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Why Existence is not a Predicate


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#1 BaalChatzaf

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Posted 01 October 2011 - 02:11 PM

Suppose Existence were a predicate. Due to type limitations I am going to use the lower case e as the predicate. Read e(x) as x exists. Now there is also the -quantifier- There Exists which I will render as capital E. So ExP(x) means for some x P(x) is true. Or putting it another way I can find a constant a such that when I substitute a for x in P(x) it make P(x) true. That is P(a) is true.

O.K. Now ask your self is it reasonable to assume there does not exist an x such that e(x) is false? Put it another way. Does there exist something which does not satisfy the predicate -existence- (our predicate e). I would be inclined to say no. Hence -Ex -e(x) which is to say there does not exist an x such that e(x) is false. In predicate logic this is equivalent to (x)e(x) where the leading (x) is the universal quantifier, for all. This very reasonable assumption is equivalent to saying every thing x exists or all things exist.

Do you believe that. I don't not for a minute.

And that is why existence is not a predicate. It leads to the previous absurdity.

Ba'al Chatzaf
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#2 George H. Smith

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Posted 01 October 2011 - 05:42 PM

As far as I know, the first philosopher to argue that existence is not a predicate (to use the modern terminology) was Aristotle, in his Posterior Analytics. He managed to explain the point without the logical symbols.

I mention this because, given your reference to "predicate logic," you appear to think you were rebutting Aristotle.

Ghs

#3 BaalChatzaf

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Posted 01 October 2011 - 06:10 PM

As far as I know, the first philosopher to argue that existence is not a predicate (to use the modern terminology) was Aristotle, in his Posterior Analytics. He managed to explain the point without the logical symbols.

I mention this because, given your reference to "predicate logic," you appear to think you were rebutting Aristotle.

Ghs


I was not rebutting anyone. I was explaining in some detail why existence is not a predicate.

Ba'al Chatzaf
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#4 George H. Smith

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Posted 01 October 2011 - 06:13 PM


As far as I know, the first philosopher to argue that existence is not a predicate (to use the modern terminology) was Aristotle, in his Posterior Analytics. He managed to explain the point without the logical symbols.

I mention this because, given your reference to "predicate logic," you appear to think you were rebutting Aristotle.

Ghs


I was not rebutting anyone. I was explaining in some detail why existence is not a predicate.

Ba'al Chatzaf


Okay. So whoever said that existence is a predicate?

Ghs

#5 BaalChatzaf

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Posted 01 October 2011 - 07:56 PM



As far as I know, the first philosopher to argue that existence is not a predicate (to use the modern terminology) was Aristotle, in his Posterior Analytics. He managed to explain the point without the logical symbols.

I mention this because, given your reference to "predicate logic," you appear to think you were rebutting Aristotle.

Ghs


I was not rebutting anyone. I was explaining in some detail why existence is not a predicate.

Ba'al Chatzaf


Okay. So whoever said that existence is a predicate?

Ghs


Ayn Rand. She said existence exists. So existence has the property or predicate that it exists.

Ba'al Chatzaf
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#6 George H. Smith

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Posted 01 October 2011 - 08:10 PM

As far as I know, the first philosopher to argue that existence is not a predicate (to use the modern terminology) was Aristotle, in his Posterior Analytics. He managed to explain the point without the logical symbols. I mention this because, given your reference to "predicate logic," you appear to think you were rebutting Aristotle. Ghs

I was not rebutting anyone. I was explaining in some detail why existence is not a predicate. Ba'al Chatzaf

Okay. So whoever said that existence is a predicate? Ghs

Ayn Rand. She said existence exists. So existence has the property or predicate that it exists. Ba'al Chatzaf


This is not what Rand meant at all; she was not predicating existence of existence, as if existence were a property. Rather, as she explains in ITOE, "existence exists" is a tautological proposition -- the only way to express the axiomatic concept "existence" in propositional form. I think she refers to "Existence exists" as a "reminder" of the axiomatic concept, "existence," that it signifies. It is the axiomatic concept that is key to Rand's epistemology, not the tautology.

A grammatical predicate is not the same thing as a metaphysical predicate. In the tautology "Red is red," the second "red" is a grammatical predicate. But it is not a metaphysical predicate. This tautology does not make the metaphysical claim that "red" is somehow a property of "red." The same goes for "Existence exists," as used by Rand.

