Why or how does anything exist at all?
It’s already a tricky question to come up with an answer for, but this particular question may also not have any certain answer, at least as far as we can tell. If everything in existence was made by something else that is greater, then how did this greater thing come to be? If it all just comes about of its own being, then why is it that all in existence seems to exist necessarily? I’ll be addressing the idea of necessary being and the descrepancy between objective existence and reality, referring to conversations I have had with others about the topics and my own contemplations.
First, defining the terms we are contemplating would help us to have a better perspective of the relationships between the concepts. Necessary being is the quality of a thing that allows it to exist, quite frankly, necessarily. This means that it is impossible for it not to exist because its existence is a necessary factor of what defines it. Many people have argued that God has necessary being, which would allow God to exist without having been made or caused by anything so that God could then make and cause the rest of existence. In keeping with modern approaches to ontological contemplation, I will refrain from referring to God or any other supreme being where it is unnecessary to assert such a thing’s existence as a hypothesis, though I will not completely discount the idea of a necessary conscious being (the reasons for which I will explain later in this essay).
Without referring to such a supreme being, one can frame the argument in a similar way by stating that it is the totality of existence itself which exists necessarily. In this manner, everything that exists is still made by something with the quality of necessary being, but instead of being caused by a governing factor outside of the system of existence, it is the system of existence itself which is the governing factor of its internal “parts”. In this perspective, the totality of existence takes the place of God as a self-perpetuating and fulfilling system, being both its own cause and effect. Within it, everything which we would recognize and experience emerges from its processes as natural phenomena. But this raises an important distinction: perceived reality does not include everything in existence.
It is no secret that we do not immediately perceive existence as it is, but rather we perceive existence as it appears. The forced perspective of a physical reality defined by the dimensions of space-time mean that we are forced into an experience in which the most notable factors of the experience are necessarily physical, being in a physical reality. Here, “reality” refers to the frame and areas of existence that are experienced through perception. It should be noted that though we can perceive many things in reality through our senses, our primary information-gathering tools, we cannot perceive all things in existence or existence itself. This is usually framed in philosophic discussions as not being able to perceive objects or things in themselves. Kant makes the distinction between noumena, these things in themselves that are objective existence(s), and phenomena, things that are perceived through the physical formality or manner of our perception and cognition but are not themselves distinct objects. Without getting too engrained in the technical jargon, this sort of distinction aims at describing in at least one way the difference between the reality as it is represented and the existence which it aims to represent, and it is here that we highlight the difference between reality and existence as an objective system.
Necessarily, in order for a represented reality to be perceived, there must be some thing perceiving it. This is typically referred to as the perceiver or observer, which we identify at least part of our being with. We perceive existence through specific formal parameters, giving it the appearance it takes in physical reality. However, this does not necessarily mean that everything which is thusly made “real”, or given form in reality, reflects the objective existence perfectly. Instead, our perceived realities are interpretations by our minds, made so that certain information is emphasized and other information is de-emphasized. This not only serves us practically, but it also suggests that our perceptual constraints to specific dimensions of existence are in some way adaptable and not necessarily random or arbitrarily given. In other words, we as beings likely have evolved to be able to specifically perceive certain dimensions of our existence that best fit our ability to navigate exist within the dimensions that we aim to occupy. This does not mean we have the optimal form of existence within each dimension, but rather that we are tailored to navigating existence in a specific way.
That being said, I would like to focus on the mind again. Our bodies are clearly physical, and are thus constrained to physical limitations, but consciousness seems to transcend physicality, often allowing us to be consciously aware of things which are not themselves physical forms or representations/appearances. However, if you are taking the physical representations of existence to be merely appearances, like illusory images on a screen, you are missing the point of the multidimensional nature of reality. Emotions are not physical. You cannot hold anger in you hand or top a pizza with love, but it can still be felt. Emotions can be layered in voices, buried in our chests, drained from our bodies, or left throughout a room. Emotions are not physical, but there are many physical aspects of emotionality. This multidimensional nature is what defines the transcendental aspects of existence. The fact that something can be describe in terms of a physical reality, but not at all limited to it demonstrates that the dimensions which are not immediately apparent are nonetheless existing as necessarily and experientially as the physical forms we perceive.
Consider the mind itself. In terms of physicality, our nervous systems are like organic computers, processing sensory data to hallucinate a conscious experience for our conscious mind to navigate. Does this mean that we create existence? Not likely, as we are within the existence which would have to be created. But, this does mean that reality’s manifestation could not be separated from our own existence. Consider again the personal experience. It has a center and and external being. Reality seems to emerge from the locus of being, or maybe it is drawn to it as matter and light are drawn to black holes. We cannot say what the nature of our conscious existence is, but we have hypothesized that it, like the means of our perception, is organized for the purpose of our navigation. The hypothesis I here is that we are a self-conscious aspect of existence, manifesting reality through its awareness in a way that allows it the ability to consciously navigate certain dimensions for the sake of… exploration? For testing reality and existence itself?
One type of perspective which I happen to be fond of considers the nature of existence as necessarily playful because it seems as if there is no logical reason for existence. Why have something which necessarily must exist? Because nothingness offers nothing to a subjective, personal being. Why have such multidimensional exchanges and interactions? Why create such a vastly diverse and intricate reality abstracted from the objective information available in whatever existence in-itself is? These questions can neither be asked nor answered without the existence of a sentient consciousness, bordered by unconsciousness and mystery, that has the ability to be given reality and act within and upon it in order to navigate it and express itself within it. We are obviously in a simulated reality, because we are simulating it within our own minds. Regardless of whether or not the information which we are drawing from is that of objective existence or information fed to us by another system within the objective existence, our experience is the same. We are still in the type of reality which we happen to be in with its given dimensional parameters. And from here, there are only two questions. Would you like to explore the dimensionality of this form of existence and see where its limits lie and what it has to offer? And if so, what would you do?
