Existence

Edited by T. Parent (Virginia Tech)
About this topic
Summary When an ontologist asks "what exists?," a meta-question may soon follow: What is meant here by 'exists'? Quine's influential view is that 'exist' should be regimented as an existential quantifier, so that our ontological commitments are determined by the range of the quantifier, within our best scientific theory. In opposition, Carnap held that some existential statements are not ontologically committing. E.g., the statement 'There is an even prime' (if meaningful at all) is merely true by definition within the "mathematics framework." That is so, even though the sentence may be false in, say, the framework of evolutionary biology. Accordingly, for Carnap to "exist" is a pluralistic affair, relativized to a framework. Beyond the Quine-Carnap debate, other issues regarding existence include the classic question "Why is there anything at all?" as well as the riddle of non-being: "There exist things that do not exist" has the shape of a contradiction, but it also can seem true, thanks to Pegasus, unicorns, etc. Finally, and relatedly, some have suggested that there are different "ways of being," i.e., that there is more than one way to exist. Whether this is tenable is currently receiving much attention in the literature.
Key works The debate between Quine 1961 and Carnap 1950 is essential reading. Also, Sider 2011 is a neo-Quinean who has debated the neo-Carnapian Hirsch 2010. See in addition the neo-Quineanism of van Peter 1998, and the neo-Carnapianism of Hofweber 2005. A middle way is forged by Azzouni 2004; Azzouni 2007: His view is that (contra Carnap) 'exist' is not framework-relative, but (contra Quine) 'exist' should be regimented as a predicate and that it ordinarily does not express genuine ontological commitment. Post 1987 is excellent on disambiguating "why does the universe exist?;" see also Parfit 1992 for an overview of possible ways to answer the question. On nonexistence, Meinong 1960 and the response in Russell 1905 are must reads--and more recent pieces include Zalta 1988, Thomasson 1998, Sainsbury 2005, and Kripke 2013. On "ways of being," Spencer 2012 provides a nice overview of the current literature. Two other key works on existence are Salmon 1987, and Lewis 1986 on existence vs. actuality.
Introductions Recommended introductions are Nelson 2012, Reicher 2008, and Sorensen 2008.
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  1. Dzieje Filozofii Europejskiej W XV Wieku, Vol. III.N. W. A. - 1982 - Review of Metaphysics 36 (1):202-204.
  2. Does God Exist or Does He Come to Be?Stacey Ake - 2009 - Philosophy and Theology 21 (1/2):155-164.
    The following is an examination of two possible interpretations of the meaning of the “existence” of God. By using two different Danishterms—the word existence (Existents) and the concept “coming to be” (Tilværelse)—found in Kierkegaard’s writing, I hope to show that two very different theological outcomes arise depending upon which idea or term is used. Moreover, I posit which of these twooutcomes is closer in nature to the more famously used German term Dasein.
  3. The Relation of God and Being in Descartes.Ilyas Altuner - 2012 - Igdir University Journal of Social Sciences (2): 33-51.
    Problem of the existence of God and His relation to the world and human being is seen as one of quite old and main problems of philosophy. Though the existence of God and His essence as a knowledge subject is related to a transcendent being over this universe, human being can find rules made by Him in physical world in which stands. The concept of God constitutes one of the most involved points of Descartes’ philosophy. In fact, for Descartes, who (...)
  4. Some Disputed Questions on Our Knowledge of Being.James F. Anderson - 1958 - Review of Metaphysics 11 (4):550 - 568.
  5. The Meaning of Existence.James F. Anderson - 1954 - Review of Metaphysics 8 (4):624 - 632.
  6. What Are Negative Existence Statements About?Jay David Atlas - 1988 - Linguistics and Philosophy 11 (4):373 - 394.
  7. Ways of Being.A. B. - 1963 - Review of Metaphysics 16 (3):587-587.
  8. Olemisen kontekstuaalisuus Heideggerin jälkimetafysiikassa.Jussi Backman - 2011 - Ajatus 68:201-242.
  9. Quantificational Logic and Empty Names.Andrew Bacon - 2013 - Philosophers' Imprint 13 (24).
    The result of combining classical quantificational logic with modal logic proves necessitism – the claim that necessarily everything is necessarily identical to something. This problem is reflected in the purely quantificational theory by theorems such as ∃x t=x; it is a theorem, for example, that something is identical to Timothy Williamson. The standard way to avoid these consequences is to weaken the theory of quantification to a certain kind of free logic. However, it has often been noted that in order (...)