Ghs

#7 Brant Gaede

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Posted 01 October 2011 - 08:48 PM

As far as I know, the first philosopher to argue that existence is not a predicate (to use the modern terminology) was Aristotle, in his Posterior Analytics. He managed to explain the point without the logical symbols. I mention this because, given your reference to "predicate logic," you appear to think you were rebutting Aristotle. Ghs

I was not rebutting anyone. I was explaining in some detail why existence is not a predicate. Ba'al Chatzaf

Okay. So whoever said that existence is a predicate? Ghs

Ayn Rand. She said existence exists. So existence has the property or predicate that it exists. Ba'al Chatzaf


This is not what Rand meant at all; she was not predicating existence of existence, as if existence were a property. Rather, as she explains in ITOE, "existence exists" is a tautological proposition -- the only way to express the axiomatic concept "existence" in propositional form. I think she refers to "Existence exists" as a "reminder" of the axiomatic concept, "existence," that it signifies. It is the axiomatic concept that is key to Rand's epistemology, not the tautology.

A grammatical predicate is not the same thing as a metaphysical predicate. In the tautology "Red is red," the second "red" is a grammatical predicate. But it is not a metaphysical predicate. This tautology does not make the metaphysical claim that "red" is somehow a property of "red." The same goes for "Existence exists," as used by Rand.

Ghs

I had a gut feeling that this was why he started this thread. Bob's just anti-philosophy and he tries to go through Rand to get at the necessity and utility of philosophical thought. Rand as the whipping boy of philosophy--for him.

--Brant
take that you brat!!

Rational Individualist, Rational self-interest, Individual Rights--limited government libertarian heavily influenced by Objectivism


#8 Roger Bissell

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Posted 01 October 2011 - 10:59 PM

[Preview of this post: Ba'al might as well have titled the thread "Why Incompetence is not a Predicate." Except then, some people might have caught on that he was about to recycle a very old gimmick on them.]

What Aristotle and Aquinas said about predicating existence was VASTLY different than what Hume/Kant and the moderns said about it. The A's were merely pointing out that you can't say: "Plato is existence," in the same way that you can say, "Plato is bald." Plato can't be either baldness or existence, but he ~can~ be a ~thing~ that is bald and he ~can~ be a ~thing~ that is existent.

So, Plato ~can~ be a bald person, and Plato ~can~ be an existent person (instead of a fictive person like Hercules or a no-longer-existent person like Thales, etc.). I.e., you ~can~ say: "Plato is existent," which means: "Plato is an existent person," or: "...existent entity," or whatever.

We might be more comfortable saying something like: "Plato is a person who exists," or: "...really exists," etc., but the point is that existence ~can~ be predicated just as ~baldness~ can, so long as you are predicating a Plato's ~being~ existent or ~being~ bald. You just can't say that Plato ~is~ existence, any more than you can say that he is baldness. Only that: "Plato is an existent," and "Plato is a baldy."

Kant was an entirely different kettle of fish--and a very rank, smelly one at that. Kant's point (echoing Hume) was that once you have formed the idea of, say, "Barack Obama," saying that "Barack Obama exists" does not "add anything" to the idea you have formed. (This is the straight dope from IK's Critique of Pure Reason.)

In other words, since you already know Barack Obama exists, ~saying~ that he does adds nothing to your knowledge. Well, duh. But that's not the point of propositions anyway. They're not to ~add to~ your knowledge, but to ~state~ your knowledge. And you state your knowledge about a thing by ~predicating~ something of that thing, by stating that that thing ~is~ something. (The Law of Identity, a thing is what it is, it is something rather than nothing in particular.)

You just have to be careful what you say that the thing is. You don't say that an individual is a universal. You say that an individual is ~characterized by~ that universal -- or that an individual is ~a thing~ characterized by that universal. Not "Aristotle is mortality," but "Aristotle is mortal," or "Aristotle is a mortal being." The same goes for each of the units subsumed by a subject concept. Not "man is rationality," but "man is rational," or "man is a rational animal."

That is why "S is P" form is essential to sorting out this ancient problem. If you say "Barack Obama exists," that is like saying "Barack Obama sucks" (as a President). Guess what--you're not "adding to" your knowledge by saying he ~sucks~ any more than saying he ~exists~. So, I'll be damned--"sucking" isn't a predicate either! Hmmmm...something wrong here. I wonder if Kant noticed that little problem with his "logic." It rules out ~all~ predication! (This is a reductio ad absurdum, for those who haven't already noticed.)

Instead, to properly analyze this issue, rewrite the statement: "Barack Obama is a (Presidentially) sucking person." Or: "...a person who sucks as a President." That is how you unambiguously predicate sucking (as a President) of Obama. If it helps with the parallel below, think of it as: "Barack Obama is a person who functions incompetently as a President."

