Other Names:

Existence is the state of having being or reality in contrast to nonexistence and nonbeing. Existence is often contrasted with essence: the essence of an entity is its essential features or qualities, which can be understood even if one does not know whether the entity exists.

Ontology is the philosophical discipline studying the nature and types of existence. Singular existence is the existence of individual entities while general existence refers to the existence of concepts or universals. Entities present in space and time have concrete existence in contrast to abstract entities, like numbers and sets. Other distinctions are between possible, contingent, and necessary existence and between physical and mental existence. The common view is that an entity either exists or not with nothing in between, but some philosophers say that there are degrees of existence, meaning that some entities exist to a higher degree than others.

The orthodox position in ontology is that existence is a second-order property or a property of properties. For example, to say that lions exists means that the property of being a lion is possessed by an entity. A different view states that existence is a first-order property or a property of individuals. This means existence is similar to other properties of individuals, like color and shape. Alexius Meinong and his followers accept this idea and say that not all individuals have this property; they state that there are some individuals, such as Santa Claus, that do not exist. Universalists reject this view; they see existence as a universal property of every individual.

The concept of existence has been discussed throughout the history of philosophy and already played a role in ancient philosophy, including Presocratic philosophy in Ancient Greece, Hindu and Buddhist philosophy in Ancient India, and Daoist philosophy in ancient China. It is relevant to fields such as logic, mathematics, epistemology, philosophy of mind, philosophy of language, and existentialism.

Broader Problems:
Related UN Sustainable Development Goals:
GOAL 3: Good Health and Well-being
Problem Type:
A: Abstract Fundamental Problems
Date of last update
04.10.2020 – 22:48 CEST