  10. Syllogistic Without Existence.John Bacon - 1967 - Notre Dame Journal of Formal Logic 8 (3):195-219.
  11. On a Classical Argument That Existence Is Not a Predicate.John R. Baker - 1978 - Southwestern Journal of Philosophy 9 (1):55-60.
  12. The Idea of Being.Edward G. Ballard - 1978 - Tulane Studies in Philosophy 27:13-25.
  13. Existence as a Real Property.Francesco Berto - 2012 - Synthèse Library, Springer.
    This book is both an introduction to and a research work on Meinongianism. “Meinongianism” is taken here, in accordance with the common philosophical jargon, as a general label for a set of theories of existence – probably the most basic notion of ontology. As an introduction, the book provides the first comprehensive survey and guide to Meinongianism and non-standard theories of existence in all their main forms. As a research work, the book exposes and develops the most up-to-date Meinongian theory (...)
  14. Modal Meinongianism and Fiction: The Best of Three Worlds.Francesco Berto - 2011 - Philosophical Studies 152 (3):313-35.
    We outline a neo-Meinongian framework labeled as Modal Meinongian Metaphysics (MMM) to account for the ontology and semantics of fictional discourse. Several competing accounts of fictional objects are originated by the fact that our talking of them mirrors incoherent intuitions: mainstream theories of fiction privilege some such intuitions, but are forced to account for others via complicated paraphrases of the relevant sentences. An ideal theory should resort to as few paraphrases as possible. In Sect. 1, we make this explicit via (...)
  15. Ontology and Metaontology. A Contemporary Guide.Francesco Berto & Matteo Plebani - 2015 - Bloomsbury Academic.
    'Ontology and Metaontology: A Contemporary Guide' is a clear and accessible survey of ontology, focussing on the most recent trends in the discipline. -/- Divided into parts, the first half characterizes metaontology: the discourse on the methodology of ontological inquiry, covering the main concepts, tools, and methods of the discipline, exploring the notions of being and existence, ontological commitment, paraphrase strategies, fictionalist strategies, and other metaontological questions. The second half considers a series of case studies, introducing and familiarizing the reader (...)
  16. Are There Two Questions of Being?Oliva Blanchette - 1991 - Review of Metaphysics 45 (2):259 - 287.
  17. Subject-Predicate Calculus Free From Existential Import.V. A. Bocharov - 1983 - Studia Logica 42 (2-3):209 - 221.
    Two subject-predicate calculi with equality,SP = and its extensionUSP =, are presented as systems of natural deduction. Both the calculi are systems of free logic. Their presentation is preceded by an intuitive motivation.It is shown that Aristotle's syllogistics without the laws of identitySaP andSiP is definable withinSP =, and that the first-order predicate logic is definable withinUSP =.
  18. What Do We Mean When We Ask “Why is There Something Rather Than Nothing?".Andrew Brenner - 2016 - Erkenntnis 81 (6):1305-1322.
    Let’s call the sentence “why is there something rather than nothing?” the Question. There’s no consensus, of course, regarding which proposed answer to the Question, if any, is correct, but occasionally there’s also controversy regarding the meaning of the Question itself. In this paper I argue that such controversy persists because there just isn’t one unique interpretation of the Question. Rather, the puzzlement expressed by the sentence “why is there something rather than nothing?” varies depending on the ontology implicitly or (...)
  19. McGinn on Non-Existent Objects and Reducing Modality. [REVIEW]Phillip Bricker - 2004 - Philosophical Studies 118 (3):439-451.
