What “exists”?

Eric is telling Paul W what theologians mean by “the ground of all being.”

Part of the point of speaking about the ground of being is to distinguish god from things that exist. In this guise, ie, as the ground of being, whatever god is — and this is the most unsatisfactory parts of this idea of god — god does not exist, and cannot be treated like any other existent.

I don’t understand that. I can’t force myself to understand it – because I keep thinking, stupidly obstinately, if it doesn’t exist then it doesn’t exist. If god doesn’t exist then that’s the end of it – it can’t not exist yet also be something called the ground of being.

Unless it once existed but is now dead but continues in human memory as something which theologians have decided to call the ground of being. But that doesn’t seem to be what’s meant…or is it. Is it meant to be a concept or an idea? Do we say that those exist? They do in a sense and they don’t in a sense; what’s the conventional language about them? I should know this. Abstractions don’t exactly exist, but they do in a way…Bugger. My philosophical vocabulary is deficient.

Mind you, if that’s what’s meant, it doesn’t get theists anywhere. Atheists certainly don’t dispute that the concept of god “exists.” We just dispute that it can actually do anything independent of what humans make it do. We just argue that like all concepts it has no “existence” independent of human brains.

In other words, a catalogue of existing things might include ships, sealing wax, trees, planets, galaxies, ……., but god would nowhere appear as an existent. But from this point of view, god is the ground of existence. He enables existing things to be.

Well in that case a concept can’t be what’s meant, since god has to be prior to enable existing things to be. So what is meant? I don’t know. Eric doesn’t either; he’s reporting, not endorsing. But even the reporting is opaque. It’s hard to tell if the thing is as hand-wavy as it appears.

39 Responses to “What “exists”?”