Similarly, rewrite "Barack Obama exists" as: "Barack Obama is a (really) existing person." Or: "...a person who (really) exists." (This is in contradistinction to persons who exist only fictively or in the past, etc.) Stating that Barack Obama exists, or Barack Obama is a real existent, a real thing that exists, is how you predicate existence of him. You don't say that he ~is~ existence. You say that he is ~an existent~. That he is a thing that exists.

Now, you can't say Barack Obama ~is~ incompetence, any more than you can say he is ~existence~. BUT, if you say he is an incompetent or an incompetent person -- then surely you can also say that he is an existent or an existent person. Any and all of these are legitimate ways of predicating incompetence and existence of Barack Obama, as long as you don't say that he ~is~ incompetence or existence.

Really, the problem with trying to predicate existence ~or~ incompetence ~literally~ is that you are committing a category error. And in stating a proposition, that is absolutely the ~last~ thing you want to do. Since a categorical proposition is a restatement in specific form of the Law of Identity, you want your statement to be equivalent to: "A thing is itself." You want the subject and predicate to both refer to the same thing in reality, because a thing ~is~ itself -- and you want the subject and predicate to be in the same ontological category, because a thing is ~itself~.

So, saying "Barack Obama is an incompetent President" fits that pattern. The subject and predicate are referring to the same thing in reality. (Assuming that he is incompetent and not simply malevolent-and-trying-to-appear-incompetent.) The subject and predicate are both in the same category: entity. (Even saying: "Barack Obama is incompetent" is close enough, as long as you take "incompetent" to mean "an incompetent person." It's implicit, anyway, since being incompetent does not exist apart from someone who is incompetent.)

So, saying "Barack Obama is incompetence" is a category error, just as "Barack Obama is existence" is a category error. However, saying "Barack Obama is an incompetent" or "...an existent" is NOT a category error.

And that's the bottom line about predication. To avoid violating the Law of Identity, you have to avoid category errors in propositional form, which means your predications have to be in the same ontological category as the subject. If you do that, it avoids a ~multitude~ of sins, including bizarre mental gymnastics in trying to deal with propositions about non-existent subjects.

So that, boys and girls, is why existence ~is~ a predicate, just as ~incompetence~ is a predicate, SO LONG AS YOU DON'T TRY TO PREDICATE EITHER OF THEM LITERALLY.

REB

P.S. -- Brant, buddy, bless your heart. You tried to tell them.

P.P.S. -- If you reflect on what Kant is trying to pull on us (i.e., those of us who care about logic as a tool of reason and of grasping facts of reality, instead of just a form of mental pud-pulling), it is amazing that his gimmick wasn't exposed long ago. Think about it: if your statement says anything that you already know about the subject, then that disqualifies it as a predicate, and you are adding nothing to your knowledge. Only if what you say about the subject is something you ~don't~ already know does it add to your knowledge and qualify as a predicate. So, as Kant would say: not only isn't existence a predicate, but neither is incompetence a predicate. (Hence, my suggestion of an alternate title for Ba'al's thread.) I'm sure Kant's spiritual great-grandchild, Barack Hussein Obama, is breathing easier tonight, just to know that.
Objectivism, properly used, is a tool for living, not a weapon with which to bash those one disagrees with.

#9 Roger Bissell

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Posted 01 October 2011 - 11:37 PM

As far as I know, the first philosopher to argue that existence is not a predicate (to use the modern terminology) was Aristotle, in his Posterior Analytics. He managed to explain the point without the logical symbols. I mention this because, given your reference to "predicate logic," you appear to think you were rebutting Aristotle. Ghs

I was not rebutting anyone. I was explaining in some detail why existence is not a predicate. Ba'al Chatzaf

Okay. So whoever said that existence is a predicate? Ghs

Ayn Rand. She said existence exists. So existence has the property or predicate that it exists. Ba'al Chatzaf


This is not what Rand meant at all; she was not predicating existence of existence, as if existence were a property.


Actually, George, I think she was. Refer to my previous post, where I discuss the legitimacy of predicating "existence" and "incompetence," so long as you don't do it ~literally~ (and why doing that is wrong). When you say that anything exists, you are saying that: "Something is a really existing thing," "...an existent."

So, as I read Rand, since she says "Existence" is a collective noun and means: the sum total of everything that exists, then her axiom "Existence exists" means: the entirety of everything that exists is a really existing totality. This fits the "Something exists" means: "Something is a really existing thing" pattern. "The entirety of everything that exists" is the something -- and "a really existing totality" is the really existing thing.

