The debate "Existence precedes essence." was started by
September 1, 2019, 11:41 pm.
19 people are on the agree side of this discussion, while 15 people are on the disagree side.
That might be enough to see the common perception.
It looks like most of the people in this community are on the agreeing side of this statement.
JDAWG9693 posted 21 arguments to the agreers part.
TheExistentialist posted 1 argument to the disagreers part.
JDAWG9693, CelestialXXXX, Legion and 16 visitors agree.
TheExistentialist, HusamAli, Nemiroff and 12 visitors disagree.
If so, then we still need the presence of the thing, physically or conceptually, before we can describe it at all, perfect description or not
Okay, so "essence" would be a perfect description of a thing and "existence" would be the presence of a thing?
Existence is presence in reality and essence is the attributes of the presence. There's the real attributes and the nominal model we form of those attributes.
How if reality essence different from existence?
And, abstract concepts (and concepts in general) require the existence of a mind, so at the very least the existence of a mind precedes essence
So presence in reality precedes presence as a concept? I agree for concrete entities, but what antecedents do purely abstract concepts have?
Maybe essence is multifaceted. Maybe there's the reality of an object (real essence) and the cognitive projection of reality (virtual essence). Concepts would be entirely virtual in that framing.
I would define "existence" as: the presence is reality; "essence" as... Well, I'm not sure. I'm not quite sure that "essence" even exists. Currently, I would have to go with the definition that Nemiroff and I agreed on, being: the conceptual existence of a thing
What is the definition of existence and essence?
No, it's not circular intrinsically to define words with words. But, if I say that the definition of "perfection" is "that which is perfect," that's circular and useless. I would say that one's "nature" and one's "essence" are the same thing, and that's why I'm pointing out how it seems to be a useless definition.
Using words to define words is circular, but it's how all words are defined. I see nature as the intrinsic and real qualities of a thing. How do you define these words? I'm willing to accept I'm using the wrong definitions but what are the right ones?
Also, what's the difference between something's nature and its essence? Otherwise you're using a circular definition
Wouldn't that just make essence a description of existence?
Whoops I deleted my message you replied to to edit it and forgot about it for awhile. I sent it off again before see this reply.
I understand existence to mean presence in reality in some way. Essences are it's nature of existence. Am I wrong?
I guess "the reality of what a thing is" is my definition of essence. I think forms are a very odd way to think about reality, but I may think that because I am missing something crucial about the concept. My view is there's an objective reality and there's our nominal version of it. That's the distinction I see between description and essence:
Essences are the real things that make a thing a thing. A description is just a way to encode our understanding of real essence into language. "Waterfalls have falling water" describes the family of waterfalls. "Inside Australia" describes the family of things in Australia. Combining these descriptions encodes the concept of an Australian waterfall. This concept is a model built on language instead of mathematics. We can decode the concept to capture nominal attributes (contains water = true, in Australia = true) and actions (water -> falling). The concept helps us agree on the same referents, but each item on our agreed upon list doesn't necessarily have those qualities in reality. Unbeknownst to us there may be a drought and 30% don't have water. Those descriptions don't build a model that captures the transience of water in a waterfall.
Because language derives its meaning from a consensus of understanding before reality that error may not be relevant. But there's still "rounding error" in language that loses pieces of nuance. Essence is the true nature of the waterfall's existence and a concept is an attempt to use language to capture and communicate our understanding of the waterfall.
So I believe essence and existence cannot exist without each other. An imagined thing like a God or an abstract idea is 100% nominal. If it's not a concept of something in objective reality then it doesn't have real essence, it's just whatever we can use language to mutually agree on.
Well, it sounds like you just described existence and called it essence. What is "existence"? The thing. Or, maybe more precisely: what the thing is. I wanna know what essence is. Or, maybe you define "existence" differently? If so, what would you say that is? AKA what's the difference between "essence" and "existence"?
Also, just a side note, arithmetic is also a language and is not intrinsic, that's why mathematicians say they invented an equation, not discovered.
@Allirix: Could you define "essence," because I didn't really see a definition? Would "essence" be a description of a thing, because you said it was the ground level of truth. So, the "essence of a waterfall" is, more-or-less: water that falls? In such case, how is essence different from a description? If that's not what you meant, could you define "essence"?
