PERENNIAL QUESTIONS

Added: April 19, 1999
You repeatedly insist that nothing that is incorporeal can exist.  How, then, do you explain the existence of pain, happiness, love, hate, friendship, democracy, motion, and the like?
Elsewhere in this homepage, I have addressed this issue, particularly the equivocation of the term, 'exist.'
      The crux of the problem is "the meaning" of the term, ' exist,' i.e., 'existence,' and the many different meanings we attach to the term. 
      If four dimensionally measurable THINGS did not exist, none of what you cited above could "exist."
      The "existents" you refer to are dependent upon physical existents.
      Such non-physical "existents," are analogous to other non-physical "existents" like mathematical concepts, laws, principles, moral and theological concepts, etc.
      They cannot "exist" except as functions of physical and/or living and/or intelligent four dimensional existents.
      When, in the case of emotions, ideas, pain, happiness, etc., being experienced, if the person or persons experiencing them cease to have functioning (i.e., live) brains or to exist, so do such "existents" as your question addresses. 
Updated October 22, 1999
There is a more complex aspect of this issue which revolves around the meanings WE GIVE to such terms as 'exists,' 'is,' 'being,' 'ontology,' and, of course, 'existence.'
      Meanings do not exist as objects or entities.
      Moreover, we never mean in vacuo.
      When we mean, we are attributing characteristics and/or qualities to the "object" we are naming or referring to.
      To GIVE MEANING is to perform an act of mind.
      As such, the term 'meaning' "means" an act of mind.
      You may, therefore, legitimately claim that one's meaning of a word is not the same thing as the object one means, for it is clear that an object (a physical object) is not "an act of mind" -- unless, of course you accept Bishop George Berkeley's theology or Samuel Alexander's "objects of mind."
      There are those who insist that terms like 'exist,' 'is,' all forms of the infinitive "to be" mean the same thing each and every time they are used.
      We do not have a license, however, to claim that when a term is used that it always means the same thing (See Ogden and Richards, THE MEANING OF MEANING.)
      And this should be clear particularly when we insist that "exists" means two different things in the statements, "God exists," and "The table exists."
      An antagonist might reply, " But I am discussing only its existence not the thing's kind of existence.
      The differences in EXISTENTS cannot be separated from their EXISTENCE except discursively.
      The moment the issue comes into question, "Yes, it exists," "No, it does not exist," it becomes evident that the meanings of "exist" are not the same.
      When we make claims of existence that cannot be verified, it is never clear what is meant.
Let us imagine a dialogue:
           GOD EXISTS.
           What do you mean by "exists"?
           I MEAN (GOD) HAS BEING.
           What do you mean by "being"?
           I MEAN QUALITIES AND CHARACTERISTICS THE TOTALITY OF WHICH ARE GOD.
           But God is defined to be incorporeal, i.e., non-matter, non-being.
           DUH.
           Aren't you saying "exists," i.e., "has being" means "has non-being"?
           DUH.
      The term is, beyond doubt, being equivocated.
      Any dictionary or argument about "exists" will attest to that.
No combination of alphabetical letters, i.e., symbols, has an inherent meaning.
Meaning "rests" only in some "mind."
I have been asked, "What do your mean by 'inherent'?"
      I mean "innate," that is to say, no symbol has meaning until meaning is attributed to it.
      The "meanings" are those GIVEN to us by our parents, teachers, specialized groups, and dictionary usage, etc., or are meanings evolved from internalized experiences.
The meaning of the term, 'exists,' in saying that physical things exist, must never be equated with its use in saying that their functions exist.
      Physical things have dimensions and their functions do not.
      Most functions of things like running, walking, dancing, thinking, etc., "exist" ephemerally.
      Other functions are mental constructs like arithmetic, mathematics, geometry, laws, principles.
      Still other functions of things like "mind," thoughts, health, age, and the like are in a constant process of change.
      When all intelligences in the universe ceases to "exist," they cease to exist.
      Physical objects, though subject to the relative attributed meanings of the term, 'ephemeral,' may change or evolve in form or even become energy, but their component parts do not cease to exist in some form.
      This cannot be said for incorporeal FUNCTIONS of things.
      The nature of the "existence" of physical things must never be equated with the nature of the existence of the functions of those physical things.
As to the question above, let us consider the term "exist" in some of its various uses:
      The table exists.
      I exist.
     Mind exists
      Soul exists.
      God exists.
      Hell exists.
      Demons exist.
      Heaven exists.
      Angels exist.
      Satan exists.
      Equality exists.
      Identity exists.
      Democracy exists.
      Quarks exist.
      Electrons exist.
      Electro-magnetic waves exist.
      Relations (between two objects) exist.
     Numbers exist.
      Geometric entities exist.
It has been said that if one utters, writes, or thinks such statements, that the term 'exists' means the same thing in each of the sentences.
      The implication of such an assertion implies:
         that each person knows exactly what any other person using the term means,
        that every person using the the term "means" the same thing.
         that "existence," the "isness," the "being" of an entity is verifiable.
         that the user of the term has a clear idea of what he means.
         that the "thing" said to exist is understood (the meaning of which term must, itself, be meticulously examined) to mean the same thing.
      Nevertheless, if you are going to claim "isness," "being," "existence" of an entity, the meaning of the "isness" cannot be separated from the qualities and characteristics being attributed to the entity inasmuch as without their existence, you are in no position to assert its existence as a prerequisite for those qualities and characteristics because the entity IS the totality of those qualities and characteristics.
      If you claim that a non-physical entity exists, then it's incumbent upon you to attribute verifiable characteristics to it without which its existence cannot be manifested or else "exists" is an empty term.
      When you say (the Biblical), "God exists," you cannot mean, by "exists," what you mean when you say the table exists.
      For when you say "God exists," defined to be unknowable, you are saying He has certain unknowable, and, consequently, undeclarable attributes.
      The utterance, "God exists," therefore, is an empty term.
      When you say "That table exists," you mean you can specify its verifiable attributes.
      So when you say "God, Heaven, Hell, demons, etc., exist," you do not mean that you can specify verifiable attributes.
1997 by Pasqual S. Schievella