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Why can’t I argue that God exists noncontingently and is an abstract object? Some say it is because abstract objects lack causal power, and thus to argue as such would deny God at least one essential characteristic which any interesting concept of God cannot lack—omnipotence. But why can’t abstract object possess causal power?

Interesting question. Some philosophers have attributed to abstract objects divine attributes like being eternal and timeless. Perhaps some abstract objects (like the properties of justice and beauty) might be worthy of worship. I have actually argued that abstract objects do have causal roles, so I am sympathetic with your inquiry! Their causal role (in my view) takes place in accounting for our intentionality and thinking. When you think about 1+1, the reason why you reason that 1+1=2 is that you grasp necessary relationships between numbers, which are abstract objects. Moreover, for some of us who think God exists non contingently, we suppose that there is the abstract state of affairs of there being a non contingent, necessarily existing God. And no less a philosopher than Plato suggests that the Good might be the source of what is. However while abstract objects might have some causal powers, few have thought they can have intentional powers (e.g. the property of justice as an abstract object...

Can something with attributes not have a definition?

It is natural to think of definitions as something that we formulate, whereas attributes are usually thought of as something that we might formulate or construct (the attribute of being a human invention, for example), but also something that we do not invent or create. On this later view, there may be indefinitely many objects with attributes that we have yet to define and we might be incapable of defining. Even our brains, for example, might have attributes we might never discover. It may even be that everything we observe and is observable has an attribute that we may not know and hence be able to competently define (e.g. the attribute or property of being created by God or Brahman). So, I suggest that some things do have attributes that lack definitions. For further thought, I suggest that some attributes may only be conceivable in cases of when we have definitions. So, in asserting that triangles have three sides, conceiving of the attribute of *being three sided* (or, in more detail: *being a...

what is the ontological status of puppets and dummys? i'm think of of ventriloquist dummies and puppets like emu-what kind of existence do they have? what happens to them when they are put away in a box?

Great question. When functioning in a performance, I would think most of us would (rightly) see puppets and dummies as characters that are controlled by ventriloquists and puppeteers and thus not independent, autonomous agents. Their words and actions would be so entirely controlled by another agent that they themselves could only be the objects of praise or blame as part of a narrative or story (a matter of "make-believe" or imagination). I suppose there might be complicated circumstances in which someone controlling the puppets and dummies designates or assigns these characters some alter-ego or the embodiment of thoughts and feelings not shared by the controller, but this might be no more puzzling than what occurs when a novelist invents characters with goals the author does not share. When you ask about "what kind of existence do they have," I suggest that they are probably best seen as in the same category as tools. So, when a hammer or a puppet is put in a box and not being used, they remain...

If something can’t be defined can it exist? and vice versa

Some things can be defined that cannot exist, such as "A square circle in two dimensional space" or "2+2=1" --and some things can be described that do not exist but could have existed or might come to exist (unicorns). And, I suggest, that there may be indefinitely many things that exist for which we do not have any successful definition. "Consciousness" might be a candidate, insofar as some philosophers are right in thinking we may never have a good or at-least problem-free definition. As an aside, your question raises the need for a good definition of definitions. I will not attempt such a philosophy of definitions here, but you might check out the Stanford Encyclopedia entries bearing on philosophy of language for further, useful material. Paradoxically, if nothing can exist than cannot be defined, and we have no definition of being defined, we all might be in trouble. Thinking further: I suspect you may be principally concerned with the problem of affirming that something (X) exists, and...

I guess some philosophers discuss whether in some exact location there is only one object, a statue, or two objects, the statue and the stone it is made of. Are there well-known philosophers who argue that this is a false question, a mere matter of choice of words, that there is no criterion to distinguish one object from two objects? Thank you.

The philosopher Peter van Inwagen is rather skeptical about such relations. Although I may be wrong, but I think he is quite reluctant to believe that (strictly speaking) there are gross macroscopic objects like books and chairs and statues. These "objects" can (in principle) be described and explained in terms of simpler parts and things. I am not sure that terms like "statue" or "marble" are just a matter of words without any clear understanding of criteria / criterion of application... It seems like common sense that one might destroy a statue without destroying the material that makes up the statue. A philosopher who is highly respected but sometimes severely criticized in such matters is John Searle who (in my view) has done great work on identifying how objects exist in our "social world" as constructions through shared intentions and how some objects are not so constructed. The general area of philosophy that explores the relationship of objects and their parts is called Mereology. An...

Why did Descartes pick thinking of all possible attributes to logically establish existence? Rocks exist but don't think. What exactly did he have in mind to establish? Was it really existence? Did he have any valid reason to doubt his or our existence? Wouldn't pain be a better criterion? Or movement? Or change? If a non-philosopher raised such a question we would certainly look askance at him and not value his "evidence" either way.

Thank you for this inquiry. You are on to a very important point. First, some thoughts on Descartes: Descartes set up the ultimate skeptical project: In an age of the emergence of modern science, he asked what we can really have unmistakable certainty about? To take your example, can we have absolute, uncorrectable (incorrigible) certainty that the rocks we see and study are as they appear? He proposed the massive skeptical hypothesis: Can we rule out that there is an all powerful evil genius who is making us appear (again, using your example) to see, observe, and study the movement, change, and location of rocks when, in fact there are no such rocks? In contemporary popular cultural terms, can we rule out that we are in the Matrix? Or to use terms that were popular in the 1980s, can you rule out that your brain is now in a vat at MIT and electrochemically stimulated such that you are having all the experiences you have now and so you are in a kind of virtual world, but not an actual world? ...

