What properties does something have to have in order for it to exist?

The other day I was chatting with a friend of mine. The subject went to religion when I told Him:

“I’m an Athiest.”

“You mean you don’t think God exist?”

To which I responded:

“Well, define exist. Do you mean as in that fictional dude in the Bible? Well, then yeah, sure, I think he exist” [evil grins]

Ok, I admit I was being a little snarky. But hey, he’s my friend and that’s what we do.

Anyway, I got me to thinking: If there is a God what would he be made of? Would he be composed of atoms like me? Would he be composed of pure energy? What type of energy would it be. And how the hell could it be sentient?

What about ideas? If I imagine a green poka dotted monster; does he exist in some way?

for those of you wondering. No I’m not under the infuence of any kind of drug. :wink:

Welcome to ontology, SHAKES.

I am a physicalist, and so ontology holds little interest to me. I consider the God exists only as a “combination of memories” (memories themselves being physical), rather like Darth Vader holding a watering can. So, God is effectively made of photons and phonons just like a Photoshopped image associated with a sound file (ie. the linguistic sound “G-o-d”).

Not to be snarky, but all it needs is a name. Until that moment, it doesn’t exist. Maybe “it” takes up space, has an odor, reflects light, makes a sound, causes a sensation, permits a description, or otherwise allows human beings to discuss it as if it does exist. But it needs a name before it properly exists. Once it has a name it exists.


The Null Set
The Universe

That makes no sense, Zeldar. You saying nothing existed until we (or other critters with an affiinity for sticking names on things) named them?

SHAKES, I think the term you need to explore is not “exist”, but rather “thing”. Reflexivity exists. So does forgetfulness. But each of these is an abstract quality, and you might not consider either of them to be a “thing”.

Why would God need to be made of anything? Reflexivity isn’t made of anything. Why would God need to be composed of either atoms or pure energy? Forgetfulness is composed of neither.

Sentient is a different bag of worms. Most theistic people conceptualize God as sentient. I myself think that is rather silly. (There’s an unspoken, unexamine assumption there that to be other than sentient is to be less than sentient. But most of what we mean when we say ‘sentient’ has to do with conscious processing of new input data over time: making new observations on Monday morning, mulling them over in between thinking of other things on Monday afternoon, reaching a decision or conclusion before Tuesday morning. Or perhaps developing a sense of self and a personal code of acceptable conduct over the course of a couple decades. Or reacting emotionally and cognitively in the split-second of watching an event occur. These are all things that are pertinent to an individual that experiences the passage of time. But if time itself is an aspect of this alleged “God” — if the passage of time is “God happening to everything else” —and if God is eternal —then it’s just as babytalkish to think of God processing information and considering feelings and reaching a conclusion on Tuesday the 19th of July in the Year of Our Terrestrial Lord 2005 in the Recent Epoch of the Cenozoic Era, or indeed to have any different thought or attitude or feelings than God had or will have at some other time, as to think of God as a bearded elderly male living above us in the sky on a throne surrounded by winged angels).

Switching from theology to ontology: SentientMeat may be a physicalist, but I am not, and I do not recommend that anyone be. The notion that everything is composed of particles (“things”) is contrary to what we know of physics. Materialism (a noun-centric view of reality) is essentially 18th Century thinking. The real action, so to speak, is interaction. Every “thing” is a dance of forces interacting.

Wherever interaction and relationship takes place, it has meaning, can manifest as a “thing”, an observable, a something that can be named.

Agreed, if you narrowly define “particles” to exclude wave-photons, Higgs bosons, messenger gravitons, strings, branes or whatever the “ultimate fundamental” turns out being, and similarly arbitrarily exclude the spacetime thich these particles comprise. This is why “materialism” is indeed rather an old fashoined name for physicalism, which recognises that the configuration of spacetime (and whatever, ultimately, “is in it” or “it is” depending on how you look at it) is what differentiates stuff from other stuff, be that a spatial object, a temporal process, or a spatio-temporal object-process like a switched on computer (which may, like us, be carbon-based unlike the silicon one under your desk).

Baltic or Mediterranean Avenue, at minimum.

So we’re just talking about the same thing using different terminologies when you speak of physicalism and I speak of interactions / relationships?

Just like the smallest even prime number greater than 2?

I suspect so. Temporal processes still supervene on the physical in that there is nothing “unphysical” about the storm compared to the cloud, or the melting compared to the ice cube, or the Doom 3 compared to the X Box. There is no reason why we should consider spatial arrangements of fundamental particles (“things”) as physical but temporal arrangements of those particles (“processes/interactions/whatever”) as not. Like I said, they’re all configurations of spacetime, not just space.

(Even “forgetfulness” can be included in this way, as one might describe the periodic destruction of files in computer RAM as being above a particular statistical threshold, ie. 2% output correlation failure = “forgetful”, 1.8% failure = “mildly scatterbrained” etc.)

Or the square root of -4?

What I’m saying is that “nothing” as a concept to discuss and have thoughts about didn’t exist until it had a name. As soon as “zero” became a named concept it was all the rage and number systems flourished.

It would be foolish to deny that a physical entity that actually does “take up space” does in fact “exist.” But until it has a name (or at least a descriptive aspect such as the “skin between the eyelid and the eyebrow”) it may as well not exist since it doesn’t have a way to be thought about.

It reminds me of that old thing about how some famous guy (Tolstoy I think) and his brother had a club that to become a member of it you had to be able to stand in the corner for half an hour and not think about a white bear. Try that!

When it comes to non-physical things that don’t take up space, they must have names before you can think about them or discuss them. My list was a shot at identifying such things.

If you specify the real square root of -4, you’re in the same vein. Otherwise, you’re describing something that does exist.

Don’t be fooled by the term imaginary–C has the same ontological status as R.

You’re going to have to read some Aquinas. Here’s something to get you started.

It is generally understood in philosophical circles these days, however, that existence is not a property of an entity. That is, it would be absurd to say that an entity has properties A, B, and C but not existence, wouldn’t it?

IMV, there is no monotheistic “God.” Reality as we know it is the result of fundamental and unalterable principles of pattern (logic, mathematics, etc.).

Exactly! Even though a mathematician might challenge the existence of such a quantity, by providing an instance of it (in words) you have caused it to exist in the sense that it can be discussed.

I suspect the issue of “God” is that sort of thing.

That status of not physically existing and being linguistic abstractions? :slight_smile:

Or the status of actually existing. That was the big issue in the philosophy of mathematics for at least the first half of the 20th century, and it’s not entirely fair to say it’s been resolved.

What instance? All I’ve done is put together a string of words that don’t point at anything. Nothing exists if its existence requires the negation of a logically necessary statement.

If you don’t like that example, how about the current (as of this posting) king of France?


I suppose we need a definition of “is”


The question is vague. What sort of existence do you mean?

As far as my personal philosophy goes, there would have to be a house also.


Discuss, yes. Think about, no.

In order to give something a name, you have to conceptualize its nameless thing (perhaps with the aid of a huge plethora of descriptive nouns and verbs applicable to various aspects of it; perhaps with the aid of nonverbal mental representations, such as images or diagrams or sounds; perhaps with a combo of all of these).

If you could not think about “surreptitiousness” or “informality” until you had a name for them, you’d never have a name for them.

There was something in my life that I thought about from time to time, and did so for many years without giving it a name to call it within my head (and I did not discuss it with anyone), and only at a later point decided that my “______” was that which others had given names to, such as “God”.