Jump to content
Objectivism Online Forum

Recommended Posts

Existence, We.jpg

(Click on image.)

This image displays the title and subsection titles of my paper to be published in The Journal of Ayn Rand Studies this July. I developed the metaphysics debuted in this paper over a period of about five years, working on it in the morning hours of each day, beginning before sunrise. An apt name for the resulting philosophy would be Resonant Existence.

The image is a pre-dawn look out back at our place, a look to the east. On my way to coffee, I glance out as I’m saying to myself words from the Rig Veda: “So many days have not yet broken.” To those words, I import the meaning “What shall I yet create? What will humankind yet create?”

The new metaphysics is more indebted to the metaphysics of Ayn Rand than to any other. Mine is a transfiguration of hers at the deepest level. In this paper of over seventy pages, differences and commonalities of the new foundational framework with Rand’s are explicated and argued. Rand’s fundamentals and mine are set in their relation to others, from Plato/Aristotle to the present.

Anyone who would like read this work should get a subscription to JARS at this time.

The most basic differences from Rand’s system are my retuning the conception of consciousness, redrafting the definition of logic, addition to Rand’s fundamental axioms and corollaries, replacement of Rand’s contrast class for concretes, and replacement of Rand’s categoreal scheme, her entity/attribute/action/relationship. Those last two innovations promise new understanding of the dividing lines between and distinctive natures of logic, mathematics, empirical science, and philosophy—the continuation of this work I tackle each morning, for future publication, hopefully for years to come.


I’ll return to some posting on Objectivism Online shortly.

Edited by Boydstun
Link to post
Share on other sites
  • 1 month later...
Posted (edited)

Once more I’d like to encourage anyone interested in seeing my fundamental paper “Existence, We” (EW), setting forth my metaphysical system and its relation to Rand’s and to others, to get your subscription to JARS at this time.

I’ll post here a section of a paper that was to be a follow-on to EW and which—as the follow-on project has been redesigned—would no longer fit the follow-on paper.* This posted section is indeed built onto of the frame developed in EW. It gives a taste of some of what goes on in that fundamental paper. The material below uses that frame and some technical terminology introduced in EW (and some ordinary terms such as situation which as part of this framework have a specialized meaning specified in EW, where also are my proofs for axiomatic standing of such statements as “existence is situation”) that I’ll leave opaque here, which may further encourage readers here to get a subscription to JARS if you don’t have one.



Ayn Rand spoke of the primacy of existence, and by this she meant primacy of existence over consciousness, which meant (i) the universe exists independently of any consciousness and (ii) things have natures independently of consciousness.[1] Identity is primary over Identification, and concretes are primary over abstractions. My metaphysics is of the primacy-of-existence genre, but more generally than Rand’s. My primacy of existence means primacy of existence over of-existence. This entails that concretes with their formalities are primary over abstractions. Actualities and potentials are primary over recognitions and possibilities. Necessity-that of existence is primary over the necessity-for in consciousness.[2] Then too, existence being primary over the of-existence that is living existence and the latter being (I say with Rand) the residence of all value, existence is primary over value.

Rand’s primacy of existence to consciousness runs with Aristotle,[3] but for the countercurrent of his hierarchy of being in which formal structure is not only explanatory, but causal, and in which formal, teleological cause is ultimate being.[4] Primacy of existence runs against Descartes in first philosophy.[5] It runs against Descartes’ forebears Henry of Ghent and Bonaventure who took the first adequate object of the human intellect to be God. It runs with Aquinas, Scotus, and Suarez who took that first object to be being or whatness (quiddity).[6] Primacy of existence runs also against Kant when he writes that “apperception, and with it thought, precedes all possible determinate arrangement of presentations” (KrV A289 B345).[7] Against Kant also, and in step with Aristotle, Rand writes: “‘Things as they are’ are things as perceived by your mind” (AS 1036). She means in context not only things as perceived by your mind so far, but as perceivable by your mind at any stage, and she means not only your mind, but any sound human mind. Rand’s primacy of existence to consciousness runs against all idealism, of course. It runs also against Husserl in his bracketing of “things in themselves” and against Sartre’s starting point (subjectivity) in his archaeology of being and against the adequacy of Quine’s “to be is to be the value of a bound variable.”[8]

Rand spoke in that passage against Kant of “things as they are” and not of “things in themselves.” She was right to avoid the latter phrase because of the well-known shading of it. That latter phrase, down from Kant, intimates a systematic inaccessibility of mind-independent Existence with its Identities by our cognitive faculties. In the same vein, rightly she would reject talk of the transcendental object or talk of noumena and their comprehensive contrast to phenomena, the latter a foul concept when transplanted from its use in Newton—phenomena as physical patterns in observational data, where those specific patterns suit only a specific form in the character of their physical cause—to fundamental ontology and to subject-object relations.[9]

