virus: existence / representation

Eric Boyd (
Wed, 10 Mar 1999 15:28:02 -0500


I (ERiC) wrote:
"Reason is a disciplined way of thinking, one of it's purposes is to falsify beliefs (theories held to be true), by showing how they conflict with other beliefs or accepted propositions."

MemeLab comments:
The reason I bring this all to light is because there are some representations in which it is difficult to imagine how they are even in principle subjectable to rational criticism, if we insist on falsification as the essence of rational criticism. This problem arises because in formal logic you cannot self-refute. There are some representations that it would seem that formal logic itself presupposes. For example "existence".

Sticking only to conventions of formal logic, it is difficult to imagine how a representation of existence can be subjected to a process that assumes falsifiability. Because if this were the case we would naturally have to consider "not existence" - which would seem to be a contradiction upon the very making of such a representation, because the very making of that representation, and every other connecting issue that we can imagine pre-supposes SOME form of existence.

I don't follow your point here, or anywhere in the post. I do, however, have a couple of points which I *think* might be related.

I have often worked with non-existence proofs, specifically non-existence of God. The usual practice is to *assume* the existence of God, and some of his attributes, and use that do derive some results for our world/universe. Observing our universe reveals that such results are not the case, and thus by modus tollens (P-->Q, notQ therefore notP), you can conclude that God (as defined) does not exist.

I ran across a particulairly interesting example of this type of argument last week (perhaps referenced from here?):

The Moral Argument from Evil:

Which is unique becuase it relies on the moral nature of *humans* as a disproof of the "morals" of an all good God.

There is also the standard Argument from Evil:

In addition to these, existence is a very common mathematical attribute, especially in linear algeba. (to the point that "there exists" has it's own special symbol; a backwards capital E)

Perhaps you can clarify why you think existence is a difficult topic for logic/reason to handle?

Maybe I do get what you are pointing at. The validity of any argument for the non-existence of something depends on the initial formalization (representation) of the object in question. This is why one can prove the non-existence of certain (defined) types of Gods, or Gods with certain sets of attributes, but not "God" in general (whatever said term may mean). Is that what you were talking about?