Metaphysics: What Does it Mean "to Exist"?

The Rational Foundation of Metaphysics

What is the essential property to which we refer when we say, “it exists”? That seems to have been a difficult question for thousands of years. If you look up the word “exist” in a dictionary, you can get a number of substitute words, but with each the question remains.

All of those words correctly imply “to exist”. Each can be used as substitute for “to exist”. Yet none of them tell you of what it is. The “definitions” given carry no additional meaning. They aren’t actual definitions or explanations, merely substitutes hinting at at a meaning. If one asks for the definition of “color”, one gets an explanation involving light, not merely other words for “color”.

And I found that if one proposes what it means to exist, one gets little more than argumentation; “How do you know?”, “Maybe it means different things to different people”, “It just is what it is”, “It’s just all in our minds”. “It is just whatever is real”.

Any word might mean different things to different people, but then without reasonably uniform definition, there is no language. And it seems to me that everyone throughout history, gauging from what they say concerning that which exists, has had one particular concern in mind, although never spoken. They argue that this exists or that exists. They argue about whether various kinds of things do or don’t exist. But precisely how does one discern existence from non-existence? That has apparently been an illusive question that I propose to answer here and now.

There could possibly be many things meant by that fundamental word, but there is one thing I have found in common with all of the implications and inferences. In every case, when the word is used, the speaker seems to be saying that which exists has potential affect upon something and that which doesn’t exist has no affect.

The concept “to affect” gives meaning to an otherwise elusive definition for “to exist”. Affecting something directly implies changing it in some way, thus to exist implies the potential to change something, perhaps; block the light, weigh down the paper, inspire activity,… And by consequence to affect something must include the potential to prevent a change that would have otherwise taken effect.

In addition there are practical issues involved. If something is said to exist yet is known to have absolutely no affect upon anything, why bother to say that it exists? Why even bother to be thinking about it? Billions of things could be mentioned which have absolutely no affect upon anything (eg. three headed elephants, whatever). The word and implication of “to exist” would lose all relevance if such things were to be included as being existent.

Thus to be rational, and since a common dictionary fails to sufficiently provide, one must declare his intent for the word, and preferably without deviating far from what others have actually always meant even though never really explaining.

So merely by declared definition with the following supportive rationale,
Existence is that which has affect or potential to affect.
a) Detectable Empiricism - We decide that something exists only when we detect that something is having affect. All of our senses function based on the affect that something else has upon them. We use equipment to increase our sensory ability, but still if nothing affects the equipment in any way, we declare that nothing was there.
b) Common Usage - In reality, people are already using the word “exist” to mean this definition. They often never think about it, but in every case, the person really means that something having existence means that it has the potential to affect something; be seen, touched, smelled, or detected in some way even if not already detected.
c) Support from Science - Science concluded long ago that in reality all existing things have at least some minuscule affect on all other things through chains of events.
d) Rational Relevance - If something has truly no affect on anything whatsoever, we really don’t care if it exists in any other sense. We can propose trillions of things that might exist but don’t have affect. What would be the point? It would be a waste of mind time.

But affect upon what?

To exist means to affect, which means to cause change, but what is being changed? What is being affected?

The answer is simply “other existence” (eg. You). That is easy enough. But look more carefully at what that means.

It is saying that existence, the compendium of affects, is merely the affecting other affects, affect upon affect. And that is the fundamental essence of all existence. It can be no other.

The very foundation of Metaphysics:
Existence ≡ Affects upon affects, Affectance, whatever complexity arises from that fundamental essence, and nothing else.

The rest of the story involves:

  1. How does one measure this Affectance? - “Science”.
  2. How long has this Affectance been around" - “Cosmology”
  3. How can this Affectance lend to our knowledge? - “Epistemology”
  4. How can this Affectance be organized and understood? - “Ontology”.
  5. How can an understanding of Affectance relate to our lives? - “Psychology”, “Sociology”, “Economics”,…

Okay, but what then is the existential relationship between the definition and the meaning that we give to particular words in a particular language and the extent to which language/logic can then fully/wholly describe a rational response to the behaviors that these definitions and meanings precipitate. After all, is it not the behaviors themselves that precipitate consequences that some will be favorably inclined toward and others will not?

Are there [for all practical purposes] limitations imposed on definitions/meanings here? And not with respect to things like color or height or weight or the space and the time some “thing/entity” is said to occupy “out in the world”. But, instead, to our reaction to words that revolve around conflicting goods.

Indeed, pertaining to what? How is this “epistemological contraption” then relevant when the definitions and meanings of those on one side of a moral/political divide clash with the definitions/meanings given to the words [many of them the very same words] by those on the other side?