    In this discussion of Colin McGinn's book, 'Logical Properties', I comment first on the chapter "Existence", then on the chapter "Modality." With respect to existence, I argue that McGinn's view that existence is a property that some objects have and other objects lack requires the property of existence to be fundamentally unlike ordinary qualitative properties. Moreover, it opens up a challenging skeptical problem: how do I know that I exist? With respect to modality, I argue that McGinn's argument that quantificational (...)
  20. How Many Acts of Being Can a Substance Have?: An Aristotelian Approach to Aquinas’s Real Distinction.Stephen L. Brock - 2014 - International Philosophical Quarterly 54 (3):317-331.
    Focusing mainly on two passages from the Summa theologiae, the article first argues that, on Aquinas’s view, an individual substance, which is the proper subject of being, can and normally does have a certain multiplicity of acts of being . It is only “a certain” multiplicity because the substance has only one unqualified act of being, its substantial being, which belongs to it through its substantial form. The others are qualified acts of being, added on to the substantial being through (...)
  21. On Whether Aquinas's Ipsum Esse is “Platonism”.Stephen L. Brock - 2006 - Review of Metaphysics 60 (2):269-303.
    Enrico Berti and others hold that Aquinas’s notion of God as ipsum esse subsistens conflicts with Aristotle’s view that positing an Idea of being treats being as a genus and nullifies all differences. The paper first shows how one of Aquinas’s ways of distinguishing esse from essence supposes an intimate tie between a thing’s esse and its differentia. Then it argues that for Aquinas the (one) divine essence differs from the (manifold) “essence of esse.” God is his very esse. This (...)
  22. Epicureans and Stoics on Universals.Ada Bronowski - 2013 - In Riccardo Chiaradonna Gabriele Galluzzo (ed.), Universals in Ancient Philosophy. Edizioni della Normale. pp. 255-297.
    Epicureans and Stoics reject the independent existence of the Platonic Ideas. This paper assesses what both schools put forward as substitutes for universals. Both Epicureans and Stoics appeal to an a posteriori mental capacity for generalisation but that is where their shared commitments end. the divergences are mapped out, against a tendency in historiography to assimilate the two strategies, and both theories are then analysed independently.
  23. What Does It Mean for Something to Exist?Lajos L. Brons - 2013 - The Science of Mind 51 (1):53-74.
    (First paragraph.) Ontology is often described as the inquiry into what exists, but there is some disagreement among (meta-) ontologists about what “existence” means and whether there are different kinds or senses of “existence” or just one; that is, whether “existence” is equivocal or univocal. Furthermore, there is a growing number of philosophers (many of whom take inspiration from Aristotle’s metaphysical writings) who argue that ontology should not be concerned so much with what exists, but with what is fundamental or (...)
  24. Bare and Indexical Existence: Integrating Logic and Sensibility in Ontology.Lajos L. Brons - 2012 - In S. Watanabe (ed.), Logic and Sensibility. Keio University Press.
    This is the published version of a talk on meta-ontology in a conference of a multidisciplinary research project on "logic and sensibility". It argues against univocalism about "existence" and for a variety of perspectivism.
  25. Object Theory and Modal Meinongianism.Otávio Bueno & Edward N. Zalta - forthcoming - Australasian Journal of Philosophy:1-18.
    In this paper, we compare two theories, modal Meinongianism and object theory, with respect to several issues that have been discussed recently in the literature. In particular, we raise some objections for MM, undermine some of the objections that its defenders raise for OT, and we point out some virtues of the latter with respect to the former.
  26. Hume and Edwards on 'Why is There Something Rather Than Nothing?'.Michael B. Burke - 1984 - Australasian Journal of Philosophy 62 (4):355–362.
    Suppose that five minutes ago, to our astonishment, a healthy, full-grown duck suddenly popped into existence on the table in front of us. Suppose further that there was no first moment at which the duck existed but rather a last moment, T, at which it had yet to exist. Then for each moment t at which the duck has existed, there is an explanation of why the duck existed at t: there was a moment t’ earlier than t but later (...)
