In many cases, we ask questions if something already exists! Many times, I ask myself, What does the term even mean?

What does it mean to exist?

What are common answers to this question and where may I read more about it?

  • 5
    For a start, look at Quine, "On What There Is" and Carnap, "Empiricism, Semantics, and Ontology". A lot of other exciting stuff has since been written on the subject, so don't stop there. Commented Jun 14, 2014 at 18:44
  • Also, check out Philosophical Investigations. Wittgenstein has very interesting things to say on the view that we need philosophers to explain to us the meaning of words. Meaning being closely related to use, it is absurd to suggest you don't know the meaning of a word you use all the time.
    – adrianos
    Commented Jun 14, 2014 at 18:56
  • Read my answer to this question at sites.google.com/site/whydoesanythingexist. There's more detail at sites.google.com/site/ralphthewebsite.
    – Roger846
    Commented Jun 15, 2014 at 5:10
  • does space and area define existence. If you could stretch space would fixed points change? What is space made of? Why is there quantum non locality? Does understanding and ideas exist independent of it all?
    – user22708
    Commented Aug 15, 2016 at 3:00
  • if space itself ended what would you have left? Space itself is something and it has rules and limits. Perhaps space itself is a form of energy. An abstract energy is space.
    – user22708
    Commented Aug 15, 2016 at 3:21

3 Answers 3


To ask if something "already" exists, is expressing an anticipation. One imagines something: an object, an invention (that is, the realisation of an idea) or an idea itself (that is: a careful exposition or exploration of a concept). In each case the question is whether there is a feature of the world — the objects in it or the behaviour of people, up to and including ideas which are discussed by them — which corresponds to something one has thought of.

To ask if something "already exists" is to ask something not about the world per se, but about the relationship between one's own ideas and the world. You have thought about X, and you want to know if X corresponds to something in the world beyond yourself. "Existence" is nothing more than what the world consists of, but in this case the emphasis is on the separation between the rest of the world and the processes going on in your head. "Existence" is therefore a deceptive property, because what it pertains to is not a relationship between an object and the world, but between yourself and the world.


I reflect on a modern definition in “David Deutsch: The fabric of reality”. His definition

“if something ‘kicks back’, it exists.” (p.97)

Deutsch explains: “It is enough that when we ‘kick’ something, the object affects us in ways that require independent explanation.” (p. 87)

The definition takes up the old definition of Dr. Johnson in his argument against the solipsism of bishop Berkeley. But being an expert in computer science Deutsch includes also virtual reality into his definition of existing things.


As the name of the subject you used ("object") implies, for an object to exist means it has to be acknowledeged by you as objective to your senses. BUT, if you see it or even feel its texture on a screen or photo/painting, then its only the graphic interpretation of the artist, of that object (see for example: Magritte; ce ne pas une pipe). In order for you to determine whether an object exists, you must categorize it. Only then its so called existence has meaning. So, if you go to lake "Ness" to see the Loch-Ness-Monster, you might see a stain in the water and call it a monster, not just any monster but The-Loch-Ness-Monster which is a pre-categorized representation of an object in your head. So you can say that for you, The-Loch-Ness-Monster object existed for a few seconds before disappearing forever. So, the object also needs time to exist. There could be an object which exists for 1-millionth of a second. You will never see it, but scientists will tell you it once existed (they saw a picture :-)> ). So, you can believe them. This is also a way to ensure (in a way) the existence of an object: To Agree with other minds or believe them.

  • Can you unpack this a little more? Why is this a persuasive answer to the question for you?
    – Joseph Weissman
    Commented Aug 23, 2016 at 18:12

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