Talk of “things in themselves” meaning things free of any situation is talk of nothing. “Things in themselves,” meaning merely all that they are, is a sound sense of the phrase and not Kant’s sense when he is contrasting things in themselves with those same things as they are in their external relations such as in their relation to human consciousness. Things in all that they are are what we know part of and know that our known is only part of the all there to be known. Further, existence of a thing is nothing more than—indeed, it is identically the same as—existence of all that a thing is.[10]

Existence per se and in its totality is more fundamental than living existence or conscious existence. By experience and conception, we know that of-existents are not and cannot be the only type of existents. Primacy of existence in my philosophy departs from Rand’s primacy of existence in that I mean primacy of physical existence, which in our scientific comprehension is spacetime, mass-energy, angular momentum, molecules, heat, photosynthesis, synapses, and so forth all in play together. Further, it is in my system not only knowing physical existence as necessary requirement for consciousness of physical existents, but knowing we ourselves are physical existents and that that physical status is a necessary requirement for existence of our life and consciousness.

The focal sense of existence is existence actual and concrete (and mind-independent, though susceptible to actions such as human discernment and utilization).[11] Existence actual and concrete endures, and enduring existence is all of enduring.[12] Existence in the focal sense is not without time and number and some formalities, and these accompaniments are in no way prior to existence.[13] As I mentioned in EW, all potential existents are attached to actual, concrete existents. Existence actual and concrete, in whole and in every part is ever with potentials. That is not to say every part of existence has causal powers; no potentials, only actualities, have causal powers, and potentials are part of existence, concretely so. Future existents, unlike past ones, are not yet actual, only potential. Future existents without present discernment of alternatives concerning them have no present causal power. Abstractions include recognitions of formalities of concretes. As with the concrete existents that are potentials, formal existents themselves or abstractions themselves have no causal powers.[14]

Any concrete actual existent, with all its potentials and all its formalities, is actual by way of antecedent actualities and their potentials. The potential for a future actual concrete existent coming to be so is not a potential belonging to it, but to its antecedent actuals. Every concrete actual existent shy of the whole of existence is a contingent existent in its emergence from among potentials of prior actuals, but it is necessary in its possession of all its own potentials and formalities.

Potentials not only belong to present actuals, their potentiality consists only in their potential for future actualities from present ones.[15] Co-existing present potentials, furthermore, are often not jointly capable of future actualization. Potentials, I have said, are concretes, whether or not they become actuals. Moreover, I hold contra Avicenna, that potentials are not less existing than actualities.[16] Cognitive possibilities, I should reiterate, are subordinates of facts of existence, whether facts of actualities and their potentials, facts of concretes and their formalities, or facts of Entities and their passage, situation, and character.

The primacy of existence over of-existence does not entail that existents not also of-existence are more existing than existents that are also of-existence. Passage, situation, and character are not more existing (or less existing) than experience or recognition of them. Concretes and their formalities are not more existing than experience of them or conceptual grasp of them.

Now passage, situation, and character are no less reality than the Entities to which they belong. And formalities are no less reality of existence than the concretes to which they belong.

As I said in EW, there is nothing common between existence and nonexistence; the latter is only a lack of standing in the former, a mere lack noted by us, by us in and of existence.[17] Further, A is A in the application nonexistence is nonexistence is only item-keeping in thought and makes nothing but nothing of the item. Any thought of a priority of existence, metaphysically most fundamental, over nonexistence or thought that the former is in some metaphysical sense greater than the latter is derailed thinking. Only within Existence is priority and the greater.



[1] Rand 1973, 24; Kelley 1986, 7–43; Peikoff 1991, 17–23, 243–48, 419–20.

[2] Cf. Fine 1994.

[3] On Aristotle’s primacy of existence, see Owens 1978, 133–35n108, 138. Rand rightly did not accept Aristotle’s conception of the mind as “becoming all things” and the mind’s doing so by assimilation of the forms of existents extracted from a metaphysical composition of form and matter constituting any existent. On infirmities in the primacy of existence in Roger Bacon and his Arab forebears, see Tachau 1988, 11–16. But for doctrines of faith, Blasius of Parma in 1385 leaned towards primacy of existence in constitution of human mind by arguing all human intellectual and moral states to depend on the human body (via prime matter) for their existence; see Pasnau 2011, 108–9.

[4] Aristotle, Ph. 198a32–99b31; Metaph. 1041a25–b8, 1071b20–a21, 1074a35; Ferejohn 2013, 163–76.

[5] Rand 1961, 28; 1973, 24; Kelley 1981; Peikoff 1991, 17–23; Gotthelf 2000, 39; Boydstun 2019.

[6] Aertsen 2012.

