Existence

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Existence

 

a synonym for being—the being of matter and of consciousness—in dialectical materialist philosophy. Throughout the history of philosophy, the concept of existence has usually been applied to a thing’s external being, which, in contrast to a thing’s essence, is comprehended by experience rather than by thought. Scholasticism perceived the duality of essence and existence as reflecting a fundamental dichotomy in the natural, or created, universe—a dichotomy sublated only in god: the existence of a thing is not deducible from its essence but is ultimately determined by the creative will of god.

The British empiricists of the 17th and 18th centuries, such as Locke and Hume, recognized the reality of isolated facts, whose existence cannot be deduced in any way and which are determined by sense experience, the source of all knowledge. Modern rationalism, as taught by Descartes, Spinoza, Fichte, and Hegel, bases its interpretation of existence on the unity of thought and being. Essentially, these philosophers regard existence as something reasonable, or rational. Leibniz and Kant attempted to reconcile these two viewpoints.

Leibniz recognizes two kinds of truth: the eternal truths of reason and the truths of fact. According to Leibniz, however, the distinction between the two exists only within human reason, which is finite; in divine reason the distinction is sublated. Kant recognizes the ontological significance of the existence of the unknowable “thing-in-itself”: such existence, in principle, is not logically deducible, since it is impossible logically to deduce the existence of any sense phenomenon. Reason provides formal connections only, while the senses furnish the material for reason.

With Kierkegaard, the category of existence acquires a basically new meaning. In contraposition to rationalism—Hegel’s, in particular—Kierkegaard proposes that existence be understood as that human reality which is apprehended directly. Existence, according to Kierkegaard, is unique, personal, and finite. Finite existence has its own destiny and is historical in nature, for in Kierkegaard’s view history is inseparable from the finiteness of existence, from its nonrepeatability—that is, from destiny.

In the 20th century, Kierkegaard’s concept of existence has been revived and plays a central role in the existentialism of K. Jaspers, M. Heidegger, J.-P. Sartre, and G. Marcel. In this school of thought, existence (from which the term “existentialism” derives) is correlated, as it were, with transcendence—that is, with man’s extension beyond his own limits. According to existentialism, both the link between existence and transcendence, which is inaccessible to thought, and the finiteness of existence are revealed by the very fact of existence. On the other hand, the finiteness of existence, or mortality, is not merely the empirical fact of the end of life; rather, it is a principle determining the structure of existence and permeating all human life. Hence the existentialists’ characteristic interest in “borderline” situations, such as suffering, dread, guilt, or anxiety, which throw light on the nature of existence.

Marxist philosophy, opposing all forms of idealism, regards existence as the objective reality of matter in its diverse forms and as that being—in the sociohistorical sense—which determines man’s position in society.

P. P. GAIDENKO

References in periodicals archive ?
There is a clear sense in which existence can be better for a person than nonexistence, even if nonexistence is not worse for her (a person can have no properties in a possible world in which she does not exist).
Levine, Instability and nonexistence of global solutions to non-linear wave equations of the form [Pu.
It might, however, be suggested that the comparison of the harm of existing in a defective state with the harm of nonexistence not only may be made but is actually made in many decisions involving the withholding or withdrawing of life support.
Would it be wrong if the child's life would be so terrible that nonexistence would be better?
The residents said that around one thousands stalls have been set up in sector G-6 while fifteen thousand to twenty-five thousand people visit the bazaar but nonexistence of parking place is creating problems for the people.
Essex Street Market--at twenty-nine minutes the longest of the four pieces--is a wintry study of shopping on the Lower East Side: The market itself is a bazaar fading into nonexistence.
SANTA CLARITA - Hoping to steer reckless driving into nonexistence, the city along with the Santa Clarita Valley sheriff's station kicked off a program Thursday that will allow residents to report motorists, especially teens, who don't take vehicle safety seriously.
She was determined that her organization would consist only of atheists; spiritualists, agnostics, and others who had doubts as to the nonexistence of God would not be allowed in.
More problematical, throughout this book Bowman seeks to deduce the existence or nonexistence of characteristics whose presence depend largely on their meaning.
THERE is an argument in philosophical discussions of death to show that postmortem nonexistence is bad in a way that prenatal nonexistence is not.
The existence, or nonexistence, of a partnership is not always easy to determine.
Special software automatically confirms that your signature is authentic, making the possibility of forgery practically nonexistence.