The problem is that Rand is using "existence" in ~two senses~. One is the collective noun, the "everything that exists" sense. But the other is the condition of being a real thing that exists. E.g., the existence of a tree is the characteristic of being a real thing that exists, just as the incompetence of Barack Obama is the characteristic of being a real person who sucks.

Now, you can't predicate ~in literal terms~ the characteristic of being some real thing that exists, any more than you can predicate in literal terms the characteristic of being some real person who sucks. You can't say a tree is existence, any more than you can say Obama is incompetence. But you CAN say a tree is an existent (entity), just as you can say that Obama is an incompetent (person). That way you are not committing the categorical error of predicating a part of a whole, viz., a universal (incompetence or existence) of some particular. (This is actually straight out of Thomas Aquinas, thanks to some very astute philosophical grave-digging done several decades ago by Prof. Henry B. Veatch. And where better to give him this tip of the hat than right here in Henry Veatch Corner!)

The tree and the existent (entity) that it is are the same particular thing in reality, and Obama and the incompetent (person) that he is are the same particular thing in reality. Again, it's just cleaving to the Law of Identity as the template for categorical propositions--which must be used with axioms, if you don't want them to end up sounding like quasi-mystical, Heideggerian gobbledygook.

REB
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#10 George H. Smith

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Posted 01 October 2011 - 11:55 PM

What Aristotle and Aquinas said about predicating existence was VASTLY different than what Hume/Kant and the moderns said about it. The A's were merely pointing out that you can't say: "Plato is existence," in the same way that you can say, "Plato is bald." Plato can't be either baldness or existence, but he ~can~ be a ~thing~ that is bald and he ~can~ be a ~thing~ that is existent. So, Plato ~can~ be a bald person, and Plato ~can~ be an existent person (instead of a fictive person like Hercules or a no-longer-existent person like Thales, etc.). I.e., you ~can~ say: "Plato is existent," which means: "Plato is an existent person," or: "...existent entity," or whatever. We might be more comfortable saying something like: "Plato is a person who exists," or: "...really exists," etc., but the point is that existence ~can~ be predicated just as ~baldness~ can, so long as you are predicating a Plato's ~being~ existent or ~being~ bald. You just can't say that Plato ~is~ existence, any more than you can say that he is baldness. Only that: "Plato is an existent," and "Plato is a baldy." Kant was an entirely different kettle of fish--and a very rank, smelly one at that. Kant's point (echoing Hume) was that once you have formed the idea of, say, "Barack Obama," saying that "Barack Obama exists" does not "add anything" to the idea you have formed. (This is the straight dope from IK's Critique of Pure Reason.) In other words, since you already know Barack Obama exists, ~saying~ that he does adds nothing to your knowledge. Well, duh. But that's not the point of propositions anyway. They're not to ~add to~ your knowledge, but to ~state~ your knowledge. And you state your knowledge about a thing by ~predicating~ something of that thing, by stating that that thing ~is~ something. (The Law of Identity, a thing is what it is, it is something rather than nothing in particular.)....


I don't have the time to get into this complex subject now, but I don't agree with your interpretation of either Aristotle or Kant. I discuss the latter's argument in Chapter 9 of Why Atheism? ("Metaphysical Muddles: The Ontological Argument"), and I mention Aristotle's point at the beginning of this section:

"Existence is not a predicate" -- with these words Kant summarized his celebrated and definitive refutation of the Ontological Argument. Although Kant was more thorough than preceding critics, his basic point was by no means original. We find the germs of it, for instance, in Aristotle’s Posterior Analytics, where it is maintained that we cannot establish the existence of something through its definition. The existence of something must be otherwise proved, "unless indeed to be were its essence." But this latter is impossible: "being is not a genus, it is not the essence of anything."

According to Aristotle, the essence of a being is stated in its definition: to define something requires that we identify specific characteristics (differentia) that distinguish it from a broader class (genus) of existing beings. From this it follows that the essence of something cannot be existence per se, because "being" is not a genus. This is so because "genus" refers to a common characteristic (essence) that exists in some things but not in others, so to say that the essence of a being is existence would be to claim that a being is literally everything.

In other words, something must first exist before it can possess any attributes, essential or otherwise. The nonexistent has no characteristics whatever. To say that a being exists does not describe the nature of that being, but merely posits something with a nature that can be described. Or, as Kant would later put it, existence is not a predicate....