  27. The Gods and Being in Proclus.Edward P. Butler - 2008 - Dionysius 26:93-114.
  28. Polytheism and Individuality in the Henadic Manifold.Edward P. Butler - 2005 - Dionysius 23:83-103.
  29. The Question of Being.G. C. - 1979 - Review of Metaphysics 33 (1):207-209.
  30. Existence, Existenz and Transcendence.J. D. C. - 1972 - Review of Metaphysics 25 (4):767-767.
  31. Edith Stein's Philosophy of Community in Her Early Work and in Her Later Finite and Eternal Being.Antonio Calcagno - 2011 - Philosophy and Theology 23 (2):231-255.
    Edith Stein’s early phenomenological texts describe community as a special unity that is fully lived through in consciousness. In her later works, unity is described in more theological terms as participation in the communal fullness and wholeness of God or Being. Can these two accounts of community or human belonging be reconciled? I argue that consciousness can bring to the fore the meaning of community, thereby conditioning our lived-experience of community, but it can also, through Heideggerian questioning, uncover that which (...)
  32. Ficta as Contingently Nonconcrete.Lightfield Ceth - 2014 - Organon F: Medzinárodný Časopis Pre Analytickú Filozofiu 21 (4):431-457.
    Fictional realism allows direct reference theorists to provide a straightfor- ward analysis of the semantics of fictional discourse by admitting into their ontology a set of objects (ficta) that serve as the referents of fictional names. Ficta may be modeled using an axiomatic object theory, but actualist interpretations of the formalism have been the subject of recent objections. In this paper, I provide an interpretation of object theory’s formalism that is consistent with actualism and avoids these objections. Drawing on insights (...)
  33. Existence et ilyance.Stéphane Chauvier - 2003 - Quaestio 3 (1):413-432.
  34. Gegenstandstheorie und Theorie der Intentionalität bei Alexius Meinong.Arkadiusz Chrudzimski - 2007 - Springer.
    The thought of Alexius Meinong (1853–1920) has a distinguished position within the conceptual space of ontology. He was the first philosopher who tried systematically to develop a quasi-ontological discipline which was intended to be much more general than the metaphysics in the traditional sense. Metaphysics investigates being qua being; and this constitutes only a small part of the domain of the theory of objects (Gegenstandstheorie) as Meinong conceived of it. For – so reads one of Meinong’s most frequently cited theses (...)
  35. Meinong’s Version of the Description Theory.Arkadiusz Chrudzimski - 2007 - Russell: The Journal of Bertrand Russell Studies 27 (1):73-85.
    Around 1904 Meinong formulated his most famous idea: There are no empty (non-referential) singular terms. Each singular term refers to an object. Some of these objects do not exist but all of them enjoy status of Außersein. Russell also did not accept non-referential singular terms. But in his paper “On denoting” (1905) he claimed that all singular terms that are apparently empty could be reinterpreted as apparent singular terms. In short, Meinong expands his universe, while Russell narrows the category of (...)
  36. The Young Leśniewski on Existential Propositions.Arkadiusz Chrudzimski - 2006 - In Arkadiusz Chrudzimski & Dariusz Łukasiewicz (eds.), Actions, Products, and Things: Brentano and Polish Philosophy. Ontos.
    It was one of Brentano’s central ideas that all judgements are at bottom existential. In his Psychology from an Empirical Standpoint he tried to show how all traditionally acknowledged judgement forms could be reinterpreted as existential statements. Existential propositions, therefore, were a central concern for the whole Brentano School. Kazimierz Twardowski, who also accepted this program, introduced the problem of the existential reduction to his Polish students, but not all of them found this idea plausible. In 1911 Stanisław Leśniewski published (...)
  37. Drei Versionen der Meinongschen Logik.Arkadiusz Chrudzimski - 2005 - Zeitschrift für Philosophische Forschung 59 (1):49-70.
