This post is part of the series Being and Essence
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This post is part of the series Starting Philosophy
Other posts in this series:
It is self-evident that something exists. We know this simply from the fact that we are aware of something. Absolutely all of our knowledge entails this. When we speak of something that exists in general, we call that being. The two most fundamental questions in regards to being are what is it and why is it.
We know that something exists. To speak of that something in general, without speaking of the particular way that it exists, is to speak of being. Everything that exists is a being (thing) of some kind. But such talk is not very informative. Each thing is different from other things. We know that human beings are different from frogs, planets and atoms. Each of these things is different from each other. To specify how they are different so that we know what we are speaking about is to answer the question ” what is it” .
But it is not obvious that any particular thing must exist. We all tend to believe that some things did not exist in the past, will not exist in the future or might not have existed in the present. We even see and remember such changes. So there must be a reason why things exist now. There must also be a reason why things change.
Let’ s begin by examining something simple. There is grass outside in the yard. The grass is the same kind of thing as the grass in my neighbor’ s yard. Yet it is also not the same kind of thing. If you closely examine the grass, you will notice that it has features that are similar to the grass in the neighbor’ s yard. Both grasses are green and both send shoots under the ground that split into new ‘ leaves’ . Nonetheless, the grasses are in different locations and have some differences in their features.
All of the above is self-evident. Nor is it limited to grass. Everything in the world is like this. We can point out one thing with a name and another thing with the same name. In some ways these names name the same thing. In other ways, these names mean different things. But this the same name cannot mean both the same thing and different things! So some solution must be found.
This is not a problem with linguistics. The problem is with what we are naming. Is all grass one thing or is it many things? That is the problem, and it is a problem for all things that can be named. So it includes not just grass, but also redness, planets, atoms and monkeys. Without some solution to this problem, there is no way to answer the question of ‘ what this is’ or ‘ why this is’ because we do not know whether ‘ this’ is one or many.
To clarify the problem: We call one thing ” grass” and another thing ” grass” . But grass is the same as grass. On the other hand, we say that this ” grass” is different from that ” grass” . But what are we calling ” grass” anyway? Is it one thing or many things?
Next, I will discuss this problem further.
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