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. added 2019-01-18
    The Fragmentation of Being.Douglas I. Campbell - forthcoming - Australasian Journal of Philosophy:1-2.
    This is very short, 400 word review of Kris McDaniel's book, 'The Fragmentation of Being'. In the book McDaniel defends ontological pluralism, this being the doctrine that there are multiple 'ways of being' (i.e., multiple modes, or degrees, or orders, or levels, or gradations of existence). In defending ontological pluralism, McDaniel must reject the rival, Quinean position that there is at root just one generic way for a thing to exist: viz., by its falling in the domain of unrestricted quantification. (...)
  2. added 2019-01-10
    What is Conservatism? [REVIEW]Louis deRosset - manuscript
    In Objects: Nothing Out of the Ordinary, Daniel Z. Korman defends a view he calls conservatism. Conservatives hold that there are ordinary objects, but no extraordinary objects. But Korman never explicitly characterizes what would qualify an object as ordinary in the relevant sense. We have some paradigm cases of ordinary objects, including tables, dogs, and trees; and we have some paradigm cases of extraordinary objects of sorts familiar from the philosophical literature. Here I attempt to fill this gap, surveying a (...)
  3. added 2018-11-01
    Ontological Pluralism and Notational Variance.Bruno Whittle - forthcoming - Oxford Studies in Metaphysics.
    Ontological pluralism is the view that there are different ways to exist. It is a position with deep roots in the history of philosophy, and in which there has been a recent resurgence of interest. In contemporary presentations, it is stated in terms of fundamental languages: as the view that such languages contain more than one quantifier. For example, one ranging over abstract objects, and another over concrete ones. A natural worry, however, is that the languages proposed by the pluralist (...)
  4. added 2018-10-30
    What and How is Being.Xinyan Zhang - manuscript
    The main idea of this article is: “Being” might mean nothing more or less than Parmenides’ one in Heraclitus’ flux. He holds that the one and the flux are the same in reality. And we may not experience Heraclitus’ flux if without the one and can also not understand Parmenides’ one if without the flux. -/- 在作者看来,释迦牟尼所说的“涅槃”、赫拉克利特所说的“流变”、巴门尼德所说的“同一”和高尔吉亚所说的“无物”,共同组成着一个抱负“物人同一”信念的概念系统。本文则试图用十四个假设来勾勒这一系统的基本结 构,并间接地道出他们对实体哲学理念和主体哲学理念的反驳。.
  5. added 2018-10-10
    Being, Becoming, and Essence.P. T. Raju - 1976 - Idealistic Studies 6 (1):33-48.
  6. added 2018-10-10
    Being and Essence.Henri Renard - 1949 - New Scholasticism 23 (1):62-70.
  7. added 2018-10-10
    Metaphysics and Existence.W. T. Stace - 1948 - Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 9 (3):458-462.
  8. added 2018-10-10
    Notes on Existence and Necessity.Willard V. Quine - 1943 - Journal of Philosophy 40 (5):113-127.
  9. added 2018-10-09
    Otherwise Than Being or Beyond Essence.A. Lichtigfeld - 1984 - International Studies in Philosophy 16 (3):95-96.
  10. added 2018-10-09
    Process and Essence.William H. Leue - 1960 - Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 21 (1):62-79.
  11. added 2018-10-09
    On Being and Essence.James V. Mullaney - 1950 - Thought: Fordham University Quarterly 25 (1):158-159.
  12. added 2018-10-08
    A Study on Existence: Two Approaches and a Deflationist Compromise.Giuliano Bacigalupo - 2017 - Newcastle upon Tyne: Cambridge Scholars.
    The problem of existence is reputed to be one of the oldest and most intractable of philosophy: What do we mean when we say that something exists or, even more challengingly, that something does not exist? Intuitively, it seems that we all have a firm grip upon what we are saying. But how should we explain the difference–if there is any–between statements about existence and other, garden-variety predicative statements? What is the difference between saying that something exists and saying, for (...)
  13. added 2018-10-08
    Being Precedes Essence.David F. Haight - 1983 - New Scholasticism 57 (4):517-527.
  14. added 2018-10-08
    On the Reality of Existence and Identity.Ian Hacking - 1978 - Canadian Journal of Philosophy 8 (4):613 - 632.
  15. added 2018-10-08
    The Metaphysical Value and Importance of the Concept of Being.J. Anthony Gaughan - 1969 - Dublin, Kamac Publications.
  16. added 2018-10-08
    Knowledge, Identity, and Existence.Dagfinn Føllesdal - 1967 - Theoria 33 (1):1-27.
