Discussion → Existence & the Contrary

  • Andrew Kenneally
    Apr 08, 07:20am

    I'd like to examine & query the intelligibility of a series of words placed together with the intent of forming a structure that imparts coherent meaning. The verbal structure I had in mind is the following: "It does not exist." My claim is that this is an absurdity based on thoughts hopefully successfully expressed in the very near future.

    What I am disputing here is the "it" bit in relation to the not existing bit. "It" refers to something that exists; if it didn't, then it wouldn't be an it. To put it another way, an "it" requires an "is." I can't refer to something that isn't in terms of being an it. Its non-existence means it may be more accurately decribed as a not-it. Though even here, "Its non-existence" is fraught with unintelligibility as its very non-existence means it isn't an it with which to have a non-existence.

    So to re-cap, the sentence should read, "It does exist," unless it doesn't, in which case the less said the better.

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    eamon byrne
    Apr 09, 05:35am

    Andrew (if I may). I'd like to raise certain points in response to your points.

    By 'very near future' did you mean 'the second paragraph', 'the following', or some indeterminate future? I don't mean to be difficult, but this is crucial to your whole argument.

    'it', I think we can agree, is a semantic placeholder: it could refer to an abstraction - assuming, of course, that there's a mind to abstract it, which unfortunately we cannot, assume I mean. For, be aware that controversy still rages in certain cognitively belligerant circles as to whether 'it', the mind, actually exists. Truly. I do not make this up. It has been suggested even that the whole concept could be a con. And if this seemingly remarkable idea is mainly the currency of undergraduates, it is not to be frowned on, but rather appreciated; for that is their prerogative, is it not? I mean the brew has its amber power, does it not? (And if I'm mistaken I apologise to the Guinnesses, but.)

    Now, to get to the nub of the matter, the idea of 'it' comes down to this: the construct of 'it'. Let us state it thus:

    it [is][was][has][will][plays chess][...]

    Actually, that should be better expressed as:

    it [is|was|has|will] [a|be] [chess piece|play|played| chess]

    For, note that 'it' needn't imply a human or a chess-playing chimp, but could be, say, the silicon behemoth 'deep blue'. Just to be clear on this.

    These are the main points of my theorem:

    (a) - it's clear that the essence of 'it' is its pronounness ; and

    (b) - you cannot pin down 'it'; it is a slippery customer
    (For, as has been put by the Flann, if a man continues to ride his bicycle, he must expect to absorb some of the bicycleness of 'it'.)

    But note, in defence of 'it', the english language would be crippled without 'it'. It would have to do with something like 'ce'. I put it to you, can you imagine yourself using 'ce' in place of 'it'? Of course you can't. Game, set and match already, without even my next point. (But I digress. Sorry.)

    (c)'it' has an evil sibling and great defender of its faith: infinity

    (Zeno, by the way, was very fond of infinity; though that's neither here nor there, and certainly my argument doesn't depend on it.)

    There is, of course, far more to it than that. ('That' - now there's another word. Ah yes. For another time.) But, since space is at a premium, I can only point you at further and recommended reading; in particular a truly mind bending analysis of infinity, until it gets lost in the higher maths, being d f wallace's 'everything and more', in which certain forking paths of Borges are followed, but signposted for the easily lost with turns of phrases like 'and but', and words like 'stuff' and 'weird'.

  • Andrew Kenneally
    Apr 13, 03:07am

    Hi Eamon. Sorry bout de delay - not much internet time for me of late. By the very near future I did mean the following paragraph. I'm afraid that lack of time means I don't really have said temporal stores available to me now either to pursue the vast offshoots you traversed in your response, but I will copy & paste another piece written previously that relates - as another essay - regarding the treating of non-existent nothings as though they were somethings.

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    Kane X. Faucher
    Apr 14, 07:53am

    "So to re-cap, the sentence should read, "It does exist," unless it doesn't, in which case the less said the better."

    Sounds like the Parmenides poem on Being where he says we cannot speak of nothing because nothing proper does not exist.

    I wanted to follow up here with what you were saying about a series of words forming structure/meaning, and I desired some clarification. Did you mean semantics? Semiotics? Semantically, as speakers of a "common" language, the "it" is generally furnished by some context - to locate logical sense is nigh impossible since if I reduce it to a logical equation it amounts to a tautology where x = x...or X->X, /therefore x. We got caught in a loop where we would have to either go for a conditional or indirect proof to substantiate x, whatever x may be. But in the end, all you prove is that x exists or it does not without being able to say anything more about it.

    If we went the semiotic route and assigned the signifier-signified relation, even then we may be at a loss without context to furnish the meaning of that "it". That "it" may imply "is", but there are so many ways of saying "is" philosophically. I think Heidegger found around five(!)

    The floating "it" of reference can get very confusing depending on how we structure our sentences. "It felt like it" is one example of a hopeless confusion unless there is prior or subsequent context.

    Love this thread!

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