Let’s choose a moral conflict of note and discuss it.

Similarly with this:

How is this relevant out in the world of actual conflicting human behaviors?

The definitions are merely the explanations of intended meaning for those who didn’t already know. They are clarification of the communication language between your dasein bound people.
More clarity = less “conflicting good”.

No. I said nothing of imposing definitions, limited or otherwise. A “declared definition” is merely a declaration of intended meaning … nothing magical nor oppressive about it.

That is a discussion that is beyond you.

With Clarity comes less conflict.

iambiguous"]How is this relevant out in the world of actual conflicting human behaviors?"

J: “With Clarity comes less conflict.”

K: “With clarity comes less conflict” This means you don’t understand conflict.
This is just a rewrite of Socrates, who said, with knowledge comes understanding,
Clarity will not bring about less conflict. It will simply bring about clearer reasons
for conflict.


What then would be the most clarity that rational men and women can derive using the tools of philosophy so as to encompass the least conflicted goods when 1] in order to secure the birth of the unborn baby a woman is forced to give birth or 2] in order that woman have a right to choose an abortion the unborn baby is killed. Or murdered as some will insist.

How is “affectance” here to be construed ontologically?

Well, it’s true that here at ILP no one has the capacity to impose their definitions on others. But, out in the world of actual conflicting human behaviors, pertaining to issues like abortion, the manner in which we define the meaning of the words we use in describing our own particular value judgments will come into conflict with what these words are said to mean by others. Now, either AO is able to point us in the direction of the most rational frame of mind here or it comes down “for all practical purposes” to each side claiming that the manner in which they understand the meaning of the words [words that both sides use] is more reasonable. Thus given the political assumptions of the pro-life folks, abortion is irrational/immoral. And given the political assumptions of the pro-choice folks, forcing a woman to give birth against her will is irrational/immoral.

From my perspective a “declared definition” is merely one that you believe to be true “in your head”. And that [again from my perspective] is a far cry from actually demonstrating that all rational men and women are obligated to think the same “in their head”.

Why? Because you are not able to demonstrate empirically that your own value judgment is in sync with the “ideal”, the “superior judgment”, the “objective world”. Both sides merely trade a conflicting set of premises.

On the contrary, in my view, that is a discussion that you avoid over and over again. Why? Because that is a discussion in which your “world of words” necessarily comes into contact with the manner in which I construe the meaning of dasein, conflicting goods and political economy “out in the world” of actual flesh and blood human interactions.

K: I have heard all of this before.

J: I doubt it, but okay.


That would be:
Rational Metaphysics: Affectance Ontology … an understanding of the noise of affects upon affects … your “dasein”. And then that develops into the SAM Coop wherein society is restructured into a far, far more pleasant pattern. Of course both of those are extensions passed this thread that is only concerned about one simple explanation/definition.

For reasons not explained here, it turns out to be somewhat of an aether like ontological substance and the foundational substance of the physical universe.

No. That is not what “declared” means.

“Declared” means that for the duration of this discussion or topic, the word is to be taken as defined. And this discussion is about that very definition. It has nothing to do with what anyone deans as “true”. It is merely a language issue, the meaning of a word for the duration.

I haven’t commented much on your posts to this regard James …

Affectance can properly be understood as a motion to some degree… And using an aspect of how you’ve worded this in the past, that which doesn’t move, doesn’t exist. After all … What does it mean for there to be affectance with zero motion???

But this brings up an issue, affectance is static, which means it can’t exist, which is why you shuffle with the answer a bit and describe it as an aether…

You go to great lengths to describe both the immutable unmoved… While also going to great lengths to point out that it’s not affectance!

I respect your attempts along this line, but perhaps you require more clarification or even a remapping of the concepts.

Think of it this way:

The one thing that moves, even moves away from itself to become static… So you really have both properties represented, even though your general affectance theory doesn’t allow for stasis to exist.

Where did you get that idea?

Affectance is an ocean of motion. It is what gives rise to any and all motion, waves, and particles. There could be no motion if not for the motion and changing that affectance is.

But we can be wrong or ignorant. X-rays did not spring into existence in 1895 (I think we can assert); conversely, phlogiston and the ether were both declared to exist based on our detection.

I’m not sure that that’s what they mean, but I suspect they’d be happy to agree that that is true.

Not so much a conclusion, as an axiomatic decision, no? In any case, is that true? Gerenal relativity is broadly accepted, and states that an event can only affect other events that are within the light cone of its existence.

Is “I don’t care whether X exists” equivalent to “X does not exist”?