  17. added 2018-10-08
    Generality and Existence.Gustav Bergmann - 1962 - Theoria 28 (1):1-26.
  18. added 2018-09-30
    Модальности как фундаментальный элемент реальности: обзор книги «Williamson on Modality». [REVIEW]Lev Lamberov - 2018 - ФИЛОСОФИЯ НАУКИ 77:158-171.
    The paper provides a review of the collection of scientific works «Williamson on Modality» and contains a brief summary of the main ideas of the articles published in the book.
  19. added 2018-09-29
    Beyond Nietzsche: The Overhuman as a Dialectical Reality and its Evidence in the Myth.Hermes Varini - 2018 - Философия И Гуманитарные Науки В Информационном Обществе 20:10.
    Unveiled from its latent status of myth, from the dawn of civilization until nowadays mass media culture as a necessary need of power in a world of intrinsic human powerlessness, an existential condition as antithetical to the latter in the very terms of power signifies the grandest possible of human perspectives to inhere within the state of affairs of a Real certainly vast enough to contain it respecting its unfathomable profundity in space and in time. By focusing accordingly on the (...)
  20. added 2018-09-26
    The Elements and Patterns of Being: Essays in Metaphysics.A. R. J. Fisher (ed.) - 2018 - Oxford University Press.
    Donald C. Williams was a key figure in the development of analytic philosophy. This book will be the definitive source for his highly original work, which did much to bring metaphysics back into fashion. It presents six classic papers and six previously unpublished, revealing his full philosophical vision for the first time.
  21. added 2018-09-16
    Schopenhauer's World. The System of The World as Will and Presentation I.Jens Lemanski - 2017 - Schopenhaueriana. Revista Española de Estudios Sobre Schopenhauer 2:297–315.
    in recent years, the research on Schopenhauer has shown a change in the interpretation of his main work, «The World as Will and Presentation», from (1) a normative and linear instruction which guides the reader from idealism to mysticism, pessimism and nothingness to (2) value-free and independent descriptions of the world with all phenomena (like idealism, mysticism, nothingness etc.) in it. thus Schopenhauer’s main work has become an empirical or baconian approach—something like a «philosophical cosmography»—. this fundamental change of interpretation (...)
  22. added 2018-09-06
    Nominalism and Causal Theories of Reference.Jeffrey W. Roland - 2009 - SATS 10 (2):51-67.
  23. added 2018-09-06
    Existence Predicate.Reinhard Muskens - 1993 - In R. E. Asher & J. M. Y. Simpson (eds.), The Encyclopedia of Language and Linguistics. Oxford: Pergamon. pp. 1191.
    Kant said that existence is not a predicate and Russell agreed, arguing that a sentence such as ‘The king of France exists’, which seems to attribute existence to the king of France, really has a logical form that is not reflected in the surface structure of the sentence at all. While the surface form of the sentence consists of a subject and a predicate, the underlying logical form, according to Russell, is the formula given in. This formula obviously has no (...)
  24. added 2018-09-06
    Bergmann Hugo. Probleme des Existenzbegriffes. Theoria , Bd. 16 , S. 21–35.Jan Berg - 1971 - Journal of Symbolic Logic 36 (4):672-673.
  25. added 2018-09-06
    Probleme des Existenzbegriffes.Hugo Bergmann - 1950 - Theoria 16 (1):21-35.
  26. added 2018-09-04
    Vague Existence.Alessandro Torza - 2017 - Oxford Studies in Metaphysics 10.
    Ted Sider has famously argued that existence, in the unrestricted sense of ontology, cannot be vague, as long as vagueness is modeled by means of precisifications. The first section of Chapter 9 exposes some controversial assumptions underlying Sider’s alleged reductio of vague existence. The upshot of the discussion is that, although existence cannot be vague, it can be super-vague, i.e. higher-order vague, for all orders. The second section develops and defends a novel framework, dubbed negative supervaluationary semantics, which makes room (...)
  27. added 2018-08-19
    Ontological Commitment and Quantifiers.T. Parent - manuscript
    This is a slightly opinionated review of three main factions in metaontology: Quineans, Carnapians, and Meinongians. Emphasis is given to the last camp, as the metaontological aspect of Meinongianism has been underappreciated. The final section then offers some general remarks about the legitimacy of ontology, touching on ideas I have developed in other publications.
  28. added 2018-08-07
    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 (...)