    Alexius Meinong nimmt in der Geschichte der Ontologie eine ausgezeichnete Stellung ein. Er war der erste Philosoph, der in systematischer Weise eine quasi-onto¬logische Disziplin entwickelte, die im Vergleich zu der Disziplin, die man traditionell Metaphysik oder Ontologie nennt, viel allgemeiner sein sollte. Die Metaphysik untersucht das Seiende als Seiendes, und die seienden Entitäten bilden – so die These Meinongs – nur ein kleines Fragment dessen, was man unter dem Namen „Gegenstands¬theorie” untersuchen kann. Die Gegenstände als solche sind „außerseiend”, d.h. sie (...)
  38. Quine, Meinong und Aristoteles. Zwei Dimensionen der ontologischen Verpflichtung.Arkadiusz Chrudzimski - 2003 - Metaphysica 4 (1):39-68.
    Quine claimed that to be is is to be a value of a bound variable. In the paper we assume that this claim contains an important philosophical insight and investigate its background. It is argued that there are two dimensions involved in Quine’s slogan: (i) the distinction between existing and non-existing objects and (ii) the question of the systematic ambiguity of being that can be traced back to Aristotle. At the first sight it is tempting to construe Quine’s criterion according (...)
  39. Fear of Commitment.Cristian Cocos - 2008 - Revue Roumaine de Philosophie 52:65-76.
    Starting from an exercise in Quinean hermeneutics targeting the notion of ontological commitment, the paper focuses on Quine's reasons for avoiding higher-order quantification. The argument goes further to support the idea of types of existence, which is then shown to accommodate higher-order logical frameworks, via accepting multiple identity/individuation standards.
  40. Growing Moral Relations: Critique of Moral Status Ascription.Mark Coeckelbergh - 2012 - Palgrave-Macmillan.
    Machine generated contents note: -- Acknowledgements -- Introduction - The Problem of Moral Status -- PART I: MORAL ONTOLOGIES: FROM INDIVIDUAL TO RELATIONAL DOGMAS -- Individual Properties -- Appearance and Virtue -- Relations: Communitarian and Metaphysical -- Relations: Natural and Social -- Relations: Hybrid and Environmental -- Conclusion Part I: Diogenes's Challenge -- PART II: MORAL STATUS ASCRIPTION AND ITS CONDITIONS OF POSSIBILITY: A TRANSCENDENTAL ARGUMENT -- Words and Sentences: Forms of Language Use -- Societies and Cultures (1): Forms of (...)
  41. Does the Logical Truth (Existx) (Fx V Fx) Entail That at Least One Individual Exists?N. Cooper - 1953 - Analysis 14 (1):3-5.
  42. Review Of: Hodesdon, K. “Mathematica Representation: Playing a Role”. Philosophical Studies (2014) 168:769–782. Mathematical Reviews. MR 3176431.John Corcoran - 2015 - MATHEMATICAL REVIEWS 2015:3176431.
    This 4-page review-essay—which is entirely reportorial and philosophically neutral as are my other contributions to MATHEMATICAL REVIEWS—starts with a short introduction to the philosophy known as mathematical structuralism. The history of structuralism traces back to George Boole (1815–1864). By reference to a recent article various feature of structuralism are discussed with special attention to ambiguity and other terminological issues. The review-essay includes a description of the recent article. The article’s 4-sentence summary is quoted in full and then analyzed. The point (...)
  43. Aristotle on Being.George Couvalis - forthcoming - Modern Greek Studies (Australia and New Zealand).
    Aristotle explains existence through postulating essences that are intrinsic and percep- tion independent. I argue that his theory is more plausible than Hume’s and Russell’s theories of existence. Russell modifies Hume’s theory because he wants to allow for the existence of mathematical objects. However, Russell’s theory facilitates a problematic collapse of ontology into epistemology, which has become a feature of much analytic philosophy. This collapse obscures the nature of truth. Aristotle is to be praised for starting with a clear account (...)
