I suspect that things which simply exist are not bound by limits and are hence unlimited. According to economic thinking, real things are those which are scarce or limited by constraints of physical reality and progressive expiry. Looking for further conjectures that can disambiguate what’s real from what exists.

  • It doesn’t quite. A software simply exists in a computer but isn’t real. To be real you have to be limited by the constraints of reality, entropy and expiring progression. We are real like the earth you stand because reality is our plane of existence unlike a software existing in a computer.
    – Ugo Nwune
    Sep 18, 2022 at 19:00
  • 1
    In philosophy what you call "real" is actually classified as ontology (commitment) in an essentialist's way and the difference with "existence" is often conflated with our everyday classic logic but can be further studied and carefully compared in free logic... Sep 19, 2022 at 5:48
  • You’re right this disambiguation attempt could be referred to as an ontological exercise. The concept of free logic is interesting to me. Would you say it to an extent refers to pure philosophy?
    – Ugo Nwune
    Sep 19, 2022 at 5:55
  • 1
    Indeed it could be said to be part of pure philosophy and SEP also has a long article about the same to refer further. Generally speaking logic is a first course and a pre-taste of any serious (pure) philosophy... Sep 19, 2022 at 21:10
  • Logic is the true master in my opinion. We can only tend towards it. Honesty with logic evolves into wisdom.
    – Ugo Nwune
    Sep 19, 2022 at 21:16

2 Answers 2


For an object to be "real" it must exist and be authentic. A "real" Picasso vs a fake: Two paintings that both "exist" but only one is "real".

  • Real in that sense is as opposed to fake. But real in the sense I described is as opposed to unreal to give us a deeper insight to disambiguate with.
    – Ugo Nwune
    Sep 19, 2022 at 23:33
  • Real things exist in reality. Things which simply exist require a medium in reality to hold them besides reality itself.
    – Ugo Nwune
    Sep 20, 2022 at 1:49
  • I consider reality to be a subset of existence. For example, dreams and ideas exist but are not real.
    – user59124
    Sep 26, 2022 at 19:23

Kant distinguished the real from the existent, as described by Heidegger in The Basic Problems of Phenomenology, Chapter One Kant's Thesis: Being Is Not A Real Predicate, page 34

The concept of reality and the real in Kant does not have the meaning most often intended nowadays when we speak of the reality of the external world or of epistemological realism. Reality is not equivalent to actuality, existence, or extantness. It is not identical with existence, although Kant indeed uses the concept "objective reality" identically with existence.

The Kantian meaning of the term "reality" is the one that is appropriate to the literal sense of the word. In one place Kant translates "reality" very fittingly by "thingness," "thing-determinateness." The real is what pertains to the res. When Kant talks about the omnitudo realitatis, the totality of all realities, he means not the whole of all beings actually extant but, just the reverse, the whole of all possible thing-determinations, the whole of all thing-contents or real-contents, essences, possible things. Accordingly, realitas is synonymous with Leibniz' term possibilitas, possibility. Realities are the what-contents of possible things in general without regard to whether or not they are actual, or "real" in our modern sense. The concept of reality is equivalent to the concept of the Platonic idea as that pertaining to a being which is understood when I ask: Ti esti, what is the being?

So in the Kantian sense we may consider a nutritious, red (both predicates) apple (idea/essence). It is a possible real(ity), not necessarily actual. (Incidentally, omnitudo realitatis "all possible things" and possible dangers are what we have to look out for and think of negotiating blind corners and explorations in our everyday worlds. It's not a fiction, so to speak.)

Kant holds that actuality is not a description that can attach to the idea of the apple, page 36:

Thus he speaks of the concept of a thing and puts in brackets "of a real," which does not mean of an actual. For reality means the affirmatively posited predicate having real content. Every predicate is at bottom a real predicate. Therefore Kant's thesis reads: Being is not a real predicate, that is, being in general is not a predicate of any thing at all.

Kant sees actuality emerging from the combination of mind and thing, page 92:

Kant wishes to avoid conceiving of actuality, existence, itself as a res; he does this by interpreting existence as relation to the cognitive faculty, hence treating perception as position.

So colourful green ideas are real (as possibilities), but if they are thought, they are actual colourful green ideas.

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