Is it paradoxical to ask what existence is without already knowing the meaning of the term "is"? A statement such as "there is a crate of oranges in front of me" seems like a statement about the "existence of oranges." But at the same time what does it mean to say that the "crate of oranges" exists? Existence seems like the most intuitive and indubitable metaphysical pronouncement and yet at the same time it evades clear definition. I suppose you can say "the orange crate exists because you can pick an orange up or it exists because you can observe it." But it seem like their is something more to saying something exists than that, but I can't put my finger on it.

Yes, we do think that things exist which we cannot pick up or see. (For instance, we say that numbers exist, or that the center of mass of the solar system does.) What precisely do we mean by "exists" then? That's one problem you raise. I'm not sure how to answer it: the notion of "existence" seems so basic, it's hard to imagine much light being shed on it from other, yet clearer, notions. But you raise another question: whether there's something problematic in even asking what "exists" means. Your thought is that there is, since the question itself involves the notion of existence. I'm not sure that it does: In asking for clarification of a notion, we're not asking whether that notion exists (whatever that means). You might say that we're asking what "exists" means. And although it's not clear exactly what we're doing when we ask what a word means, it doesn't seem right to say that we're asking whether something exists. Of course, your paradox could perhaps be reinstated by shifting our...

I was thinking, Is "absolutely nothing" logically possible? And I would just like to know what you would think of this argument. IF it is accepted that 1) "X is true if X corresponds to reality" then it would be logically impossible for "absolutely nothing" to exist. "Absolutely Nothing" implies no reality. If there is no reality then one can never say that "absolutely nothing" can exist, since "absolutely nothing" does not correspond to reality. But I ask you, if "absolutely nothing" is even possible. And if it is not possible, then what logical proofs are there. Thank you!

If someone asks me what's in the refrigerator and I answer "Absolutely nothing", what am I saying? I'm not saying that there's something in the refrigerator after all, namely absolutely-nothing. What I'm doing is denying that there is something in the refrigerator. Although the sentences "The milk is in the refrigerator" and "Absolutely nothing is in the refrigerator" are grammatically comparable, their logical structures are different. In order for the first claim to be true, there must be something that "The milk" refers to and that something needs to be in the refrigerator. But that's not the case for the second claim. In order for the second to be true, the claim that there is at least one thing in the refrigerator needs to be false. It is not the case that in order for the second to be true "Absolutely nothing" must refer to something and that something is in the refrigerator. People have, for thousands of years, been misled by the superficial grammatical similarities of these two...

How can God exist if every thing that exists is finite? If an entity is infinite does that not conclude that it does not exist? My question is, have I even scratched the surface at disproving the existence of God? Descartes said that an infinite essence created all living things, but if this is the case, how can nothingness create existence? A comment would be much obliged. This is driving me crazy. Any opinions?

If everything that exists is finite and God is in some way infinite, then you're right that it follows that God does not exist. Does this prove that God does not exist? Well, the argument establishes this if its assumptions are true. The problem is that most people who believe that God exists will not acknowledge that your first assumption ("Everything that exists is finite") is true. So, in order to convince them, you'll have to give an argument for that assumption. Now that assumption isn't the same claim as the conclusion of your argument ("God does not exist"), but it is close enough that debates about it might well recapitulate debates about the original issue, namely whether God exists. So in sum, the logical form of your argument is great, but it's doubtful that it moves us much closer to settling the central question you raise about God's existence.

I was shown a paper that my brother had gotten off of a website and it was about Taoism. Now, I am not to educated in the subject at all, but took a look at one of the questions posed and gave my opinion as to what I thought the answer was: If nothing has potential to be something is it really nothing? I started to think of it like this: 0 = nothing (in mathematical terms) 0 has potential of being any number but let's keep it simple and say that 0 has the potential of being 1. 0 is still 0 and always will be 0 until the moment 1 is added to it. If we rephrase the question using this logic it seems to answer itself: If 0 has potential to be 1 is it really 0? Of course it is still zero. Then I started to think of the context they use it in. The "nothing" they question seems to be thought of as a tangible item. Just because we as humans define a space as nothing, does it mean it is in fact a thing- no. An area in space is obviously nothing, so why do we think it could be something just because we...