Ghs

#11 George H. Smith

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Posted 02 October 2011 - 12:07 AM

Roger,

Below is the rest of my discussion of Kant in Why Atheism? As you will see, my understanding of his position differs considerably from yours. (The earlier part of my chapter deals with pre-Kantian critiques of the Ontological Argument, such as those by Aquinas, Hobbes, Gassendi, etc.)



Immanuel Kant opens his critique of the Ontological Argument with a discussion of what it means to speak of an "absolutely necessary being." Before we set out to prove the existence of such a being, we should reflect on what we are talking about.

Of course, we can give a verbal definition of an absolutely necessary being (e.g., as something the nonexistence of which is impossible), but this does not tell us whether the idea itself is meaningful. Unfortunately, philosophers often substitute examples for explanations. Geometry is a favorite here. Since propositions like "A triangle has three angles" are necessarily true, they have been used to illustrate what is meant by an absolutely necessary being. But, as Kant points out, such examples pertain to judgments, not to things. This distinction is crucial, because an unconditionally necessary judgment does not require a similar necessity in that to which the judgment refers. For example, it is necessarily true that a triangle has three angles, because the predicate (three angles) is contained in the meaning of the subject (a triangle).We cannot conceive of a triangle without three angles, and if we conceive of a triangle, we must also conceive of three angles.

To say, however, that a triangle necessarily contains three angles is not to say that its three angles must necessarily exist. Rather, it is to say that three angles must necessarily exist only if we posit the existence of a triangle. This is the condition that must be fulfilled before we can affirm the necessary existence of three angles. In other words, if a triangle exists, then it logically follows that three angles must also exist -- but we are not logically compelled to affirm the existence of either.

In "A triangle has three angles"(which Kant calls an identical judgment), we cannot conceive of the subject while annihilating the predicate, because the latter necessarily belongs to the former. But I can suppress the thought of both subject and predicate without contradiction. To suppose that a triangle exists without three angles is a contradiction, and is therefore inconceivable; but to suppose that neither triangle nor its three angles exist involves no contradiction whatever, and is quite conceivable.

The same reasoning applies to an absolutely necessary being. We can annihilate the existence of this being in thought without contradiction, for we annihilate the thing itself along with its predicates, and thereby leave nothing to contradict. As Kant puts it:

"If, in an identical proposition, I reject the predicate while retaining the subject, contradiction results; and I therefore say that the former belongs necessarily to the latter. But if we reject subject and predicate, there is no contradiction; for nothing is then left that can be contradicted. To posit a triangle, and yet to reject its three angles, is self-contradictory; but there is no contradiction in rejecting the triangle together with its three angles. The same holds true of the concept of an absolutely necessary being. If its existence is rejected, we reject the thing itself with all its predicates; and no question of contradiction can then arise. There is nothing outside it that would then be contradicted, since the necessity of the thing is not supposed to be derived from anything external; nor is there anything internal that would be contradicted, since in rejecting the thing itself we have at the same time rejected all its internal properties. ‘God is omnipotent’ is a necessary judgment. The omnipotence cannot be rejected if we posit a Deity, that is, an infinite being; for the two concepts are identical. But if we say, ‘There is a God’, neither the omnipotence nor any other of its predicates is given; they are one an all rejected together with the subject, and there is therefore not the least contradiction in such a judgment."

If we define God as a being that necessarily exists, then it would indeed be contradictory to accept this concept of God while rejecting its existence. But there is no contradiction if we simply reject this concept of God altogether and suppose that God does not exist. By rejecting the subject (God), we also reject the predicate (necessary existence).

To say that a judgment is logically necessary is to say that, given the subject, we must accept its predicate on pain of self-contradiction. But if we deny the existence of the subject, we also remove its predicate from our thought, and this annihilation of both subject and predicate does not involve a contradiction. The only way to evade this objection is to assert that some subjects cannot be thought of as nonexistent, but this merely begs the question (i.e., it presupposes the existence of an absolutely necessary being, which is precisely what the Ontological Argument is supposed to establish).

The Ontological Argument maintains that the existence of an absolutely necessary being cannot be denied without self-contradiction. This concept of God, Kant says, is logically possible (i.e., it does not contain a contradiction), but we can never establish that something exits from a mere analysis of the corresponding concept. Real possibility can never be inferred from logical possibility. Indeed, a concept may be logically possible and yet cognitively empty, if it impossible to conceive what it would be like to experience such a being.