@TheExistentialist: I know that Sartre was only referring to humans, but I am referring to everything. There is no perfect "form" of anything because all standards are subjective. Could you describe to me a "perfect tree"? No, because there's no such thing. There is no objective standard of "perfection". There is no "perfect form" of anything.
Also, are you defining "essence" as: having relation to the perfect form it comes from? If so, I've already shown that there are no "perfect forms."
"that there must be a mind to have a concept"
essence is an ontological claim not an epistemological one. The concept of essence is simply a more abstracted version of the Greek concept of Form. Forms are often put forth as the models or paradigms of which sensible things are "copies". Sensible bodies are in constant flux and imperfect and hence, by Plato's reckoning, less real than the Forms which are eternal, unchanging and complete. Typical examples of Forms given by Plato are largeness, smallness, equality, unity, goodness, beauty and justice. More modern western philosophers expanded on this idea of essence to mean the perfect version of "x". So a tree is a tree insofar as it resembles a perfect tree. The essence of "treeness" must exist before a tree then. A mind is necessary to judge a tree "good or bad" with regards to its closeness of the essence of a tree. Just as logic must exist before reason, the essence of a tree must also precede the mind since there can be no knowledge of the essence of a tree without it existing before a mind.
Sartre, the person you're quoting in your claim, states that existence precedes essence only when it comes to Humans. He believes that because we have rational thought and free will we can actually define our essence. He believed that this was unique to humans because through their consciousness they create their own values and determine a meaning for their life because the human being does not possess any inherent identity or value. For Sartre, there is no "perfect" essence of a human. That identity or value must be created by the individual. What is meant by the statement "existence precedes essence" is that people are (1) defined only insofar as they act and (2) that they are responsible for their actions. A cup, a tree, a dog, etc... cannot act freely and therefore cannot have an essence other than that which they are meant to be. It is the rational mind that allows us to be without essence. So the absence of essence requires a mind, however, the presence of essence does not.
Hmm interesting viewpoint. I still think essence is the intrinsic nature of something though. It's the ground truth for what something actually is, not the abstract version of it. The mind interprets a waterfall and packages it into neatly defined boxes that approximate its true reality. Those abstractions only exists in our mind because they're interpretations of our mind, but the essence of something is independent of our interpretation.
For example, we interpret the interactions of countless unknown quantum forces as macroscopic features that give rise to essence. In a waterfall we interpret the lower-order interactions like the gravitational pull on, and the dipole attraction between H2O molecules as higher-order features like falling droplets or streams of falling water. Our neural networks approximates those higher order features into thoughts, words and understandings well enough to accurately communicate about waterfalls and interact with them.
But our approximate abstractions don't affect the true nature of a waterfall. Water would still fall as droplets or streams even if a mind had never interpreted a droplet or stream of water. Concepts are just interpretations of real phenomena.
Which last question?
Also, I know that this doesn't afflict you so much, but how satisfied one is with the truth doesn't determine what the truth is.
agreed. for now. still unsettled by that last question. but the alternative is more unsettling.
That's what I said: yes, the waterfall loses all essence if there are no minds, given our agreed definition of "essence"
your answer stated "because there must be a mind". but what if there are no minds to ponder it? does that waterfall have an essence?
If we are using the definition that "essence is the conceptual existence of a thing," then absolutely. Because I would argue that there must be a mind to have a concept, being that a "concept" is an idea.
here is a question.
in a world with no minds, does a waterfall lack all essence?
Okay, I can agree to that definition of "essence". However, concepts require a mind to conceptualize them, yes? Then, at least the existence of a mind must precede essence.
If no mind is required to conceptualize, making "essence" independent of minds as you previously claimed (?) then how?
yes, except essence is shorter and more artistic.
i dont want to hear artists talking about capturing the "conceptual existence of a cup". i just want its essense. or as close as he can in imagine it.
So, the "essence" would be "the conceptual existence of a thing"?
your definition or a cup is subjective and variable. it is within the essence of a cup but the essence is not limited to your definition of a cup.
it is independent of any specific minds
if all minds are extingished, it can persist for future discovery via records.