  29. added 2018-08-05
    The Bohr and Einstein Debate - Copenhagen Interpretation Challenged.Rochelle Marianne Forrester - unknown
    The Bohr Einstein debate on the meaning of quantum physics involved Einstein inventing a series of thought experiments to challenge the Copenhagen Interpretation of quantum physics. Einstein disliked many aspects of the Copenhagen Interpretation especially its idea of an observer dependent universe. Bohr was able to answer all Einstein’s objections to the Copenhagen Interpretation and so is usually considered as winning the debate. However the debate has continued into the present time as many scientists have been unable to accept the (...)
  30. added 2018-07-20
    On the Plausibility of Idealism: Refuting Criticisms.Bernardo Kastrup - 2017 - Disputatio 9 (44):13-34.
    Several alternatives vie today for recognition as the most plausible ontology, from physicalism to panpsychism. By and large, these ontologies entail that physical structures circumscribe consciousness by bearing phenomenal properties within their physical boundaries. The ontology of idealism, on the other hand, entails that all physical structures are circumscribed by consciousness in that they exist solely as phenomenality in the first place. Unlike the other alternatives, however, idealism is often considered implausible today, particularly by analytic philosophers. A reason for this (...)
  31. added 2018-07-20
    An Ontological Solution to the Mind-Body Problem.Bernardo Kastrup - 2017 - Philosophies 2 (2):doi:10.3390/philosophies2020010.
    I argue for an idealist ontology consistent with empirical observations, which seeks to explain the facts of nature more parsimoniously than physicalism and bottom-up panpsychism. This ontology also attempts to offer more explanatory power than both physicalism and bottom-up panpsychism, in that it does not fall prey to either the ‘hard problem of consciousness’ or the ‘subject combination problem’, respectively. It can be summarized as follows: spatially unbound consciousness is posited to be nature’s sole ontological primitive. We, as well as (...)
  32. added 2018-07-14
    Explanation and Individual Essence.Márta Ujvári - 2017 - European Journal of Analytic Philosophy 13 (2):23-42.
    In this paper I show that a novel ontic reading of explanation, intending to capture the de re essential features of individuals, can support the qualitative view of individual essences. It is argued further that the putative harmful consequences of the Leibniz Principle (PII) and its converse for the qualitative view can be avoided, provided that individual essences are not construed in the style of the naïve bundle theory with set-theoretical identity- conditions. Adopting either the more sophisticated two-tier BT or, (...)
  33. added 2018-06-30
    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 (...)
  34. added 2018-06-27
    Routledge Handbook of Metametaphysics.Bliss Ricki Leigh & James Miller (eds.) - forthcoming - Routledge.
  35. added 2018-06-25
    Singularitățile ca limite ontologice ale relativității generale.Nicolae Sfetcu - manuscript
    Singularitățile la care se ajunge în relativitatea generală prin rezolvarea ecuațiilor lui Einstein au fost și încă mai sunt subiectul a numeroase dezbateri științifice: Există sau nu, singularități? Big Bang a fost o singularitate inițială? Dacă singularitățile există, care este ontologia acestora? Este teoria generală a relativității o teorie care și-a arătat limitele în acest caz? În acest eseu argumentez faptul că există singularități, iar teoria generală a relativității, ca de altfel oricare altă teorie științifică din prezent, nu este valabilă (...)
  36. added 2018-06-16
    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, (...)
  37. added 2018-06-16
    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 (...)
  38. added 2018-06-13
    Why is There Something Rather Than Nothing? A Probabilistic Answer Examined.Gonzalo Rodriguez-Pereyra - 2018 - Philosophy 93 (4):505-521.
    Peter van Inwagen has given an answer to the question ‘Why is there something rather than nothing?’. His answer is: Because there being nothing is as improbable as anything can be: it has probability 0. Here I shall examine his argument for this answer and I shall argue that it does not work because no good reasons have been given for two of the argument’s premises and that the conclusion of the argument does not constitute an answer to the question (...)
  39. added 2018-06-11
    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 (...)
  40. added 2018-06-10
    The Coherence of Aquinas's Account of Divine Simplicity.David Kovacs - 2018 - Dissertation,
    Divine simplicity is central to Thomas Aquinas’s philosophy of God. Most important for Aquinas is his view that God’s existence (esse) is identical to God’s essence; for everything other than God, there is a distinction between existence and essence. However, recent developments in analytic philosophy about the nature of existence threaten to undermine what Aquinas thought regarding divine simplicity. In the first chapter of this dissertation, I trace Aquinas’s thinking on divine simplicity through the various texts he wrote regarding the (...)
  41. added 2018-06-08
    A Critique of Metaphysical Thinking.T. Parent - manuscript
    This is a rough draft of the front matter and ch. 1, for a new book manuscript on metametaphysics.
