Part Three: Distinctions in

Part Three: Distinctions in the Word “Being”

The first principle of our philosophical knowledge requires that being and non-being are both absolutely universal, co-extensive, and mutually exclusive. They are absolutely universal because there are no words which can be said of more things than “being” and “non-being”. They are absolutely co-extensive in our minds, because there is no part of “being” which does not have “non-being” as its negation, and no part of “non-being” which is not the negation of being. They are absolutely mutually exclusive because being is, and cannot not be; which requires that non-being is not, and cannot be.

(note: some people include in the principle of contradiction the phrase “at the same time and in the same respect”. I have no objection to this, but the phrase is not necessary, and it opens the door to an indefinite amount of cumbersome qualifications, which do not add to the principle, but which only help some people understand what is meant by “being is and cannot not be”)

Non- being cannot be. Said another way, non- being is not able to be. Whatever is able to be must therefore be contained in our word “being”. But what is possible or potential is able to be. Therefore the possible and potential must be called being.

The possible is also opposed to the actual. But what is actual is manifestly a being. Therefore we call by the name “being” both that which is potential, and that which is actual. But to be possible is not the same thing as to be actual. Therefore the word being is not always used in the same way.

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