I think your suspicions that there's a confusion in the use of the word "nothing" is on the right track. You can get yourself into a bind -- and people have for millenia -- if you assume that every word, in order to be meaningful, must refer to something. Because then in order for the claim "There is nothing in that drawer" to make sense, it seems there really has to be something in the drawer. And now "nothing" seems as if it's referring to something after all -- maybe "emptiness", or "space", or what-have-you. For some more on this, see Question 49 .

Most people would probably think that when we say something is 'real' we mean this in a physical sense (e.g., this table is real) and we contrast it to imaginary things (e.g., unicorns, Elvis being alive). Is it, however, also possible to claim that all things are real in different ways, and that something that might ordinarily be considered 'not real' only 'exists in a different way'?

You might not want to withhold the term "real" from all entities that don't exist in the physical world. For instance, you might want to say that the number 17 is real or that the thought that 17 is prime is real -- though you might be reluctant to say that that number or that thought exists in the same way that the Empire State Building does. But then, you ask, what about the natural number that is between 17 and 18? Might we say that it too is real, except not in the sense that 17 is? No. That would be to court confusion. To say that something isn't real or doesn't exist, isn't to say that it really does exist though in some especially attenuated way. See also Question 49.

Even at the lowest levels of proof does not the existence of something in one's imagination give it at the very least a semblance of actuality?

OK, so I'm now imagining the winning lottery ticket in my wallet. Let me check my wallet. [Pause.] Damn. Not even the slightestsemblance of a winner. In fact, not even a lottery ticket. We do speak of a thing's "existing inone's imagination". But this doesn't mean that the thing in questiondoes actually reside in some very wispy way in your mind. If anythingdoes exist in your mind, it's the thought of the thing's existing, orperhaps an image of the thing. But not the thing itself. We are very close to a Grand Philosophical Headache: trying to understand what makes that thought or that image about the thing it's about. This is especially puzzling when the thing it's about doesn't actually exist at all.

Why do many philosophers posit that there are no members in the set of necessary beings? There seem only two explanations if they are correct: 1) Necessary beings are logically possible, but none exist in this world or 2) Necessary beings are logically impossible. Explanation 1 seems untenable since if a necessary being exists in one world (is logically possible), then it must exist in all worlds (and thus this one) by virtue of its necessity. But explanation 2 (which seems likely the more preferred one) seems to do no better, since the set of necessary beings is made a subset of the set of impossible beings. While perhaps this is merely a trivial case, it still seems unsettling, if not contradictory. Is the existence of at least one necessary being necessary? Or is there some other explanation for how none could exist?

Just a quick comment on your remark about (2). If there are no necessary beings, then the set of necessary beings is empty. The empty set is a subset of every set. (Every element of the empty set is a member of any given set — since the empty set has no elements.) Hence, if there are no necessary beings, the set of necessary beings is indeed a subset of the set of impossible beings, just as it is a subset of any set. I'm not quite sure what an impossible being is, so I'm not quite sure what the set of impossible beings is. It sounds to me like it's another way of describing the empty set. But whatever the set of impossible beings is, we know that, if there are no necessary beings, then the set of necessary beings is a subset of it . I don't see any contradiction here.

If everything came from nothing, then where did nothing come from? Also if everything came from something, then where did the something come from? If you believe that everything has always just existed then how did it start to just exist?

Your first question misunderstands the meaning of "nothing": if I come from dust, then there's something I've come from (namely, dust). But if I come from nothing, then there's nothing I come from — not the something that nothing is! See Question 49 for more on this. (You might also look at the reference given in the responses to Question 40 .) The more difficult question you raise is how something could have come from nothing, as physicists tell us is the case.

Is there a such thing as nothing? If you say "I'm not doing anything" you are always doing something: sitting, standing, floating, breathing, laying; and if you say you can't see anything that's a lie also because you can see black, white. So what is your opinion?? Panku Zina -14

There is no thing that is nothing. To say that nothing is in the room is not after all to say that something is in the room, namely nothing. That's a confusion: see Question 49 for some discussion. You're right to observe that when someone says "I'm doing nothing", they're always doing something. But the right lesson to draw from that is not that "nothing" is actually a thing or an activity, but rather that what someone intends to communicate by saying "I'm doing nothing" is that they're not doing anything that you'd care to know about. Likewise, when you're shipwrecked on an island and looking out to the horizon and your friend asks you what you see and you say "I see nothing", you shouldn't think that "nothing" really refers to the water, the sky, the puffins, etc. Rather, you're trying to get across that you see nothing that your friend would care to know about at that moment (like an approaching ship).