  42. added 2018-05-31
    Diagnose van de Moderne Filosoof: Waarom filosofen gek zijn.Nicole Des Bouvrie - 2018 - Eindhoven: Damon.
    Zijn filosofen gek? Zo ja, waarom? En ligt dat dan aan de filosoof, aan de filosofie of aan de diagnostiek? Dat zijn de vragen die in 'Diagnose van de moderne filosoof' centraal staan. Nicole des Bouvrie neemt aan de hand van het diagnostische handboek van psychiaters en psychologen (de DSM-V) de situatie van de hedendaagse denker onder de loep. Autisme, psychoses, anorexia en andere aandoeningen passeren de revue, om aan de hand van een grondige anamnese van hedendaagse denkbeelden uit de (...)
  43. added 2018-05-26
    The Universe in Consciousness.Bernardo Kastrup - 2018 - Journal of Consciousness Studies 25 (5-6):125-155.
    I propose an idealist ontology that makes sense of reality in a more parsimonious and empirically rigorous manner than mainstream physicalism, bottom-up panpsychism, and cosmopsychism. The proposed ontology also offers more explanatory power than these three alternatives, in that it does not fall prey to the hard problem of consciousness, the combination problem, or the decombination problem, respectively. It can be summarized as follows: there is only cosmic consciousness. We, as well as all other living organisms, are but dissociated alters (...)
  44. added 2018-05-15
    Each Thing Is Fundamental: Against Hylomorphism and Hierarchical Structure.M. Oreste Fiocco - forthcoming - American Philosophical Quarterly.
    Each thing is fundamental. Not only is no thing any more or less real than any other, but no thing is prior to another in any robust ontological sense. Thus, no thing can explain the very existence of another, nor account for how another is what it is. I reach this surprising conclusion by undermining two important positions in contemporary metaphysics: hylomorphism and hierarchical views employing so-called building relations, such as grounding. The paper has three main parts. First, I observe (...)
  45. added 2018-05-14
    Ciało/Mistyka. Wstęp do ontologii cielesności (English title: Body / Mysticism. An introduction into corporeal ontology).Anton Marczyński - 2016 - Krakow: Homini.
    This book presents a phenomenological and hermeneutical research, where the body is taken both as fundamental ontological situation of human, as well as a language phenomenon, appearing in the dialectical tension between two Greeks notions – soma and sarx. The first of them is a becoming, hypostasizing entity, which in Aristotelian terms can be called dynamis (potentiality), while the second one, since it is a hypostasis, can be called energia (actuality). So the difference between them, using Heidegger’s terms, can be (...)
  46. added 2018-05-13
    Meta-Metaphysics.Tuomas Tahko - 2018 - Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy.
    Meta-metaphysics concerns the nature and methodology of metaphysics and metaphysical inquiry. The emergence of meta-metaphysics as a systematic area of study is relatively recent, going back to the late 1990s. But the issues pursued in meta-metaphysics are certainly not novel: an age old question about the nature of metaphysics is whether it is possible to obtain knowledge about metaphysical matters in the first place, and if it is, how this knowledge is obtained.
  47. added 2018-05-02
    Which Essence Is Brought Into Being by the Existential Act?Thomas M. Osborne - 2017 - The Thomist 81 (4):471-505.
    I argue that the essence that is actualized by existence is the essence that is a determinate nature in an individual and not the essence absolutely considered. This essence in individuals has a potential being that is actualized by existence. This thesis has important consequences for the essence/existence distinction in Thomas Aquinas.
  48. added 2018-04-24
    Time in the Ontology of Cornelius Castoriadis.Alexandros Schismenos - 2018 - SOCRATES 5 (3 & 4):64-81.
    We can locate the problematic of time within three philosophical questions, which respectively designate three central areas of philosophical reflection and contemplation. These are: 1) The ontological question, i.e. 'what is being?' 2) The epistemological question, i.e. 'what can we know with certainty?' 3) The existential question, i.e. 'what is the meaning of existence?' These three questions, which are philosophical, but also scientific and political, as they underline the political and moral question of truth and justice, arise from the phenomenon (...)
  49. added 2018-04-08
    The Next Paradigm.Bernardo Kastrup - 2018 - Future Human Image 9:41-51.
    In order to perceive the world, we need more than just raw sensory input: a subliminal paradigm of thought is required to interpret raw sensory data and, thereby, create the objects and events we perceive around ourselves. As such, the world we see reflects our own unexamined, culture-bound assumptions and expectations, which explains why every generation in history has believed that it more or less understood the world. Today, we perceive a world of objects and events outside and independent of (...)
  50. added 2018-04-03
    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 (...)
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