5 thoughts on “The Difference between Reality and Existence”
I like your post but I have something that can explain it in a way that can answer your questions in a very simple way. I hope you are interested because I have a real problem with it. I can’t find any view or theory any topic or subject that will not fit within it’s framework, structure or whatever you might wish to call it. I don’t even know where it came from. To pique your interest I will say that it involves a simple definition of Reality and Existence and a clear relation between the two that I have not been able to contradict. From your writings I can tell you know a lot more than I do about this stuff and can contradict it better than I. If you are interested enough to do that I can send the whole thing to you in a single email or this form because it has a surprisingly small number of elements and rules for operations. If you are not interested I am sorry for bothering you and I won’t do it again. Thanks for listening.
I am always interested in reviewing more theories and perspectives of metaphysics. Are you referring to a writing or essay of some sort?
I apologize for the slow response. I’ve spent a lot of time on The Philosophy Forum lately looking for something to explain this thing away. I truly appreciate your interest so I don’t want to waste your time. I hope you can contradict this thing or at least tell me I’m wasting my time. So here it is; I call it Edgys’ Framework:
Reality: All Truth that has, can or will be known. There is nothing outside of Reality.
Difference Barrier: The barrier or boundary between Existence and Reality.
Existence: The known subset of Reality. There may be many subsets of Existence besides just ours.
Reality is the Master Absolute. It does not change and never will. It is, by definition all there is and there is nothing outside it.
Existence, however, is subject to the 3 Minor Absolutes: Multiplicity, Variation and Time.
Multiplicity and Variation together make up the Law of Uniqueness. While Time is the mover of all of Existence.
All subsets of Existence contain elements I call ‘Existors’. You and I and everything in Existence is an Existor. Existors have properties that are common to all Existors. They all broadcast information. You and I are ‘Human’ Existors and cannot only Broadcast information but we can hide some information. An Existor of ‘inanimate’ type can only Broadcast information and nothing else. I have two Styrofoam cups on my desk. They Broadcast that much information. I can take them to a lab and find out exactly what compounds were used to make them, they cannot hide anything from me.
According to the Law of Uniqueness, the two cups are different in some way and Time guaranties they will have a difference between them.
A single thought is an Existor of type ‘Idea”. It comes into Existence as soon as an Existor capable of having thoughts creates it.
This is it in nutshell. I could go on for days talking about it. But, as I said, I don’t want to waste any of your time. I would love some feedback at any time, whether you are completely dismissive or have a question. I would be happy to see a response, whether or not it leads to a discussion. Thank you very much for taking time to consider it.
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I’d say that sounds like it’s referring to the same kind of ideas that I was expressing, just using different concepts and abstractions to represent the information. But the dichotomy between existence and reality for the model you gave is just the inverted version of what I gave. I’d say the only real difference is that I do not believe there are different realities, or in the terms of Edgy’s Framework different existences, but I believe that all sequences or versions of realities have some sort of dimension of congruence tying them all together (and I think it’s consciousness). I do like the notion of Existors; I refer to them as “things”, but semantics aside, this metaphysical framework seems very similar to the one I expressed.
Thank you for allowing me to impose upon you for a chance to discuss this Framework. Perhaps I should explain what my goal is. From a comment I think I posted I wrote “What is Greatest is What is Least”. By this statement alone I developed this Framework. The idea was to come up with the Greatest problem solving method that took the Least amount of effort and knowledge to learn. Something that would be comprehensible to the greatest number of people.
You mentioned you do not believe in different realities. Neither do I. What I stated by defining Reality is that it is all truth that can, or ever will be known. It is static, the Master Absolute, it cannot change because it cannot be added to or subtracted from or it would contradict it’s own definition.
As for Existence, we are all in one existence, but I merely added that there ‘may’ be others. But as others create different names for them like dimensions or parallel universes, etc, etc. I would describe only as ‘other subsets’ with their own ‘existors’ with different types than we can know, at least today.
Truth seems to be the one goal of all philosophies I have read about and is synonymous with the concept of ‘what is Real”? I chose the term Reality because it’s a term that will substitute for God, Truth, space-time continuum or whatever other name you choose to give it. It is the Truth that we seek, is it not?
The problem I saw with different approaches was Categories, Constraints and Restraints. We as Human existors have the Constraints of our species, our ‘senses’, as it were, and the instruments we have created to extend those senses. A Restraint is something we create, thinking we cannot achieve a goal when we are, in fact, capable of surprising ourselves.
A popular refrain nowadays is ‘Think outside the box’. To me, the box is the prime restraint. What I’m trying to do is imagine No Box at all. None. The first box we build is the Category, or the context of a statement. I only present and do not argue. I only ask that you read and think. I wish not to waste any ones time so I will stop for now and ask only that you re-read Edgys’ Framework again, perhaps a little more closely, and remember the rules and laws presented as they are very precise. I feel I need to expound further on Existors and their characteristics but I fear I have taken too much of your time so I will wait to see a response before I go on. Thank you so much for your time.