Is "exist" an overburdened word? We say that ideas exist, processes exist, and substances exist, but doesn't "exist" mean something different in each case? When we say a particular apple exists, we mean the apple takes up space in the world. When we say the sport of baseball exists, we mean there's this process that people could enact. When we say the color red exists, we mean that there's this shared subjective experience that arises from certain stimuli. When I think about whether or not certain things exist, e.g. mind, time, morality, etc., it's really tricky to know which standards to apply, that of processes, materials, or ideas. Might it be more useful to say that substances exist, processes occur, and ideas arise? Then whether or not the mind exists wouldn't even be a valid question, any more than asking whether apples occur or baseball arises. I suggested this to a professor of philosophy who's dating a friend of mine, and he said he didn't think reserving a special meaning for "exist"...

Great question! Some philosophers have actually disparaged the term "exist," possibly for similar reasons. They have thought that "exists" may be redundant, as the sentence "There is a baseball game today" seems more tidy and less odd than a sentence like "A baseball game exists today." A similar point is sometimes made about the term "true" --it appears that the sentence "Snow is white" gains little if we add "It is true that snow is white." And yet other philosophers (like Meinong) even introduced the term "subsist" to refer to things that hover between existence and non-existence. All that to one side, I suggest the terms "exist" and "true" are perfectly respectful, even if they may sometimes appear redundant. It would be apt, for example, to say that an atheist thinks God does not exist, whereas a theist believes that God exists. What you are on to with the terms you suggest (something occurs or arises) also can play an important role in articulating what it is we are talking about. There is a...

When discussing kinds of terms, there are certain kinds that come up often. Singular entities such as Queen Elizabeth II are one kind, categories such as cats are another, and properties such as blue are a third. However, what about substances like "gold"? Is a gold watch an instance of the property of being gold, or being made of gold? Or does the watch simply contain trillions of elements in the category "gold (atoms)"? Or is "gold" a singular entity that exists scattered throughout the Universe? Or are substances an entire category to themselves?

Very difficult and interesting question! Those of us who are Platonists and believe in abstract properties would acknowledge (maybe with some qualifications) properties like being a monarch, being feline, being blue, being a mineral, being gold, being a mineral with a certain atomic number, being a watch, being an artifact, and so on. On this view, properties can certainly be constituitive of individual objects: hence the gold watch instatiates the property of being made of gold. What might be deemed relational properties like (being a gold watch owned by a monarch) may not be constituitive, however, and may be accidental (the monarch may give the watch to a duke). While I am in the Platonist camp (I think there are truths about gold, even if there were no actual instances of gold in the world), probably more sober philosophers gravitate to some form of what is called nominalism or conceptualism. On one version, "gold" refers to a scattered object (all the gold that exists) but would lack a referent...

What is the meaning of life? What is the purpose of anything existing? Does existence exist for no apparent logical and answerable reason and therefore does not need an explanation and simply is a product of random, anomalous events, or does existence exist because there is a purpose or reason for me and existence to exist? I tend to think if there is a purpose behind existence there must be something guiding existence because existence has a purpose otherwise why exist at all. Am I alive and self aware and exist because something made me exist or am I the result of a randomness of phenomenon that allowed me to develop the conscious ability to question my existence and therefore find some justification for my existence even though the questioning of existence is pointless in any case? In other words do I and everyone else exist for a reason or is there meant to be no apparent reason for my existence therefore I am allowed free reign to believe I exist for some apparent reason which may or may not be a...

You certainly have asked THE big question! Many religious thinkers do believe that there is a meaning to life and a purpose as well. For a good representation of a broadly Christian point of view (but one that would be satisfying to traditional Jews, Muslims, and some Hindus) you might check out Mark Wynn's book God and Goodness. In this philosophy, you and the cosmos as a whole exist because it is good that you and the cosmos exist; moreover, it is created by an all good God whose purpose for creating was to being about goodness. I personally adopt such a position, but many fellow philosophers do not, either because they simply deny that there is a God or they are suspicious about objective values like goodness. But leaving aside religious concerns, if you simply recognize values like happiness (or flourishing) then you will find yourself among many philosophers (religious and secular) who think that a big part or the meaning of life (its point) is for there to be human flourishing, and going...

Suppose I tell my friend that leprechauns don't exist. He responds: "Well, not in THIS realm, they don't. But they MIGHT exist in some hitherto undiscovered realm." To what extent does the claim 'X exists' depend on its being discoverable, or knowable? As a curious person, this question has really bothered me the past few days. There's something comforting about having knowledge, and that there might be an infinite amount of unknowables is rather disconcerting to me. Does Ayer's position -- that for a claim to be meaningful it must either be tautological or empirically veriable -- apply here? If someone could shed some light on this quandary, I'd be immensely appreciative. I really don't know my I allow myself to be bothered my these types of philosophical questions.

While Ayer's verificationism has gone out of fashion (he and others could not settle on a formulation of it that did not rule out science or some such apparently meaningful discourse) there are forms of what is called anti-realism which define 'truth' in terms of warranted assertability, which would rule out the possibility of there being truths that are out of reach from what we can know (at least in principle). Alas, there is a good argument against such a position in Thomas Nagel's work The View From Nowhere. One other idea to consider is that your friend may be right but in a way that has nothing to do with THIS (our) world. Some philosophers (David Lewis etc) have argued that there are indefinitely many POSSIBLE WORLDS. So, you might reply that, yes, leprechauns actually do exist but in a possible world not remotely related to ours! Check out Lewis's book on the plurality of worlds. It is awesome.

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