What is the existence?

We explain to you what existence is according to different philosophical currents throughout history, from Greek antiquity to the present.

  1. What is the existence?

According to the Dictionary of the Spanish Language, existence is the mere act of existing , that is, the concrete and tangible reality of anything, in opposition, according to Western philosophical tradition, to its essence: its abstraction, its concept.

In fact, the origin of the word itself seems to point in that direction, since it comes from the Latin existentia , formed by ex (“outside”) and stare (“being straight”), which would lead to a concept like “being, appearing ” Therefore, what exists is what it is, and existence is the capacity of something to be .

However, these terms are always complex to define, since they require a philosophical approach, which in this case must provide us with metaphysics . Since ancient times man has wanted to define what it is to exist, and there are few possible answers he has found.

For example, the ancient Greek philosophers distinguished the true existence of things, which was eternal and ideal, from their changing and mundane appearance, perceptible, that is, phenomenological.

Especially Plato (427-347 BC), whose worldview was based on the metaphor of the cave, that is, that we live in a cave and what we perceive from the outside world are the shadows that the light that enters casts over the walls.

This means that for Plato the world was more appearance than existence . Much of his thinking was later rescued by Christianity, which proposed a true world after it and our transitory existence.

Very later, with the arrival of the rationalism of René Descartes (1596-1650) and other great thinkers of the modern era, existence was thought in terms similar to those proposed by Artistóteles (384-322 BC).

Although he was a disciple of Plato, using syllogisms and logical deductions , Aristotle concluded that the only possible substance in the universe is that of God , and therefore “the idea of ​​God implies its existence.”

However, those innate ideas had many opponents. For example, the empiricists thought about existence from experience , since something existed does not add anything to the thing.

During the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, very radical ideas about existence were raised, especially by Federico Nietzsche (1844-1900) and Soren Kierkegaard (1813-1855). Headed by these authors and reversing the traditional formula of philosophy , the school of Existentialism proposed that existence was prior to the essence .

That hypothesis implied that things existed before they had meaning, especially in the case of humanity. Thus, an atheistic, materialist and nihilistic philosophical movement was built , which would be of great importance for the political discourses of the twentieth century.

As will be seen, there is no absolute truth in terms of what it means to exist . In what the different interpretations agree, however, it is that what exists can be perceived, we can name it, it is something that is in the order of the present things.

But the debate about what exactly existence is, and especially human existence, may never close at all.

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