This latter point is important because, according to the Ontological Argument, if we can possibly conceive of an absolutely necessary being (God), then God must necessarily exist. Why? Because it would supposedly be contradictory to deny the existence of a being whose existence is absolutely necessary. If it is possible for the most real being to exist, then it must necessarily exist, because existence is part of it means to be "most real."

This argument is fallacious, according to Kant, because it treats "existence" as a real predicate, incorporates this predicate into the definition of "God, " and then "proves" the existence of God by unpacking this definition.. But if the existence of God follows necessarily from our definition of "God," then to declare that "God exists" is to utter a tautology, since this merely restates what is already included within our definition of "God."

We should also understand that "existence" (or "being") is not a real predicate; "existence" is not an attribute or quality that adds something new to our concept of something. Rather, "existence" functions as the copula ("is," "are," etc.) of a judgment, indicating the relationship of the predicate to the subject. For example, in the proposition, "God is omnipotent," the copula "is" obviously does not add another predicate to our concept of God, but rather affirms a relationship between the two concepts of "God" and "omnipotence."

Likewise, if we take the concept of God, complete with all its predicates, and assert that "God exists" (or, "There is a God") the "is" contained in this judgment does not add another predicate to our concept of God, but rather posits the existence of God along with all his predicates. Therefore, to say that "God exists" is to posit a relationship between a concept and its referent; it is to affirm the existence of an external object that corresponds to my concept of God. Kant continues:

"By whatever and by however many predicates we may think a thing…we do not make the least addition to the thing when we further declare that this thing is. Otherwise, it would not be exactly the same thing that exists, but something more than we had thought in the concept; and we could not, therefore, say that the exact object of my concept exists. If we think in a thing every feature of reality except one, the missing reality is not added by my saying that this defective thing exists. On the contrary, it exists with the same defect with which I have thought it , since otherwise what exists would be something different from what I thought. When, therefore, I think a being as the supreme reality, without any defect, the question still remains whether it exists or not."

To illustrate what Kant is saying here, consider these two scenarios: (1) I think of possessing $100 that I don’t have; (2) someone actually gives me $100. How do these cases differ? Do the real dollars in (2) constitute something more than the imaginary dollars in (1)? No, says Kant: we have not added anything to our concept of $100 by positing their real existence. The concepts in both cases are identical; what is different about them is that the dollars in (2) actually exist, whereas in (1) they do not. In other words, in stipulating that I actually possess $100, I have not somehow added a new predicate (attribute, characteristic, etc.) to the concept of $100. Existence is not a predicate.


Ghs

#12 Dennis Hardin

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Posted 02 October 2011 - 03:52 AM

Existence exists is simply Rand’s restatement of a principle from Parmenides: “What is, is.” She gave him full credit for this, even though she chose different words. It says nothing more than that there is something.

The word “is” represents a form of the present tense of “to be.” I can’t imagine that anyone—even Bob--is going to question whether “is” can be a predicate.

Well, okay. Maybe Bill Clinton.

#13 George H. Smith

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Posted 02 October 2011 - 07:43 AM



This is not what Rand meant at all; she was not predicating existence of existence, as if existence were a property.


Actually, George, I think she was. Refer to my previous post, where I discuss the legitimacy of predicating "existence" and "incompetence," so long as you don't do it ~literally~ (and why doing that is wrong). When you say that anything exists, you are saying that: "Something is a really existing thing," "...an existent."

So, as I read Rand, since she says "Existence" is a collective noun and means: the sum total of everything that exists, then her axiom "Existence exists" means: the entirety of everything that exists is a really existing totality. This fits the "Something exists" means: "Something is a really existing thing" pattern. "The entirety of everything that exists" is the something -- and "a really existing totality" is the really existing thing.

The problem is that Rand is using "existence" in ~two senses~. One is the collective noun, the "everything that exists" sense. But the other is the condition of being a real thing that exists. E.g., the existence of a tree is the characteristic of being a real thing that exists, just as the incompetence of Barack Obama is the characteristic of being a real person who sucks.

Now, you can't predicate ~in literal terms~ the characteristic of being some real thing that exists, any more than you can predicate in literal terms the characteristic of being some real person who sucks. You can't say a tree is existence, any more than you can say Obama is incompetence. But you CAN say a tree is an existent (entity), just as you can say that Obama is an incompetent (person). That way you are not committing the categorical error of predicating a part of a whole, viz., a universal (incompetence or existence) of some particular. (This is actually straight out of Thomas Aquinas, thanks to some very astute philosophical grave-digging done several decades ago by Prof. Henry B. Veatch. And where better to give him this tip of the hat than right here in Henry Veatch Corner!)

