Generally, it's said that a thing exists mind independently if it exists apart from our beliefs, concepts, cultural practices, etc.

  1. Do door knobs exist mind independently? They're collections of matter (and matter probably does exist mind independently) that I recognize (or, per frege, subsume in a concept) as being door knobs. So the matter exists mind independently. The matter as a door knobs does not (since doorknob is a concept)? Is that the standard view?

  2. However, if door knobs do exist mind independently, then does that mean we can say that all possible permutations of matter exist as separate objects as well? To illustrate, consider an analogy between connect-the-dots and the recognition of the world's matter in various concepts. If I connect the dots following the numbers, I get an image of a something, but I could connect them some other way and produce several discrete objects (I might not have names and concepts for them, but I could create names and concepts for them). Similarly, owing to the habits of my mind, I connect the dots (matter) in the world a particular way that produces a certain set of concepts. I could connect the dots in any number of other ways and recognize entirely different things from the same set of matter.

So, if door knobs exist mind independently (do they?), then do all other possible groupings of the world's matter exist mind independently as things beyond the matter that constitutes them?

  • 1
    Either all of them, or none. Commented Dec 18, 2023 at 16:01
  • @MikhailKatz, I'd agree. What's the prevailing view and why?
    – Hal
    Commented Dec 18, 2023 at 16:40
  • "physical things" (matter) can "exist" (rather persist) "apart from our beliefs, concepts, cultural practices, etc." but not apart from "mind" (/idea)!:)
    – xerx593
    Commented Dec 18, 2023 at 19:20
  • if door knob lost his(!) "mind", it would be no more door knob..
    – xerx593
    Commented Dec 18, 2023 at 19:24
  • So, you aren't actually asking about physical things, are you? You are asking about platonic forms? A doorknob can stop being a doorknob at any time (by it getting removed from the door and used as something else), and so can a not-doorknob start being one (by being screwed to a door and used as a doorknob). But the matter itself exists independently of what form is perceived within by the mind, we assume.
    – kutschkem
    Commented Dec 19, 2023 at 9:12

2 Answers 2


"The name that can be named is not the eternal name. The nameless is the beginning of heaven and earth. The named is the mother of ten thousand things." - Lao Tzu.

In the world everything is unique, changing every moment, & nameless.

We construct overlays of names & concepts for our convenience. But used uncritically they obscure the above.


The real things are real.

The ideas in your mind about the things are ideas in your mind.

The first rule of tautology club is the first rule of tautology club.

Ideas in your mind about the things include:

  • What you experience through your senses (empirical apperception or qualia): how it sounds, how it looks, how it feels to the touch, how it tastes, how it smells
  • How you categorize, name, and otherwise assemble your sensory experiences into knowledge: boundaries, kinds, classifications, purposes, applications, relationships to other things
  • How that makes you feel emotionally (affect)

The facts about the thing are descriptions of what interactions with the part of reality so-described will make you sense, whether directly (the cat is the thing that makes you hear "meow"), with the mediation of an apparatus (the cat is the thing that will make you see a picture of numbers corresponding to the cat's weight if you put it on a scale), or with the mediation of another person (the cat is the thing that will make you hear the sound of your lab assistant saying "Ow, she bit me!" if you instruct your lab assistant to grab the cat by the tail).

You can abstract yourself and your apparatus out of these descriptions by mapping the sensed qualities to quantifiable measurements which could be mapped to any qualia of any creature and/or any display on any combination of well-calibrated apparatus given only the definitions of the units. For instance, instead of saying, "The cat is a process which has such quality that when we put it on the scale, I see the symbols for 5 kilograms," we can say "The cat is a process which has such a quality that, when its mass is measured by whatever means is used, will return a measurement equivalent to 5 kilograms in whatever units are used." We abbreviate this by saying "the cat's mass is 5 kilograms", but it can be important (especially in quantum mechanics) to remember that what we are ultimately describing is a thing that reality does and not our a way that reality is (except as: "reality is such that it does such and such thing").

Consider my assistant Glorp the Space Alien.

Glorp is an intelligent space alien who thinks in binary, doesn't distinguish intuitively between distances less than a kilometer or times less than an hour (it's a very big, cold space alien), and is capable only of sensing through its sense of wetness (which humans don't have) could still, if it was told what aspects of its environment it was supposed to define as a process and map to "a cat" and what a kilogram was, figure out not only that there was a cat, but that the cat corresponded to a measurement of 5 kilograms. It would think about cats as brief causes of micro-fluctuations in regional wetness profiles that one needs sophisticated apparatus to measure at all, whose mechanics are as unintuitive to them as quantum mechanics are to us. Its symbolic representational thoughts about the cats would be in a binary encoding whose very symbols, WET and NOT WET, are incomprehensible to us. But we could still teach it all there is to know about cats, except for how they make you feel or what it's like to sense them (or even to see, hear, smell, taste, or touch at all), just as they could teach us everything there is to know about regional wetness profiles, except for what it's like to sense one, or how it makes them feel. The regions, the water, and the cats, are real. The sensations and the feelings are internal and non-arbitrary; we can try to describe them to one another by analogy, but we'd only be guessing. The assembly into knowledge - which part of reality is the region, which part of reality is a cat - is arbitrary, and therefore transferrable if it can first be encoded in terms of measurements with objectively defined units.

  • Where do you get your idea of real though? Did you find it in the world or, is it an 'idea in your mind' ..?
    – CriglCragl
    Commented Dec 19, 2023 at 12:47
  • @CriglCragl The idea of real is an idea.
    – g s
    Commented Dec 19, 2023 at 16:49

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