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 Van Inwagen 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 1999, 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. Existence, Mathematical Nominalism, and Meta-Ontology: An Objection to Azzouni on Criteria for Existence.Farbod Akhlaghi-Ghaffarokh - 2018 - Philosophia Mathematica 26 (2):251-265.
    Jody Azzouni argues that whilst it is indeterminate what the criteria for existence are, there is a criterion that has been collectively adopted to use ‘exist’ that we can employ to argue for positions in ontology. I raise and defend a novel objection to Azzouni: his view has the counterintuitive consequence that the facts regarding what exists can and will change when users of the word ‘exist’ change what criteria they associate with its usage. Considering three responses, I argue Azzouni (...)
  4. Differences in Becoming.Emmanuel Alloa & Judith Michalet - 2017 - Philosophy Today 61 (3):475-502.
    For a long time, Gilbert Simondon’s work was known only as either a philosophy restricted to the problem of technology or as an inspirational source for Gilles Deleuze’s philosophy of difference. As Simondon’s thinking is now finally in the process of being recognized in its own right as one of the most original philosophies of the twentieth century, this also entails that some critical work needs to be done to disentangle it from an all too hasty identification with Deleuzian categories. (...)
  5. 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 (...)
  6. Some Disputed Questions on Our Knowledge of Being.James F. Anderson - 1958 - Review of Metaphysics 11 (4):550 - 568.
  7. The Meaning of Existence.James F. Anderson - 1954 - Review of Metaphysics 8 (4):624 - 632.
  8. Una pasión inútil. Muerte y Libertad en la obra filosófica de Jean-Paul Sartre.Jorge Arocha (ed.) - 2018 - Havana: Colección SUR.
    El presente texto es una colección de ensayos que giran en torno a la polémica obra del filósofo francés Jean Paul Sartre (1905-1980). Como bien se hace notar en la introducción del libro, este no es un intento apologético, sino más bien crítico. Por ello, el autor lejos de reafirmar lo que ya el pensador existencialista ha dicho, se centra en uno de los puntos más contradictorios de su obra: la relación de la muerte con la libertad humana. Para ello, (...)
  9. La interrogante por la muerte en el pensamiento contemporáneo.Jorge Arocha - 2015 - Revista de Filosofía y Cotidianidad 1 (1):1-13.
    This essay is an attempt to shed light on the ontological question about death taking the ethical point of view. First, the author sets out a differentiation between the death and the question about it. After a brief historical description, taking as examples the Epicurean and Christian standpoints, it is presented the thinking about the death in the contemporary philosophy. Although in this perspective there is an ontological preponderance in the different interpretations and concepts that surrounds the death. That is (...)
  10. O problema ontológico da consciência na mecânica quântica.Raoni Wohnrath Arroyo - 2015 - Dissertation, Universidade Estadual de Maringá
    Quantum mechanics is an area of Physics that deals with subatomic phenomena. It can be extracted from a vision of the physical world which contradicts many aspects of our everyday perception, prompting many philosophical debates and admitting different interpretations. Among the wide range of problems within the interpretation of quantum theory, there is the measurement problem. Some philosophical aspects of the problems concerning the notion of “measurement” in quantum mechanics are analyzed in order to identify how the problem arises in (...)
  11. What Are Negative Existence Statements About?Jay David Atlas - 1988 - Linguistics and Philosophy 11 (4):373 - 394.
  12. Ways of Being.A. B. - 1963 - Review of Metaphysics 16 (3):587-587.
  13. Olemisen kontekstuaalisuus Heideggerin jälkimetafysiikassa.Jussi Backman - 2011 - Ajatus 68:201-242.
  14. Quantificational Logic and Empty Names.Andrew Bacon - 2013 - Philosophers' Imprint 13.
    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 (...)
  15. Syllogistic Without Existence.John Bacon - 1967 - Notre Dame Journal of Formal Logic 8 (3):195-219.
  16. On a Classical Argument That Existence Is Not a Predicate.John R. Baker - 1978 - Southwestern Journal of Philosophy 9 (1):55-60.
  17. The Idea of Being.Edward G. Ballard - 1978 - Tulane Studies in Philosophy 27:13-25.
  18. The Absurd.Zraik Bara - manuscript
  19. 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 (...)
  20. 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 (...)
  21. 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 (...)
  22. Are There Two Questions of Being?Oliva Blanchette - 1991 - Review of Metaphysics 45 (2):259 - 287.
  23. 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 =.
  24. Existência.João Branquinho - 2015 - Compêndio Em Linha de Problemas de Filosofia Analítica.
    Neste ensaio, discutem-se cinco questões acerca da existência: 1. É a existência representável em termos de quantificação? 2. É a existência um predicado" real", de primeira ordem? 3. É existir o mesmo que ser? 4. Existe tudo? 5. Qual é a forma lógica de afirmações de existência? São introduzidas e examinadas algumas das mais salientes posições acerca destas questões, em especial a concepção Frege-Russell da existência e diversas concepções recentes neo-Meinongianas. Defendemos as seguintes três teses acerca daquilo que deve ser (...)
