Empirical Philosophy II: The Vengeance

All right, let’s try this again.

Everyone: this thread will hopefully be devoted to the examination of two basic questions:

  1. What do you mean when you say something exists? What does the term “existence” signify?

  2. What do you mean when you say something is possible? What does the term “possibility” signify?

Relying on meanings unavailable to examination, clarification, and logical verification is not acceptable.

Who wants to be first?

Okay, I’ll go first (unless someone posts while I’m typing :slight_smile: ).

Existence: a relationship between two mutually-interacting things. Something can be said to exist relative to something else if it interacts with that thing. A single thing cannot be said to exist independently.

Possible: being part of a model that inaccurately or incompletely simulates a larger system.

I’ll throw one in for free: True: a statement whose meaning matches a set of relationships in a wider reality.

Since, at some point, every such explanation will have to get to first principles–i.e. axiomatic, logically unjustifed statements–then this requirement is putting the us at a bit of a disadvantage here.

Now here’s my conception of truth, which ought to answer both questions:

I consider it to be analytically true that I exist and perceive, and that I do so, at some very minimal level, independent of anything else. I can’t prove this to be true; I hold it axiomatically.

Since there is an I that perceives, there is an I that has a certain impact on the perception of the things that it perceives. (That is to say that I am not a blank slate; the things that I perceive are contingent at least to a minimal extent on me, since I am doing the perceiving.)

Since the perceiving thing has an impact on the things it perceives, its perception has a very uncertain connection to any posited reality. Reality may be out there, or it may not. It may have certain characteristics that I perceive it to have, or it may not.

In order to escape from this uncertainty–something that would be paralysis if you were to worry about it all the time–my conception of truth (and, therefore, of existence and of possibility) is as follows: I say that something exists if there is an overwhelming probability that it does. I consider this overwhelming probability to be the case on the basis of my perception, and of my experience of perception (memory). For instance, I consider it to be overwhelmingly probable that I am typing at my keyboard at this very instant. It is so probable that I don’t even bother, the vast majority of the time, to worry about it.

Anything is literally possible, but some things are probably not going to happen–thus the dividing line between possibility and existence. It is entirely possible that the computer monitor in front of me doesn’t actually exist. It is overwhelmingly probable that it doesn’t.

Herein lies science, which doesn’t make statements about truth, but rather about overwhelming probability.


Descartes: “I think, therefore I am”. Notice any similarities?


Ergo the Ball of Wax conundrum. Where a simple clump of wax looks like wax, tastes like wax, is hard, and when knocked upon makes noise…So it is wax…

Place said wax in front of the hearth whilst there is a nice fire prevailing, and watch what happens, it becomes liquid, it no longer looks feels, tastes or acts like it previously did…
What do your perceptions tell YOU?


Maybe if you change your criteria to fit discussion in a virtual realm, answers may begin to tickle your cerebrum. Same as if speaking to someone with your eyes closed.
And relying on Sartre to tell you it is all simply just a dream will not suffice either.

I like this thread

Yes. I think this is (more or less) the philosophy that Descartes was trying to espouse, if I can claim that without sounding utterly deranged and/or conceited.

The problem with Descartes’ idea is that he provides no reason for us to conclude that one can’t think if one doesn’t exist. Quite seriously, why would we think this is the case? Why can’t a non-existent thing think?

To answer the question, we need to be able to explain what we mean by “being”/“existing” and “thinking”.

I can imagine things that, although they interact with each other, do not interact with me or anything that interacts with me (more precisely, that don’t interact with my imagined-self and the things that interact with that. Technically speaking, those things interact with me since I’m imagining them, after all).

These things are “real”, they “exist”, to each other. They aren’t real and don’t exist to me.

This seems like an excellent definition of “existence” to me, as it seems to fit what people mean by the term.

Thoughts, anyone?

Who else wants to explain what “existence” and “possibility” means?

*Originally posted by The Vorlon Ambassador’s Aide *

To me, I think Descartes’s cogito ergo sum - thinking = existence - was a way to ground his philosphical believe system, but only from the perspective of human existence. I don’t think it really gets to the heart of defining “existence” in itself (or for itself). There are beings and then there is Being (Dasien, for you Heidegger fans).

And I would argue that the perspective of humanity is all we really need to worry about.

If something isn’t part of our “universe”, then it doesn’t exist to us. Period. That’s all, folks.

Subject: I.
Conclusion: I.

Subject: existence
Definition: existence.

…that exist? Or is there no such thing as “a thing”?

**erislover[/e] I am inclined to be more of your school of thought on this.

However, Vorlon a quick question here. How much of Descartes have you actually read. If you read his appendices La Géométrie, La Dioptrique, and Les Météores. Then you wouldn’t have said:

You mention quite seriously why would we think this is the case, and why can’t a non-existent thing think?.. If you are asking because of pure philosophical speculation then I can discuss it with you. If you are wondering seriously I’d ask you to pick up Descartes again re-read his theologic and come back and chat…Do not forget we are discussing a point in time when GOD still played an important role in peoples lives and Descartes was profoundly influenced by theology and the idea of GOD.

What thing? I see an interaction.

Ok. Does an interaction exist?

Interactions don’t exist. They’re just there.

That depends on the context:

  1. The sense in which God said, “I am; that is who I am” — [symbol]$[/symbol]x: (x=x) [“am” = “exist”, nominative]

  2. The sense in which Jesus said, “I and my father are one” — [symbol]"[/symbol]x[symbol]$[/symbol]y: (x=y) [“are” = “identified as”, equivalence]

  3. The sense in which Jesus said, “I am the good shepherd” — [symbol]"[/symbol]x[symbol]$[/symbol]y: (x->y) [“am” = “exist as”, predicative]

Possible means not necessarily not.

No cheating.

Relying on meanings unavailable to examination, clarification, and logical verification is not acceptable.

I don’t know how I would examine an “interaction.” Are you arguing that there are no “things” and that all those things that we think exist only do so as a virtue of their interaction with other…mmm…interactions? I don’t see how we can say that only interactions exist. With no “stuff” extant how would we notice the interactions?

Examining would be an interaction.

A “thing” would just be a set of interactions between a set of interactions. Or more; it depends.

Noticing would be an interaction as well.

What are interactions? I admit, I really don’t know. I do know that I can conceptually reduce concepts like “existence”, “stuff”, “reality”, and so on, to basic interactions.

Originally posted by **The Vorlon Ambassador’s Aide **

popsted by erislover

Descartes, “I think, therefore I am” presupposes consciousness. The interaction appears to be is >consciousness< and >thinking<.
But since consciousness cannot be said to be a thing, percept or idea, there is only one perceived thing; that which is aware of this one thing (thinking) cannot be said to be interacting.

** Ulterior**

Are you taking things for granted?

If you are sitting at the keyboard observing the screen and observing yourself thinking, who’s observing the observer? If this “ I ‘ is the observer where is it?

You can reduce all of the stuff in the universe to interaction, but should you? I can reduce the truck that is bearing down on me into a set of simples that are interacting in a trucklike manner. That doesn’t mean that I really ought to do that.

Why are “interactions” better than “stuff?”

as to the OP….

** What do you mean when you say something exists? What does the term “existence” signify?**
That which is a content to awareness exists.

Only problem is, awareness cannot become a content to itself so according to the above consciousness doesn’t exist.

That’s why Buddhism and/or nondualism say that the ground of existence is emptiness.

** What do you mean when you say something is possible? What does the term “possibility” signify?**

That which can become a content to awareness.


Thank you, Fichte…

Any problems with the “two” observers being the same agent? Why can’t I observe myself?