The tree and the existent (entity) that it is are the same particular thing in reality, and Obama and the incompetent (person) that he is are the same particular thing in reality. Again, it's just cleaving to the Law of Identity as the template for categorical propositions--which must be used with axioms, if you don't want them to end up sounding like quasi-mystical, Heideggerian gobbledygook.

REB


In Chapter 6 of ITOE ("Axiomatic Concepts"), Rand states: "Existence and identity are not attributes of existents, they are the existents." I don't know how Rand could be any more clear than this.

Ghs

#14 BaalChatzaf

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Posted 02 October 2011 - 07:50 AM


In Chapter 6 of ITOE ("Axiomatic Concepts"), Rand states: "Existence and identity are not attributes of existents, they are the existents." I don't know how Rand could be any more clear than this.

Ghs


In the sentence existence exists the word "exists" occupies the place and syntactic role of an attribute or predicate. Taking Rand's advice to take things literally, I did and concluded that Rand is asserting "exists" is a predicate. Which I have show leads to a troubling conclusion if followed through logically. If "exists" is a predicate then for all x exists(x). Which in plain language means everything exists including my pet unicorn.

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אויב מיין באָבע האט בייצים זי וואָלט זיין מיין זיידע

#15 George H. Smith

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Posted 02 October 2011 - 08:03 AM


The problem is that Rand is using "existence" in ~two senses~. One is the collective noun, the "everything that exists" sense. But the other is the condition of being a real thing that exists. E.g., the existence of a tree is the characteristic of being a real thing that exists, just as the incompetence of Barack Obama is the characteristic of being a real person who sucks.


To my knowledge, Rand never treats "existence" as a characteristic, or attribute, of something. Again, as she writes in "Axiomatic Concepts:"

The concept "existence" does not indicate what existents it subsumes: it merely underscores the primary fact that they exist....This underscoring of primary facts is one of the crucial epistemological functions of axiomatic concepts. It is also the reason why they can be translated into a statement only in the form of a repetition (as a base and a reminder): Existence exists....


Ghs

#16 George H. Smith

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Posted 02 October 2011 - 08:05 AM

In Chapter 6 of ITOE ("Axiomatic Concepts"), Rand states: "Existence and identity are not attributes of existents, they are the existents." I don't know how Rand could be any more clear than this. Ghs

In the sentence existence exists the word "exists" occupies the place and syntactic role of an attribute or predicate. Taking Rand's advice to take things literally, I did and concluded that Rand is asserting "exists" is a predicate. Which I have show leads to a troubling conclusion if followed through logically. If "exists" is a predicate then for all x exists(x). Which in plain language means everything exists including my pet unicorn. Ba'al Chatzaf


You are not taking Rand "literally." You are simply determined to misrepresent what she meant. She was very clear about this.

Ghs

#17 George H. Smith

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Posted 02 October 2011 - 08:26 AM

In Chapter 6 of ITOE ("Axiomatic Concepts"), Rand states: "Existence and identity are not attributes of existents, they are the existents." I don't know how Rand could be any more clear than this. Ghs

In the sentence existence exists the word "exists" occupies the place and syntactic role of an attribute or predicate. Taking Rand's advice to take things literally, I did and concluded that Rand is asserting "exists" is a predicate. Which I have show leads to a troubling conclusion if followed through logically. If "exists" is a predicate then for all x exists(x). Which in plain language means everything exists including my pet unicorn. Ba'al Chatzaf


One more thing....

According to your reasoning, to say that anything exists is to treat "existence" as a predicate. Suppose we say "Cows exist." Does this mean that we regard existence as an attribute of cows? Of course not. Suppose we say "Physicists exist." Does this mean that we regard existence as an attribute of physicists? Of course not. And so on indefinitely.

"Existence exists" can be reformulated to read "Existence is." Do you regard "is" as an attribute? Are we attributing a characteristic called "isness" to existence?

Let's get serious, shall we?

Ghs

#18 George H. Smith

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Posted 02 October 2011 - 08:39 AM

Existence exists is simply Rand’s restatement of a principle from Parmenides: “What is, is.” She gave him full credit for this, even though she chose different words. It says nothing more than that there is something. The word “is” represents a form of the present tense of “to be.” I can’t imagine that anyone—even Bob--is going to question whether “is” can be a predicate. Well, okay. Maybe Bill Clinton.