  25. 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 (...)
  26. Aristote les Diverses Acceptations de L’Être.Franz Brentano - 1992 - Vrin.
    Cette dissertation légendaire de Franz Brentano , éditée à Fribourg en 1862, prend pour fil conducteur de son interprétation de la « métaphysique » comme science de « l’être en tant qu’être » le leitmotiv : « l’être se dit pluriellement ». Mais quelle en est alors la signification directe et unitaire?L’ambition de Brentano est de reconstituer une doctrine dont il s’agit à la fois de montrer et de sauver la conhérence. Le primat accordé à l’acceptation catégoriale de l’être amène (...)
  27. 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 (...)
  28. 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 (...)
  29. 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 (...)
  30. Life After Death in Whitehead's Metaphysics.Christopher Broniak - 1985 - Auslegung 11 (Summer):514-527.
    In Whitehead's metaphysics, a viable possibility of personal immortality exists within the context of two notions: the valuation enacted by an actual occasion, and the way valuation of a temporal occasion has ongoing importance for God in God's nontemporality. Can what perishes in the concrescence, the subjective immediacy of the occasion, be saved from total elimination from the process universe? If so, a synthesis whereby both the subjective immediacy and the objective immortality of an occasion persists in God's prehension of (...)
  31. 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 (...)
  32. 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.
  33. Object Theory and Modal Meinongianism.Otávio Bueno & Edward N. Zalta - 2017 - Australasian Journal of Philosophy 95 (4):761-778.
    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.
  34. 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 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 than (...)
  35. The Gods and Being in Proclus.Edward P. Butler - 2008 - Dionysius 26:93-114.
  36. Polytheism and Individuality in the Henadic Manifold.Edward P. Butler - 2005 - Dionysius 23:83-103.
  37. Paradoks istnienia – propozycja (nie)filozoficznego wyjścia.Andrzej Bułeczka - 2015 - In Maciej Woźniczka & Andrzej Zalewski (eds.), Wokół negacji. Częstochowa, Polska: pp. 187-200.
    Since the dawn of philosophy existence poses problems to philosophical analysis. At first, it seems that it is an obvious core of metaphysical theories. However, similarly as is the case of e.g. truth, talk about existence easily leads to a serious paradox: on the one hand it seems that the discourse about existence is superflous, redundant, on the other we have a well known problem of negative existential claims such as „Pegasus does not exist” or „There are no dragons”. Because (...)
  38. Dyskusja wokół zagadnienia istoty i istnienia. Tradycja scholastyczna i myśl współczesna wobec stanowiska św. Tomasza z Akwinu.Andrzej Bułeczka - 2013 - Dissertation,
    The aim of this study is to present in complete and accurate way one of the possible positions, i.e nondeflationary treatment of existence, in an interesting metaphysical dispute – the dispute over the status of existence. Moreover, the arguments and thesis from historically distinct periods are analysed to show that the knowledge of the history of philosophy is not a ballast. On the contrary, it can be creatively used in the contemporary discussion and deepen the understanding of this issue. -/- (...)
  39. The Question of Being.G. C. - 1979 - Review of Metaphysics 33 (1):207-209.
  40. Existence, Existenz and Transcendence.J. D. C. - 1972 - Review of Metaphysics 25 (4):767-767.
  41. 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 (...)
  42. Between Witches, Angels and Unicorns. The Possibility of Expanding Russell´s Existential Analysis.Olga Ramirez Calle - 2018 - E-Logos Electronic Journal for Philosophy 25 (1):4-15.
    This paper attempts to be a contribution to the epistemological project of explaining complex conceptual structures departing from more basic ones. The central thesis of the paper is that there are what I call “functionally structured concepts”, these are non-harmonic concepts in Dummett’s sense that might be legitimized if there is a function that justifies the tie between the inferential connection the concept allows us to trace. Proving this requires enhancing the russellian existential analysis of definite descriptions to apply to (...)
  43. Gabriel's Metaphysics of Sense.Taylor Carman - 2016 - The Harvard Review of Philosophy 23:53-59.
  44. Tübingen Metaphysics Workshop - Existence, Truth and Fundamentality.Fabio Ceravolo, Mattia Cozzi & Mattia Sorgon - 2014 - Rivista Italiana di Filosofia Analitica Junior 5 (1):94-123.
    Since last year, major initiatives have been undertaken by the chair of theoretical philosophy at the University of Tübingen in order to enhance the reception of analytic metaphysics in the European landscape. Here we review the 2013 summer workshop, intended to be the first of an annual series, on “Existence, Truth and Fundamentality”, the invited speakers being Graham Priest (Melbourne), Stephan Leuenberger (Glasgow), Dan López de Sa (Barcelona), Francesco Berto (Aberdeen), Friederike Moltmann (Paris – Pantheon Sorbonne) and Jason Turner (Leeds). (...)
  45. 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 (...)
  46. Existence et ilyance.Stéphane Chauvier - 2003 - Quaestio 3 (1):413-432.
  47. 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 (...)
    No categories
  48. 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 (...)
  49. 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 (...)
  50. 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 (...)
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