Wait, does "essence" exist solely in minds (which I would agree with) or does it exist independently of minds?
therefore the forms exist not in some supreme world but in our minds, subjective to all, and come into existence upon realization. and yet exist independently, particularly if they are sufficiently spread. and they are not limited to things; the essence of love for example.
what i love about my brief exploration of plato is that the man came to amazing conclusions despite ridiculous premises. i dont mean to reference the full forms theory. just its idea of perfect ideal unattainableness.
If it's like Plato's theory of forms, then we can't ever really comprehend it. Also, there's little to know evidence of Plato'a "true world," and I would invoke what Nietzsche said of true worlds, being that they don't exist.
Even if we define "essence" as "the concept of a thing," to put it simply of course, did the concept always exist before the thing? Was there an "essence of tree" before there was a tree when there was no mind to conceptualize a tree? Or was there a tree, and as minds we now prescribe "essence" onto the tree?
Also, can only material things have "essence"?
the ultimate form of that. like platos forms
So, not as simple as a definition, but more of the concept/idea of the thing?
a definition does not cover the entierty and versatility of the concept of "cup." a definition is just us trying to explain the essence in a few words.
in a scientific terms analogy. the essence would be the thing being examined. the concept is the theory of that thing. and the definition can be seen as the law, a short one sentence description.
So, what you're saying (and I would agree) is that an "essence" is no more than a definition? If so, we defined things (or, at the very least, someone defined things). Therefore, we create essence and you can't create something from nil.
If you don't agree with that definition of "essence", then what is it? (open to anyone). Additionally/in other words, what is the "essence of essence"?
perhaps it is intended to say that you molded the clay to the essense of a cup.
before you had a cup, you know of a cup. you know the definition of cup, its purpose, its utility, and its usefulness in your desired goal. that is the essense of a cup, the idea if it. it is what shaped your clay, what guided your understanding of "a cup" when you make or search for one.
I have posed the Euthyphro dilemma several times on other threads and this was simply a new attempt at the moral dilemma. I made another thread posing that God's morality still faces the is/ought fallacy.
However, as I have said, there is no such thing as "essence of cup". I can mold my clay into a cup, I can fold my paper into a cup, etc. Am I granting these things an "essence of cup"? How did I get that essence? You have failed to answer what the intrinsic "essence" of anything is. Again, as I said previously, we create what we would call "essence" or definitive characteristics, I would rather say. For example, once something fits a definition, it is then that thing. 'Once a thing is a handheld object built to hold liquids or small objects' it is a cup. But, there was no "essence of cup" before we made the cup, but we made the cup, then the essence.
Sartre is famous for this statement. However, the critique of his concept is fairly strong from both a metaphysical standpoint and a neuroscience standpoint.
A cup, having the essence of being a hand-held container that holds liquid, cannot be a fork no matter how much it wants to be. In this same manner the limitations of humans limit our essence. An intellectually impaired person is can't become a scholar due to their intellectual limitation pre-determining their choices.
Sam Harris makes a great point when he discusses free will. He claims that you are not free to choose as much as you'd like to think you are. Say you are asked to choose "the best movie". You are already limited by only the movies you have knowledge of and are further limited to the movies you can think of at that time. The same goes for other choices. You can't choose that which you don't have knowledge of and you can't choose options that you don't know exist or can't think of at the time. So if you have a moral problem where you only perceive 2 options and thus choose option A only to realize later that there actually was an option C which would have been a "better" option. Are you therefore a worse person because you couldn't make the better choice?
If you want to make the God argument, I think Socrates' critique of piety is better, also known as the Euthyphro dilemma. His essential question is "is it good because God says so, or does God say it is good because it is good". If you choose the first horn you must admit that goodness is arbitrary since you can't know God's nature (is he good by nature or a trickster). If you choose the second horn, God is irrelevant because goodness exists without God and he's just a way to access knowledge of good.
What even is "essence"? It doesn't intrinsically exist. We create "essence," but as we know, something can't come from nothing. We created "essence" from something that previously existed. Therefore: existence precedes essence.
Since existence precedes essence, there is no "intrinsic essence of good." God defined good, then defined it as himself. Therefore, "good" is nothing more than a construct.