I guess I am asking a vague question about blurred lines in philosophy/language/actions and where/who I can learn more about this from.

here is the passage:

"A step further, existentialism says that we make decisions based on subjective meaning, not "pure" rationality. I think the big flaw there is that it equates knowledge with meaning, which is easily shown to not be the case. I can very well know cigarette smoking is bad for me, but that doesn't mean I care enough not to. On the flip side, there are some people who know that smoking is bad for them, and although their subjective feeling is to continue smoking, they have the mental will-power to quit. People make decisions usually in some sort of "dance" of both, so to say one over the other is better, does a disservice to both."

Mostly I am curious about the idea of the "dance" and what the process of the dance is called in philosophical terms.. The "dance" I am referring to is the process of identifying or defining one object from another. Can someone point me in the right direction?

  • Knowledge expressed with symbols is generally known as a proposition. Sometimes it is refered to as "knowing-that".
    – J D
    Dec 27, 2019 at 12:27
  • 2
    There's nothing philosophical about that use of "dance" - it's just a regular English metaphor. Dec 27, 2019 at 13:40
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    Seems to me an idiosynchratic metaphor that is a reference to a philosophical referent is itself philosophical as it equates a linguistic token to a philosophical concept, in this case ontological; and as such that what you intend to communicate is a prescriptivist norm about conventional uses of language in philosophical discourse particularly because the OP clearly uses scare quotes and explicitly the phrase "I am referring" to intimate that he recognizes his usage is idiosyncratic. The implicature is clearly intended to admit his own limits. Why call out what has already been confessed?
    – J D
    Dec 28, 2019 at 16:59

1 Answer 1


When talking about determining what a thing is, or how it is defined, one is generally interested in what is called ontology. From WP:

Ontology is the philosophical study of being. More broadly, it studies concepts that directly relate to being, in particular becoming, existence, reality, as well as the basic categories of being and their relations. Traditionally listed as a part of the major branch of philosophy known as metaphysics, ontology often deals with questions concerning what entities exist or may be said to exist and how such entities may be grouped, related within a hierarchy, and subdivided according to similarities and differences.

When discussing how this is accomplished, the discipline is known as metaontology, and the act of choosing one ontological theory over another is known as one's ontological committment which often refers to the character of one's ontological theory.

When one has a theory of what things exist, one engages in epistemology to decide if statements about the existence of objects is knowledge versus belief. Knowledge is how we can tell whether or not an object that seems to exists really exists.

An example might help to clear things up:

If you look at the world and you think there might be invisible beings, you are engaging in an ontological act because you are declaring the possibility of the existence of something. You might then attempt to define the being as invisible, capable of moving objects, and being friendly towards humans. Now, is this belief or knowledge? Belief is tentative, and knowledge is more certain. It's not knowledge unless you have some epistemological means for justifying the belief. You might pick up a book on science and realize that you need to design field and laboratory tests and use naturalistic observation. After testing and thinking, you decide that these beings don't exist. You now have changed the ontological committment of your theory of beings to exclude invisible ones. You might go on to define any claims of invisible beings as supernatural beings, and define any claims of beings that are visible as natural beings. These definitions change your ontological theory about intelligent beings.

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