We can certainly be wrong about what we assert to have affect or have existence. Being presumptuous is Man’s all time sin, the seed of all sin (errors in judgement).

I don’t give them that much credit.

For every item that has a “light cone of existence”, there is another item that has a similar shifted light cone overlapping. All of the light cones are connected … necessarily.

But that is actually an issue of WHEN the affect occurs, not WHETHER the affecting can occur. At any one instant in time, nothing is being affected by anything except what is infinitely adjacent to it.

For a declared language, yes. In common speech, they are not the same intent, although close. But when making a declaration and having the authority to do so (within one’s own writings, speech, or thoughts), those two phrases are equivalent.

I agree to some extent. But I would say this, clarity leads to only real conflicts remaining. I have an intercultural marriage. Clarity, which is often tricky to achieve in this situation, definitely takes away conflicts based on misinterpretation. I would think that the sum total of conflicts does go down as clarity goes up. It will not eliminate all conflict - unless, perhaps, we included internal clarity also - but as you say would bring about clearer reasons for conflict. We would know why we are conflicted, which I can only see as an improvement. Socrates may well have implied or stated that all conflict is simply based on misunderstanding, but since James said ‘less conflict’ it’s hard to see where he could possibly be wrong. In any situation without clarity we have value conflicts and conflicts based on misinterpretation/misunderstanding. That seems like more to me.

I have often argued that the sloppy metaphysical bagage in the terms physicalism and materialism should be dropped and replaced by verificationism or detecablism. This sidesteps the attibution of specific categories of substance and couples the ontology directly to method. In science I mean this. I have argued that since the meaning of the word physical and material have shifted over time and are expanding sets and can predict that anything that scientists consider real, regardless of the qualities of it, will be called physical, it makes more sense to build the name out of the method. How do they know it exists? They detected it. Which is a way of coming at affectance from the observer side.

That said I wonder about laws, rules, patterns. We could call these things the context. Does the context exist? One could say that some law or rule or constant affects things, but this, it seems to me separates the rule or law or constant from other things, The existence of these things or to put it in your terms the affectance of these things seems not quite, at least, the same category as the affectance of a billiard ball. The detecting seems different to me also.

The use of the term change raises the issue for me a little more clearly. I am not sure the laws change things. As in something affecting something else.

So any existent (affecting) thing is eternal? The ice cube in my cup is not now and will never be affected by light currently being emitted from Tau Ceti; I hope to be around long enough to be affected by it. An electron created by neutron decay is likely to be captured by a proton long before the Andromeda galaxy arrives (or light from a newborn star that will reach us in 2 million years, etc). That star doesn’t exist to us, at the moment, because its affectance hasn’t reached us yet, but when it does we’ll know that it has existed at this point in time, surely? So when you say:

For a declared language, yes. In common speech, they are not the same intent, although close. But when making a declaration and having the authority to do so (within one’s own writings, speech, or thoughts), those two phrases are equivalent.
… it sounds as though you’re saying that existence is ontologically subjective. That some things exist to me but not to you. Which in daily, practical terms it is - our moral concerns don’t extend to things we don’t care about, by definition - but I think is a controversial approach to “existence”.

I disagree here. None of what is said below recognizes that only the Unknown drives everything. Much like the invisible part of the iceberg. Detectable empiricism and rational evidence do not mean much either. Once upon a time, cavemen didnt understand the causation of thunder and lightening and today the academia would hate the electric universe theory to take over.what is the difference between the two?

Rational relevance? Every molecule/atom has its place in the Natural Order. If society finds ways to muddle through, much of what is known today will be rewritten.

If “the ocean of motion” “moves” it becomes static, that’s the only motion possible for motion…

What I mean in part is that it has identity.

Nothing affects anything other than that which is infinitely adjacent to it. No star has directly affected Earth at any time, even the Sun. What affects things on Earth are the radiations and particles that come to Earth. And that ice cube doesn’t affect any star for the same reason. It affects only the immediate surroundings which affects the air which affects the cup which affect more air…

In fact what we call “distance” is merely our perception of the number of points being affected between A and B. That is why general relativity mathematically works. Time is a measure of how much relative affecting there is going on between two things and distance is a measure of how many points can get affected in a direct line series between two things. If you increase the amount of affecting in a given space (increasing the affectance density/mass density), from an outside observation all objects within that space will be shorter and moving slower. Both time and distance are issues of affectance density. General Relativity is merely the mathematical way of expressing that issue.

Nothing ever affects anything at a distance. There is always merely a chain of affects between two points and every point is only ever affected by its own immediate surrounding.