[7] Kant is represented rather differently in the Jäsche Logic in declaring (i) that general logic, though independent of its use in concreto, could only be found by observation of such use and (ii) that logic in application to a particular science would be futile without acquaintance with objects of the science (1800, 17–18).

[8] Owens 1978, 133–35n108; Quine 1939; Armstrong 2004, 23–24; Crane 2012, 64–65; Koskinen 2012.

[9] Newton’s theological conception of space as the sensorium of God joined other Christian theological pictures in drawing Kant to his grand division of reality into the phenomenal and the noumenal. On Kant, see Bird 2006, 335–38. Cf. Heidegger in Han-Pile 2005. Cf. Sher 2016, 166, 172, 181, 259–60.

[10] See further, Baumgarten 1757, §§15, 37; Kant, KrV A324–27 B380–83. On Kant’s severance of “thing in itself” from its external relations to human consciousness, see B 69, A139 B178, A190 B235, B306–9.

[11] Cf. focal meaning in Owen 1960, applied to substance (ousia) as focal meaning of being in the metaphysics of Aristotle; Owens 1978, 38n126, 119; Ferejohn 1980; Kirwan 1992, 80; Barnes 1995, 76–77; Lewis 2013, 90–92.

[12] Descartes does not get that far, but he is correct when he writes: “Existence or duration in a thing which exists and endures—should be called not a quality or a mode, but an attribute” (1644, §56). A mode in his terminology here would be a modification of a substance, and a quality is at hand when a modification enables classification of a substance as a certain kind. With attribute he means our thinking of what is in a substance in a more general way. In fact Descartes thinks of duration as an attribute of all created substance, which are fundamentally two: thought and extension. (See further, Alice Sowaal’s entry ATTRIBUTE in Nolan 2016.)  Similarly, though with metaphysical substance expelled from our metaphysics, as well as the creation of all temporality and all existence, Rand with I could say enduring of an existent is not a modification of it or a quality of it.

[13] Cf. Aristotle, Metaph. 1017b17–21; Avicenna 1027, I.2.24–29.

[14] Contra Aristotle, essences or forms as causes or constraints not concrete is misconception. See Lewis 2013, 290.

[15] Aristotle, Metaph. 1049b13–17.

[16] Cf. Rand ITOE App. 284–86; 1968, 531, 534. Actualities have priorities over potentials on account of their patterns of dependency I have stated. Even were we to count these priories of actualities as amounting to actualities being “more existing” than potentials, I should not concur with Avicenna (1027, 4.2.34) that this priority is also a higher rank in metaphysical nobility or perfection. There are no such things applicable to general metaphysics; nobility and perfection can only pertain to existents that are living existents (include conscious existence) and only within that living mode of their existence.

[17] Contra Kant 1782/83, 29:811; 1790/91, 28:543; 1794/95, 29:960. Cf. ITOE 58, 60–61; Branden c. 1968, 28.


Aertsen, J. A. 2012. Medieval Philosophy as Transcendental Thought. Leiden: Brill.

Ameriks, K., and S. Naragon, translators, 1997. Immanuel Kant – Lectures on Metaphysics. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Aristotle c.348–322. B.C. The Complete Works of Aristotle. J. Barnes, editor (1984). Princeton: Princeton University Press.

Armstrong, D. 2004. Truth and Truthmakers. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Avicenna 1027. The Metaphysics of The Healing. M. E. Marmura, translator (2005). Provo: Brigham Young University Press.

Barnes, J. 1995. Metaphysics. In The Cambridge Companion to Aristotle. J. Barnes, editor. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Barnes, J., Schofield, M., and R. Sorabji, editors, 1979. Articles on Aristotle – 3. Metaphysics. London: Duckworth.

Baumgarten, A. 1757 [1739]. Metaphysics. 4th ed. In Fugate and Hymers 2013.

Bird, G. 2006. The Revolutionary Kant. Chicago: Open Court.

Boydstun, S. 2019. Foundational Frames – Descartes and Rand. The Journal of Ayn Rand Studies 19(1):1–37.

Branden, N. c.1968. The Basic Principles of Objectivism. In The Vision of Ayn Rand 2009. Gilbert: Cobden Press.

Cottingham, J., Stoothoff, R., and D. Murdoch, translators, 1985. The Philosophical Writings of Descartes. Vol. I. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Crane, T. 2012. Existence and Quantification Reconsidered. In Tahko 2012.

Descartes, R. 1644. Principles of Philosophy. In Cottingham, Stoothoff, and Murdoch 1985.

Dreyfus, H. L., and M. A. Wrathall, editors, 2005. A Companion to Heidegger. Oxford: Blackwell Publishing.

Ferejohn, M. T. 1980. Aristotle on Focal Meaning and the Unity of Science. Phronesis 25(2):117–28.

Fine, K. 1994. Essence and Modality. Philosophical Perspectives 8:1–16.

