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In the following link (http://www.importanceofphilosophy.com/Metaphysics_ExistenceExists.html) the authors are basically arguing that there are statements that we cannot deny without contradicting ourselves. Is it possible to prove that?

The initial reason that led me to ask this question is the following: Let us suppose someone asks you if you think it is possible for you to know something. If you reply "no", you contradict yourself. Is it possible to prove that it is impossible to deny such a statement without contradicting yourself? If not, what does it mean for the statement itself? Do we just suppose the statement is true until we find an example that falsifies it?

  • Browsing at the link, I understand that you are considering a "metaphysical" context regarding so-called first pronciples (like "Existence exists") and not mathematical and scientific axioms. If so, you have to try to be more precise about what a "proof" is in that contex. – Mauro ALLEGRANZA Sep 19 at 11:40
  • How is this different from the previous question? Saying "no" to "do you know something?" does not create a contradiction, the threshold for answering a question is lower than the threshold for knowledge. – Conifold Sep 19 at 18:08
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    Possible duplicate of What does it mean for a statement if we cannot disprove it? – Conifold Sep 20 at 0:16
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The authors, Jeff Landauer and Joseph Rowlands, claim that "Existence Exists", that is, "there is something, as opposed to nothing", is an example of something "we cannot disprove by any other statement". They call this an axiom and note the following about axioms:

A true axiom can not be refuted because the act of trying to refute it requires that very axiom as a premise. An attempt to contradict an axiom can only end in a contradiction.

Here is their proof for Existence Exists being such an axiom:

At the core of every thought is the observation that "I am aware of something". The very fact that one is aware of something is the proof that something in some form exists -- that existence exists -- existence being all that which exists. Also, to grasp the thought, "I am aware of something," you must be conscious. Existence is axiomatic because it is necessary for all knowledge and it cannot be denied without conceding its truth. To deny existence is to say that something doesn't exist. A denial of something is only possible if existence exists.

To put this in other words, attempt to disprove this by contradiction: assume nothing. The very act of assuming is something contradicting nothing. For nothing to be true, one cannot even assume nothing. That is, one cannot even begin to disprove the axiom that Existence Exists. So if one struggles in any way to disprove this axiom, that struggle shows the axiom is true.

One is welcome to doubt this, but the very act of doubting is evidence that "there is something as opposed to nothing".


Landauer, J., Rowlands, J. Importance of Philosophy. Retrieved on September 19, 2019 at http://www.importanceofphilosophy.com/

  • Yes, it seems utterly impossible to disprove that there exist something rather than nothing without contradicting to ourselves. But just because it seems impossible does it means that it "proves" it? Maybe it seems impossible now but in the future it could be possible.. who knows? Isn't it just an argument from ignorance? – TKN Sep 19 at 13:38
  • @TKN In the argument from ignorance, the one making the argument knows they don't completely know the truth. Here it is hard to see what it is one doesn't know. However, it may be possible that one could undermine "Existence Exists" by analyzing what the word "existence" means or what the word "exists" means. Perhaps existence is all in my mind - or in the mind of some demon thinking all of this for me? Even so, that demon's thinking suggests some "thing" must be doing something called "existing". – Frank Hubeny Sep 19 at 13:55
  • My point is the following: Since I am not from a philosophy background.. I wonder what would philosophers say about such a statement which is unimaginable for a person to not be the case? Would they call this statement (existence exist) a true statement or would they still call it a statement which just seems to be true but we cannot be absolutely certain of it? – TKN Sep 19 at 14:14
  • @TKN The collection of Wittgenstein's On Certainty would present a skeptical position that might be worth considering for an approach to how one can continue doubting even that one has a hand. The benefit of this doubting is to examine other concepts such as how believing relates to knowing or what it is that one knows: is it a single object (proposition) or a whole network of facts that can't be untangled. One can also claim that everything is true (trivialism). Then not Existence Exists is just as true as Existence Exists. – Frank Hubeny Sep 19 at 14:29
  • Thank you. Just to give you a context for why I am asking this question.. One person asked me following: "Lets suppose someone ask you if you think it is possible for you to know something with absolute certainty. If you would reply NO, you would contradict to yourself." The question that popped in to my mind was: "Is it possible to prove that it is impossible to disprove such a statement without creating a contradiction? If I am not able to do that, what does it mean than for such a statement itself? Does it imply that it is true?" – TKN Sep 19 at 14:57

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