On 7/20/2012 8:40 AM, Stephen P. King wrote:

Hi Jason,

The problem that I see with this definition is that it makes existence contingent and not necessary. The contingency (or dependence in the weaker case) on the capacity of "having objective properties that could be studied by independent entities, and the independent entities would come to the same conclusions about that thing" would make observers prior to existence and that works if we are considering non-well founded system, but not for the canonical case. Existence must be prior to everything, literally, and thus cannot be contingent on anything, including observers and/or their capacities.

You're trying to define 'exists' as (logically?) prior to knowledge. I think this is backwards. First we perceive things, then we form theories about them. This includes the theory that other people exist. We find we agree with other people about perceptions. This leads to a theory of an external, objective world to explain the agreement. We have developed different theories about this objective world over the centuries with successively greater scope, accuracy, and predictive power. But each new theory has had a very different ontology: from demons and demiurges, rigid bodies, corpuscles, atoms, fields, strings, computations,... What is preserved are the perceptions, i.e. the observations, on which we agree. So each theory tells us what, according to that theory 'exists' as most basic, but it is really the observations that are basic. They don't precede observers chronologically, but the theory tells us what happens beyond the range of observation and so what the world was like before there were observers.

Epistemology precedes ontology.

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