, he was the son of a provincial barrister, who took in charge his education. Sent to Paris in 1642 to study th ...

Pierre Nicole
''Logic, or the Art of Thinking'', (known as the ''
Port-Royal Logic ''Port-Royal Logic'', or ''Logique de Port-Royal'', is the common name of ''La logique, ou l'art de penser'', an important textbook on logic first published anonymously in 1662 by Antoine Arnauld and Pierre Nicole, two prominent members of the Jan ...
''), translated J. Buroker, Cambridge 1996 *
Terry Eagleton Terence Francis Eagleton (born 1943) is a British literary theorist, critic A critic is a professional who communicates an assessment and an opinion of various forms of creative works such as Art criticism, art, Literary criticism, litera ...
, ''The Meaning of Life'', Oxford University Press, 2007, *
Heraclitus Heraclitus of Ephesus (; grc-gre, Ἡράκλειτος ; , ) was an Ancient Greek Ancient Greek includes the forms of the Greek language Greek ( el, label=Modern Greek Modern Greek (, , or , ''Kiní Neoellinikí Glóssa''), ...

Heraclitus
, ''Fragments'', James Hilton, forward, Brooks Hexton, translator, Penguin Classics, 2003, * Michael J. Loux, ''Ockham's Theory Of Terms'' (translation of book I of the ''Summa Logicae'' c. 1327) *
Bryan Magee Bryan Edgar Magee (; 12 April 1930 – 26 July 2019) was a British philosopher, broadcaster, politician and author, best known for bringing philosophy to a popular audience. Early life Born of working-class parents in Hoxton Hoxton is an are ...
, ''The Story of Philosophy'', Dorling Kindersley Lond. 1998, *
John Stuart Mill John Stuart Mill (20 May 1806 – 7 May 1873), also cited as J. S. Mill, was an English philosopher, Political economy, political economist, Member of Parliament (United Kingdom), Member of Parliament (MP) and civil servant. One of the most i ...
, ''
A System of Logic ''A System of Logic, Ratiocinative and Inductive'' is an 1843 book by English people, English philosopher John Stuart Mill. Overview In this work, he formulated the five principles of inductive reasoning that are known as Mill's Methods. This work ...
'', 8th edition 1908*
Plato Plato ( ; grc-gre, wikt:Πλάτων, Πλάτων ; 428/427 or 424/423 – 348/347 BC) was an Classical Athens, Athenian philosopher during the Classical Greece, Classical period in Ancient Greece, founder of the Platonist school of thoug ...

Plato
, ''The Republic'', translated by Desmond Lee, Penguin Classics, 2003, * Alvin Thalheimer, ''The Meaning of the Terms: Existence and Reality.'' Princeton University Press, 1920 * C.J.F. Williams, ''What is Existence?'', Oxford University Press, 1981


External links

*
The Concept of Existence: History and Definitions from Leading Philosophers

"A Treatise on Book Titles"
is a work by
Sayf al-Din al-Amidi Sayf al-Din al-Amidi or Muhammad al-Amidi (b. 1156; Diyarbakır Diyarbakır (, hy, Տիգրանակերտ, lit=Tigranocerta, Tigranakert;Western Armenian pronunciation: ''Dikranagerd''; , syr, ܐܡܝܕ, Āmīd) is the largest Kurdish populatio ...
, in Arabic, about "original" and "mental existence". It dates from 1805. {{Authority control Concepts in metaphysics Metaphysical theories Ontology Reality