First of all i know that there is no widely accepted definition of existence, the same with definition of being conscious. However i would like to know whether there are definitions which are not somehow equivalent.

For example i define being conscios in following way:

Person A is conscious of thing B if B affects on A such A can decipher that B affects on it.

And i define existence in following way:

Thing A exists if you (i suppose that you are conscious person) can experience it.

However because consciousness is a set of all things that we are conscious of. Reality is a set of every things that exists.

After definitions above it seems that consciousness=reality. In my opinion it schould be not true.

  • 1
    "Exist" is thus bounded to the present ? How can we "experience" Napoleon ? Commented Aug 29, 2019 at 11:21
  • (1) is sounds like a reflection
    – ttnphns
    Commented Aug 29, 2019 at 11:31
  • Really i don't know how to define these two things. This is my dream to have formal (just like in formal sciences such as mathematical logic) definitions so that they won't contradict to each other.
    – mkultra
    Commented Aug 29, 2019 at 12:50
  • 1
    In what sense did electrons exist before they were theoretically defined? How does that fit with the ability to experience them? I would say they existed, they caused effects we could experience, but we could not yet be conscious of them. So there is a possible gap.
    – user9166
    Commented Aug 29, 2019 at 13:24
  • @mkultra, you cannot have a definition which won't end in contradiction as all definition is the creation of precision in one aspect of reality causing a simultaneous ambiguity in another. You miss the forest for the trees. Definition is contradictory by nature.
    – Eodnhoj7
    Commented Aug 30, 2019 at 8:21

5 Answers 5


Let me start with an analogy. Say we are rummaging through drawer and find an old plastic model of a spaceship, and then we ask ourselves: "Does the spaceship this is a model of actually exist?" It's a peculiar and difficult question. On one hand, the spaceship our model points to does exist conceptually, or we would not recognize it as a model of anything. Even if it's a model of the Millennium Falcon it exists in that sense, as something identifiable. On the other hand, if we find a model of (say) a Saturn 5 rocket, we want to say that the thing it points to exists (or at least existed) in a more material, physical sense, not as mere concept.

This is the position we are always in. Consciousness presents us with a kind of internal scale model of the universe, and we are always left wondering whether the universe our internal scale model points to exists. Our inner scale model is incomplete and inaccurate; parts of it are wrong; parts of it are pure fantasy... But parts of it (we like to think) reflect a true and proper understanding of something that is entirely outside of our heads: that existed before our inner world existed and will continue to exist after our inner world is gone.

We are left with an array of choices (with myriad variations of each):

  • Solipsism, in which consciousness is synonymous with reality, no one has an inner life except you, and the universe begins at your first perception and ends at your last.
  • Physicalism, in which reality supersedes and subsumes consciousness, so that our inner lives are mere extensions or derivations of reality.
  • Transcendental thought, in which consciousness exists over and above a fundamental reality, neither encompassing it entirely nor reducing to it specifically.

There are no analytical grounds to embrace or reject any of these positions, so the choice usually comes down to aesthetics, or polemics, or mere habit.


The question of what existence is the central question of ontology. What consciousness 'is' depends on your on ontological commitment, but it is generally presumed to be part of the mind. Reality is to a large extent more than mere conscious awareness and is often defined in multiple ways, but often includes truth and knowledge which is studied in epistemology.

Congratulations! You seem to have engaged in metaphysical speculation, and are taking your first steps down the road of philosophy.

  • Or is mind part of consciousness? After all, nobody who studies consciousness directly claims it is a produt of mind. Food for thought at least.
    – user20253
    Commented Oct 1, 2019 at 11:19
  • @PeterJ That's simply not true. From J. Kim's Philosophy of Mind: "According to [David Armstrong], consciousness can be thought of as 'perception or awareness of the state of our own mind'". (Pg. 164) That is, the mind is generally seen conceptually as comprised of an unaware part (unconscious mind) and an aware part (conscious mind). Physicalists see consciousness as a part of the mind.
    – J D
    Commented Oct 1, 2019 at 13:54
  • I an speaking of people who study consciousness directly, not of theoreticians. I'm well aware that theoreticians rarely adopt this view and rarely can make sense of it. . . .
    – user20253
    Commented Oct 1, 2019 at 15:36
  • @PeterJ Oh, you mean direct as in phenomenology. Good stuff, but vulnerable to illusion, confabulation, bias, fallacy, and deception. I'll stick a more analytical response.
    – J D
    Commented Oct 1, 2019 at 15:47
  • The only certain knowledge is knowledge by identity, so what you say appears to be the exact opposite of the truth. It's all the other views that must remain forever speculative. A scientific approach would require studying the phenomenon, not speculating. To ignore those who study it 'empirically' for the sake of those who don't does not seem scientific or even sensible.
    – user20253
    Commented Oct 1, 2019 at 15:52

You can make a distinction between actuality and reality. E.g. quoting from Hispanic Philosophy in the Age of Discovery by Kevin White

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So from your perspective, reality is the sum of all (real) possibilities and actuality is everything actual.

To make a simple example: as you walk down the street, practically anything could come round the corner. All those possibilities are real to you and you act accordingly, with caution. That's reality to you. Actuality is what you discover once you have turned the corner.

Obviously people commonly refer to actuality as reality, but this obscures the ideas of reality as the sum of possibilities, which is the real world you actually have to navigate.

  • In other words, because the future is unknowable, a practical orientation imposes the demand of being prepared to deal with more than merely the actual future? We are not lucky enough to prepare for no more than the actual future? On the other hand, we don't know that we are prepared. While the Japanese military was continuing to plunder countries outside of Japan to solve anticipated economic problems, lots of people in Hiroshima were annihilated. It seems that the possibility of nuclear weapons had no reality in the minds of Japan's government leaders until after they were used. Commented Nov 4, 2019 at 4:00

Great question, but not one that can be answered within the orthodox academic paradigm. There is no consensus on 'existence' or 'consciousness'. These terms are allowed to remain vague while researchers try to discover how to define them.

Generally speaking to 'exist' is to 'stand-out' or to be discernable. 'Consciousness' may be used to mean many different things depending on who is speaking.


I define "Exists" as that which has material properties and is subject to laws of Physics. Basically that which exists is Matter.

"Being conscious" as that state where something can acknowledge the Present.

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