Notion of existence II

-On one account of existence, it is an undifferentiated thing, common to all, and universally said of all things. This view- which is a correct view of existence- leads seeing it as homogeneous, undifferentiated, and a vague, grey expanse. This view, however, does not capture the view we get of existence when we see that dogs cease to exist at death, or that something living begins to exist at conception. This speaks to a view of existence not as homogeneous and undifferentiated, but as interior and even innermost in things.

-Existence is bound up with being “this” but not all things are “this” in the same way.  If you have a man and a granite block in from of you, the granite has an indifference to being “this” that the man does not share. The shape of the granite is accidental, and  to cut it in half only makes an accidental difference in what you have. Not so with the man. The shape of a man arises from something interior to the man  in a way that the shape of granite does not.


  1. Gagdad Bob said,

    April 2, 2009 at 5:06 am

    It seems that the granite block doesn’t really have being in the absence of the subject for whom it is real, otherwise it’s just a pattern of atomic activity with no necessary boundaries between it and everything else.

    Which leads to the question: who/what/where is the being without which I am not real?

  2. April 2, 2009 at 7:53 am

    Granite does have some things “of itself” like a definite mass, market price, atomic structure, natural history, relative hardness etc. But I’m struck that it has no definite particularity like we imagine a physical object having particularity. “That stone there” that you can pick up, throw, weigh, etc seems like you could call it “a particular thing” or “an individual”, but it seems to me that if we take a closer look at our own thought, we don’t actually think it’s a particular thing or an individual, because nothing it has “of itself” belongs to it in virtue of being “this particular individual one” here.

    It’s as if the inorganic world isn’t dense enough within to collect reality into individuality or particularity. What it is “in itself” is too light to pull reality into its orbit. It just diffuses, and gets cut into parts only by accident.

  3. William H. Stoddard said,

    April 2, 2009 at 8:03 am

    A granite block does have discrete existence in a passive sense, at least. If you want to cut it into two blocks, you will have to create more surface to do so, and the creation of surface requires energy; there is a detailed theory of surface energy in terms of processes at the molecular level, though I haven’t personally studied it. Left to itself, without energy input, that block will not turn into two blocks, any more than it will rise into the air or become hot enough to melt. But it’s different from an entity with an active flow of energy that re-creates the conditions for its existence, or that, as in the case of living organisms, re-creates its specific form. Life is self-re-creating in a way that rocks are not.

%d bloggers like this: