Mike Strand wrote: ↑
Tue Jul 10, 2018 5:35 pm
Defining "to exist" is a philosophical area in which I, personally, fear to tread, wise or not. So Socrates's penchant for definition enters the picture yet again!
If I stick my neck out for the time being, let me pose this definition: "To exist" is to be detectable by human beings, or able to be investigated by human beings, or with which a human being may interact, according to the human senses or their extensions (e.g. telescope, blood hound, particle accelerator, and such).
Maybe this definition of "to exist" is a subjective, human definition, but it can inform human discussions.
A relational definition, which I like, but that is me. This one confines the relation to humans, making humans special. That is something I always find functional (as you point out), but dangerous, leading to conclusions like "God created humans so that he might exist?", or questions like how did life evolve into humans if Earth didn't exist until the humans did?
More subtle games: The moon doesn't exist now because no human can detect it. All we detect is light coming from some past state of the thing and from that we infer that it hasn't likely exited-stage-left since that past state. OK, that induction is a valid method of being aware of something, so the moon safely exists, but then so do places too distant to ever sense with any possible device. They exist only by being a consequence of whatever model we think best describes the natural world. That model says the moon is likely to be there now despite our complete inability to detect that. God exists by being a consequence of the model some people think best explains, well..., existence.
The usual generic definition is 'to stand out', which is what the word means. It means it is distinct from something that is nonexistent. I find that pretty meaningless in any objective sense, so hence my relational approach. Things exist relative to me, or to a rock, or to an integer, or whatever. Different things exist depending on what it stands in relation to. I don't exist to the number 13, but it exists in an abstract way to me. Ice exists to a rock that is broken by it. Distant places do not exist to me. Feel free to disassemble my idea of existence.
I need a different definition of 'the universe' because if it is based on a relation, then 'the universe to X' is not the same as 'the universe to Y', so there is no objective 'the universe'. I can say 'what exists in relation to the big bang singularity', but Earth does not stand out from that perspective, so it doesn't exist in that sense.
As for your last two sentences, Noax, regarding PhilX's question that defines the thread: At least it got me going, in terms of thinking about Socrates's advice. So I also extend my thanks to PhilX.
I think that is as he intended. He likes to start discussions, which is good if nobody else is doing it, but he doesn't often defend any particular stance on his own topics.
Yes, we've gone off topic, but without definitions, we've gone the only place we could: Concerning defining things so we know what is the question being asked. As of this point, there is no question. I have a set of things (me, you, a cup, 13, pain, planet Zog 30BLY north, and a god). I draw an arbitrary
circle encompassing some subset of those. Is the god one inside or outside that arbitrary circle? The answer is meaningless without some kind of definition as to how the arbitrary <is included in 'the universe'> circle is drawn.