You are right, of course. But I was curious about your reference to Parmenides, so I ran a search on the Objectivist Research CD-ROM. There was only one hit; his name was mentioned not by Rand but by "Prof. E" in the Appendix to ITOE, as follows:

Prof. E: In the development of the human race philosophically, the three axiomatic concepts were explicitly grasped for the first time at definitely different periods of history and in a definite order: "existence" by Parmenides, "identity" by Aristotle, and "consciousness," as far as I know, not until Augustine.


Rand says nothing about the reference to Parmenides, but additional material has been published since the appearance of the CD-ROM. Did I miss something?

Ghs


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#19 Brant Gaede

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Posted 02 October 2011 - 08:39 AM

"Existence exists," she wrote, in contradistinction to the proposition "existence doesn't exist." In the latter case "doesn't exist" cannot be an attribute of existence any more than "exists." As a tautological proposition George and Rand have it exactly right. If Ba'al were right there would be no need for Rand to then state (para) "And the act of grasping this (axiomatic proposition) . . ." because the epistemology would be part and parcel of the metaphysics which would then be plastic, the ground constantly shifting under one's feet with the shifting and marching of the innumerable predicates. (Please note I barely know what I am talking about here, so feel free to criticize.)

It's just the launching pad for her philosophy, the metaphysics and epistemology which are shared with science though science--a scientist--may not explicitly know it. Take Ba'al, for instance (please), he's pretty close to being a scientist.

--Brant

Rational Individualist, Rational self-interest, Individual Rights--limited government libertarian heavily influenced by Objectivism


#20 Dennis Hardin

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Posted 02 October 2011 - 04:04 PM

Existence exists is simply Rand’s restatement of a principle from Parmenides: “What is, is.” She gave him full credit for this, even though she chose different words. It says nothing more than that there is something. The word “is” represents a form of the present tense of “to be.” I can’t imagine that anyone—even Bob--is going to question whether “is” can be a predicate. Well, okay. Maybe Bill Clinton.


You are right, of course. But I was curious about your reference to Parmenides, so I ran a search on the Objectivist Research CD-ROM. There was only one hit; his name was mentioned not by Rand but by "Prof. E" in the Appendix to ITOE, as follows:


Prof. E: In the development of the human race philosophically, the three axiomatic concepts were explicitly grasped for the first time at definitely different periods of history and in a definite order: "existence" by Parmenides, "identity" by Aristotle, and "consciousness," as far as I know, not until Augustine.


Rand says nothing about the reference to Parmenides, but additional material has been published since the appearance of the CD-ROM. Did I miss something?

Ghs


George,

As I recall, you brought this up during one of your ‘Principles of Reasoning’ lectures back in the early 70s. That’s when I first heard it.

I’m surprised it's not in the Objectivist Research CD – ROM. The reference I used was Leonard Peikoff’s OPAR, which was first published in 1991. Peikoff does not explicitly say that Rand acknowledged Parmenides as her source for her axiom, but it is well known that Peikoff wrote OPAR with the perspective that he was, in effect, ‘channeling’ Ayn Rand. It was not to contain anything that he was not certain Rand would totally agree with.

Here are the relevant passages:

We start with the irreducible fact and concept of existence – that which is.

The first thing to say about that which is is simply: it is. As Parmenides in ancient Greece formulated the principle: what is, is. Or, in Ayn Rand’s words: existence exists. ("Existence” here is a collective noun, denoting the sum of existents.) This axiom does not tell us anything about the nature of existents; it merely underscores the fact that they exist. (OPAR, p.4)

There were once Western philosophers who upheld the primacy of existence; notably, such ancient Greek giants as Parmenides and Aristotle. But even they were not consistent in this regard. (Aristotle, for example, describes his Prime Mover as a consciousness conscious only of itself, which serves as the cause of the world's motion.) There has never yet been a thinker who states the principle explicitly, then applies it methodically in every branch of philosophy, with no concession to any version of its antithesis. This is precisely what Ayn Rand does. Her philosophy is the primacy of existence, come to full, systematic expression in Western thought for the first time. (OPAR, p. 23)


If we are to believe Peikoff, he would not have written these words unless Ayn Rand had explicitly told him that she acknowledged this debt.

Professor E was Peikoff. I know you're not exactly a Peikoff fan, so it is likely you may never have read his book. I have my own reservations about parts of “Peikoff’s Summa" (as David Kelley called it), but it is, on the whole, an excellent, systematic presentation of Ayn Rand's ideas. Kelley himself acknowledged this, even though the book appeared shortly following their bitter parting of the ways.




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