Fugate, C. D., and J. Hymers 2013. Introduction to Metaphysics – A Critical Translation with Kant’s Elucidations, Selected Notes, and Related Materials. London: Bloomsbury.

Gotthelf, A. 2000. On Ayn Rand. Belmont: Wadsworth.

Haaparanta, L., and H. J. Koskinen, editors, 2012. Categories of Being – Essays on Metaphysics and Logic. New York: Oxford University Press.

Han-Pile, B. 2005. Early Heidegger’s Appropriation of Kant. In Dreyfus and Wrathall 2005.

Kant, I. 1781, 1787. Critique of Pure Reason. W. S. Pluhar, translator. 1996. Indianapolis: Hackett Publishing.

——. 1782/83. Metaphysik Mrongovius. In Ameriks and Naragon 1997 (AN).

——. 1790/91. Metaphysik L2. AN.

——. 1794/95. Metaphysik Vigilantius. AN.

——. 1800. The Jäsche Logic. J. M. Young, translator. 1992. In Immanuel Kant – Lectures on Logic. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Kelley, D. 1981. The Primacy of Existence. The Objectivist Forum 2(5):1–6, 2(6):1–6.

——. 1986. The Evidence of the Senses – A Realist Theory of Perception. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press.

Kirwan, C., translator, 1993. Aristotle’s Metaphysics – Books Gamma, Delta, Epsilon. 2nd ed. New York: Oxford University Press.

Koskinen, H. J. 2012. Quine, Predication, and the Categories of Being. In Haaparanta and Koskinen 2012.

Lewis, F. A., 2013. How Aristotle Gets By in Metaphysics Zeta. New York: Oxford.

Nolan, L., editor, 2016. Descartes’ Lexicon. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Owen, G. E. L. 1960. Logic and Metaphysics in Some Earlier Works of Aristotle. In Barnes, Schofield, and Sorabji 1979.

Owens, J. 1978 [1951]. The Doctrine of Being in the Aristotelian Metaphysics. 3rd ed. Toronto: Pontifical Institute of Medieval Studies.

Pasnau, R. 2011. Metaphysical Themes 1274–1671. New York: Oxford University Press.

Peikoff, L. 1991. Objectivism: The Philosophy of Ayn Rand. New York: Dutton.

Quine, W. V. O. 1939. A Logistical Approach to the Ontological Problem. In The Ways of Paradox and Other Essays. 1976. Cambridge: Harvard University Press.

Rand, A. 1957. Atlas Shrugged. New York: Random House.

——. 1961. For the New Intellectual. New York: Signet.

——. 1966–67. Introduction to Objectivist Epistemology. In Rand 1990.

——. 1968. Of Living Death. The Objectivist. October.

——. 1969–71. Epistemology Seminar Transcripts. In Rand 1990.

——. 1973. The Metaphysical versus the Man-Made. In Rand 1982.

——. 1982. Philosophy: Who Needs It. New York: Signet.

——. 1990. Introduction to Objectivist Epistemology. Expanded 2nd ed. H. Binswanger and L. Peikoff, editors. New York: Meridian.

Sher, G. 2016. Epistemic Friction – An Essay on Knowledge, Truth, and Logic. New York: Oxford University Press.

Tachau, K. H. 1988. Vision and Certitude in the Age of Ockham. Leiden: Brill.

Tahko, T. E., editor, 2012. Contemporary Aristotelian Metaphysics. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Edited by Boydstun
Link to post
Share on other sites
4 hours ago, Boydstun said:

The material below uses that frame and some technical terminology introduced in EW (and some ordinary terms such as situation which as part of this framework have a specialized meaning specified in EW, where also are my proofs for axiomatic standing of such statements as “existence is situation”) that I’ll leave opaque here, which may further encourage readers here to get a subscription to JARS if you don’t have one.

“existence is situation”

situation exists
or is it
a situation exists?

"an existence" exist?

"Situation is the way something is positioned as compared to its surroundings, or the status of the circumstances, or the combination of circumstances at a specific point in time. An example of situation is a house down the street from a big tree. An example of situation is having to decide between two jobs."

existence is the way something is positioned?

Yes, there must be a "specialized" definition alright.

Link to post
Share on other sites


Think in parallel with the way we take the statement "existence is identity."

Then the following would evaporate:

identity exists
or is it
an identity exists?

I hope you get a subscription to JARS so you receive the July issue, with my essay "Existence, We" in it. It is in a way the culmination of my life's work, and it will not be available outside that journal.

Link to post
Share on other sites
6 hours ago, Boydstun said:

I hope you get a subscription to JARS so you receive the July issue, with my essay "Existence, We" in it. It is in a way the culmination of my life's work, and it will not be available outside that journal.

How do I get it?

Link to post
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.

Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

  • Recently Browsing   0 members

    No registered users viewing this page.

  • Create New...