  44. No Simples, No Gunk, No Nothing.Sam Cowling - 2014 - Pacific Philosophical Quarterly 95 (1):246-260.
    Mereological realism holds that the world has a mereological structure – i.e. a distribution of mereological properties and relations. In this article, I defend Eleaticism about properties, according to which there are no causally inert non-logical properties. I then present an Eleatic argument for mereological anti-realism, which denies the existence of both mereological composites and mereological simples. After defending Eleaticism and mereological anti-realism, I argue that mereological anti-realism is preferable to mereological nihilism. I then conclude by examining the thesis that (...)
  45. What is the Problem of Non-Existence?Tim Crane - 2012 - Philosophia 40 (3):417-434.
    It is widely held that there is a problem of talking about or otherwise representing things that not exist. But what exactly is this problem? This paper presents a formulation of the problem in terms of the conflict between the fact that there are truths about non-existent things and the fact that truths must be answerable to reality, how things are. Given this, the problem of singular negative existential statements is no longer the central or most difficult aspect of the (...)
  46. Kant and Frege on Existence and the Ontological Argument.Michael E. Cuffaro - 2012 - History of Philosophy Quarterly 29 (4):337-354.
    I argue that Kant's and Frege's refutations of the ontological argument are more similar than has generally been acknowledged. As I clarify, for both Kant and Frege, to say that something exists is to assert of a concept that it is instantiated. With such an assertion one expresses that there is a particular relation between the instantiating object and a rational subject - a particular mode of presentation for the object in question. By its very nature such a relation cannot (...)
  47. “The Philosophical Thesis of the Identity of Thinking and Being is Just the Opposite of What It Seems to Be.” Kierkegaard on the Relations Between Being and Thought.Gabriel Ferreira da Silva - 2015 - Kierkegaard Studies Yearbook 20 (1):13-30.
    Kierkegaard is often regarded as an opponent of metaphysics per se. However, he not only implicitly espouses metaphysical positions, but also his understanding of existence rests upon an explicit metaphysical differentiation between being qua actuality and being qua thought, which results in a difference between actuality (Virkelighed) and reality (Realitet). I begin by analyzing an apparent contradiction between two of Kierkegaard’s statements on the relations between being and thought, which leads me both to inquire into that distinction and to retrace (...)
  48. Esculpir em Argila - Albert Camus: uma estética da existência.Gabriel Ferreira da Silva - 2014 - Educ.
    A imagem do “esculpir em Argila” como modo de enfrentamento do absurdo, usada por Camus, serve de motto para Gabriel Ferreira da Silva apontar a resposta de Camus ao niilismo do absurdo e de sua falsa solução, o suicídio, tal como é abordado em O Mito de Sísifo. A passagem do “mito” à “revolta” de O Homem Revoltado indica a rota de sua ética da paixão. Esse ato estético de “esculpir”, numa matéria finita e frágil, o sentido possível (estabelecendo a (...)
  49. Sobre uma Existentiel-Videnskab: o conceito de Inter-Esse no Pós-Escrito.Gabriel Ferreira da Silva - 2011 - Pensando: Revista de Filosofia 2 (4):85-101.
    In an entry of Papirer, located between the years 1842-1843 (IV C 100), entitled "On the concepts of Esse and Inter-Esse," Kierkegaard makes a fundamental methodological assertion: the various sciences should be ordered and built through the accent put on being (Vaeren - Esse). Thus, the ontology and mathematics, because they develop from a ground of elemental unity between thought and being, are a particular kind of science with epistemological well-defined characteristics. However, as Kierkegaard shows in Postscript, the same plea (...)
  50. Spontaneous Emerging of Material by Applying the Darwin's Evolutionary Theory to in Quantum Realm and its Impact on Simplifying the Dilemmas.Vahid Dabbagh - manuscript
    What is the boundary between the animate and inanimate world? It is obvious that the animate world is under rules of inanimate world. Is the converse true? This paper is aimed at imposing the well-known Darwin's theory of evolution to inanimate world of atomic realm where bizarre behavior of electron challenges our everyday perception of inanimate world. This paper, suggests a weird, peculiar and highly elegant speculation of existing, leads suspicious about validity of the law of conservation of mass, provides (...)
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