It is our consciousness that allows for us to project an image of what is probably still out there shining that light at us, “remote recognition”. We never see or sense anything directly. Thus our minds have to calculate and guess at what it WAS that threw an affect our way. And in fact, whatever it WAS, it might not still be there by the time we are affected by whatever it had broadcast.

The LANGUAGE that we use to describe existence is ontologically subjective. I might declare in my report that any rise of the ground higher than 300 feet above ambient is a “mountain”. Someone else might set that limit at 500 feet in their report. It is the language that we define, the map, not existence itself, the terrain. We don’t change what is by our language. We merely change what words we use to describe it, which of course gets then used by a media to manipulate people into shifting their loves and hates - again people getting affected by what is broadcast, not the real event or object.

This clearly encompasses my critique of RM/AO: That, to actual flesh and blood women experiencing the trials and the tribulations of confronting – existentially – an unwanted pregnancy, how would this not be just so much intellectual gibberish?

How “on earth” might they react to it in such a way that it facilitated a resolution whereby those who construed the “good” to be the birth of the baby and those who construed the “good” to be the woman’s right to choose to abort it, were both encompassed in a rational/logical/epistemologically sound philosophical argument deemed to be – to reflect – the optimal frame of mind?

In other words, there is what it means to “exist”…to exist “metaphysically”…and there is the actual existence of the fetus some insist has the inherent – the “natural” – right to be born and the actual existence of the pregnant woman that others insist has the political right to kill the fetus.

What then of RM/AO?

And then when I do shift the exchange up into the stratosphere of abstractions…

James responds:

Is this true? Is there a way that we – that science – can be absolutely certain that his assertion here is in sync [empirically, materially, phenomenally] with the known universe? A universe in which new – “big” – discoveries seem to be unfolding all the time:

Okay, fine. One can always argue that, in my attempts to yank the definitions down out of the epistemological clouds, I am missing the point of the OP.

But: The fact that James is basically acknowledging that this is really only about a “world of words” speaks volumes regarding the manner in which I critique that point of view myself.

As long as it stays “up there”, it revolves around the logic of his own definitions. The actual world that we live in – a world bursting at the seams with all manner of fierce conflicts – be damned.

Science CAN, but if they don’t awaken to it, Philosophers certainly can. Truth isn’t really up to Science. Science merely tests to see of a proposed truth is false. Science can’t know if it was ever true other than to revert to a philosopher’s logic.

Truth is a matter of a properly defined ontology such that the assembled ontology exactly describes the physical reality. Science merely compares the two when a hypothesis is presented that allows for such comparison.

Just for example, I can personally prove that in concept General Relativity theory is an absolute fact, but science can only speculate that it is.

I am not into sensationalism to bemuse the ignorant masses.

The topic is about the definition of a single word and concept. It is not about the complex dasein world of which you have been obsessed. Very, very often, fixing an issue or even coming to understand it requires very many small steps - for which you obviously have no patience.

Your definition and not the contemporary one. An affect effect is synonymous at root.

verb: affect; 3rd person present: affects; past tense: affected; past participle: affected; gerund or present participle: affecting.

Choosing between affect and effect can be scary. Think of Edgar Allen Poe and his RAVEN: Remember Affect Verb Effect Noun. You can’t affect the creepy poem by reading it, but you can enjoy the effect of a talking bird.
In everyday speech, affect is a verb. It means to influence something … ct-effect/

you are stating that the creepiness of the story is the affect and not effect, that affecting particles are what makes effect.

What is an effect or the effected party in real terms ~ something that is out there being affected? What particles are affecting and which are those being effected? What property does affecting particles inherently have?

Affectance et al I submit is not possibly a fundament of metaphysics, it actually removes all metaphysics from the picture!!!

just like how Christianity deals with philosophy; the word of God is omnipotent and absolute, you are trying to remove the very freedom which denies our existence from being a simulation/matrix, and expects there to be teleology?

There is no contemporary definition for existence. There are only substitute words to use (as explained in the OP).

As I have explained to you before:
Affect == to Act upon
Effect == the End result

Already explained in the OP. Affect is merely affecting other affecting: existence affecting other existence, as is very commonly understood.

That is like asking, “which particles are existent and which particles are being affected?” :confused:

Particles happen to be no more than clusters of noisy affectance. So the “property” that affecting has (as also explained in the OP) is to cause change in the concentration of affectance that a particle is.

You continually project your obsession with teleology upon me.
I have never, even once, concerning any subject at all, spoken of or implied teleology.

You are projecting your own guilt … a very common mindset of the day.