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Do things exist?

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Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 2/13/2014 Category: Miscellaneous
Updated: 2 years ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 558 times Debate No: 45817
Debate Rounds (2)
Comments (1)
Votes (1)




Can the concept of "things" be proven?


Given the scarce information in the question, I'm going to assume the right to define some terms (and I'm open to your revision of them, if we can agree on them, though that would begin to make this a complex process...) so we can meaningfully discuss.

A "thing" as I am defining it is any physical referent (such as the human brain organ) or ostensibly physical referent (such as the "mind" or a thought, conceptual scheme, etc. which, though they themselves are not strictly physical, the best evidence to date suggests their reality is based in physicality, and any doubt regarding this exist in a realm beyond meaningful discussion without further knowledge of consciousness, etc.). A thing is not the label for that thing, ex. the cat is the fuzzy warm cute being, and not the word "cat"; or ex. a feminist is anyone who self-applies the word feminist, acting from a very wide umbrella of philosophical and intellectual tradition and sentiment, and not simply the ideal, theoretical, textbook definition of a feminist.

Existence is the quality of being, as contrasted with that of being absent in a given space or from all space. Verifying being can only be done by a perceiving entity (as only such entities give meaning to the idea of something existing or not) either through perception, or arguably through logical inference, and best of all using both. A perception is held as distinct from a hunch or a personal conviction, in the same way as seeing from here to the end of the hall is distinct from having been to a landmark at one time long ago, and presuming it's still there, and certainly distinct from having been told that a landmark exists somewhere from someone else claiming to know.

Starting with the very difficult to refute Cartesian Cogito, I have yet to find a flaw in the assertion that to be able to think and conceive of things, one must necessarily exist. To reject this is not possible, for I cannot think while I cease to exist (save through some absurd definition of "exist" unrelated to the concept we understand as existence -you can apply ANY label to ANY physical referent, but that's not the same as disproving something).

If we accept that I exist, the we can examine my perceptions for their quality. We live in a world with a great degree of agreement between individual human perceptions on a basic level. Object in space, to the degree that they aren't space, appear roughly the same to different people. Thus when I build a path for me to walk on, you do not bump into the big boulders impeding it that I could not see; for if they were there, I could see them too, and remove them. Likewise, the "hardest" of sciences, mechanical physics, attests to the congruence of basic physical human perception. Many people are using their sensual perceptions, and, independent of them, these sensual perceptions have a great degree of similarity, to where we can create entirely conceptual, theoretical models OF them, which operate precisely as we expect them to when translated back into reality.

Of course, all my conditional speaking is to correct for the fact of our sensual fallibility. Perceptions can be wrong, but I feel I have securely establish that perceptions can also be accurate. If our perceptions about reality where not accurate in some sens, we could not create the experiments, and from those derive the conceptual schemes, which enable use to create the technology and methods of employing that we have, which functions so intricately and predictably.

Given that I exist, and my perceptions can be used by others who did not originate them (transferred via the technical languages of science and mathematics), it would stand to reason that the things I perceive and use to construct my technology (minerals, plant matter, etc.) exist, in the same sense that I do. If something about them were illusory, "laws" of physics would not necessarily hold across time, nor individual perceptions of the same thing. Reality would have no reason to meet our actions in the way that my hand slapping the water produces a ripple.

I will conclude here. I'm interested to see from what angle the contrary position approaches this topic! :D
Debate Round No. 1


First off, I have to say that jdtroughton has made quite a lengthy argument. Going to my topic, I just can't say with absolute certainly that what I am experiencing at the time of writing this is "real" or not. To use the "brain in a vat" theory, a person's "experiences" may be simulated, and no one can say with absolute certainty that they and the "things" around them because the perception of "existing" is an abstract concept. While what I am writing is possibly incorrect, nothing in this "universe" is certain.


So you've come into the semantic problem: What "is" real? Does it mean the nature of the perception agrees with the nature of the perceived? That the act of perception does nothing to change the perceived? This cannot be, for perception by virtue of being limited, contained in one being, which can see and hear only certain frequencies, etc. fundamentally changes the perceived. It's arguable that even NOT being a brain in a jar, none of this is "real", because it's relative to a perspective that CANNOT encapsulate the entirety of the perceived. You'd have to be the whole universe itself, in this way, to see objectively.

Suffice it to say, even if you ARE a brain in a jar, and what you see with your senses (the "real" world) is all a simulation, etc., that brain is still in that vat. They're there. This goes back to the I think, therefore I am statement. By virtue of perceiving, whatever, and however it is perceived, the things involved are real, whether or not we do or can recognize their objective reality. If I look out and see an apple, but it appears to my faulty senses as a crystal ball, I'm still real and there, and the object is as well, though it's not there in the way I see it.

To clarify, I'm arguing for a "present/not present" or "having physical substance in some sense" conception of the real. As you said, existence is an abstract concept, it's relevant only to perceiving entities. Rocks and planets and stars have no perceptive consciousnesses that we're aware of, so it's not their nature to concern with anything, least of all whether or not they or anything exists. They just be.

I think the idea of a massive simulation possible. By the rules of logic, however, the computer simulation it exists, and in that sense, our experience is real, we just ourselves mistake the nature of it. The idea that things aren't real is, I believe, a fallacy produced by the human ability to conceive of abstractions. Non-existence is not a property of reality, as reality consists of what exists. We've concocted the idea of non-existence and use it as an intellectual toy, but I do not believe the ability for us to do that need necessarily give us any pause as to the ultimate reality of things. It just gives a great way of doing something we always need to remember to do: challenge our assumptions ,perceptions, and conclusions, even against the most absurd skepticism, to rigorously ensure our conceptions are the most accurate approximation of reality we can achieve, given our present too and means. We can never get "there" (i.e. to full objective knowledge), because that's always relative to our conceptual schemes and perceptive abilities, which I have said already are relative and limited. It's the act of always learning, though, that I think is the point. And boy doggy is it fun,
Debate Round No. 2
1 comment has been posted on this debate.
Posted by Actionsspeak 2 years ago
Pro put in erfort with long articles, that weren't at all refuted, and since neither listed sources or had poor grammar every vote should be 3-0 Pro.
1 votes has been placed for this debate.
Vote Placed by Krazzy_Player 2 years ago
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Total points awarded:03 
Reasons for voting decision: Pro's arguments were better and no contest at all from Con.