Josh asked in Arts & HumanitiesPhilosophy · 8 months ago

Do abstract objects exist?

Do abstract objects like numbers, sets, functions, shapes, properties, and propositions exist?  Cars, trees, and people exist, but are these abstract objects just as real?

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  • 8 months ago
    Favourite answer

    They exist only as concepts within the mind, so it depends on your definition of real. I think concepts should be considered real because they exist. Sometimes things are only considered real if they exist physically. Concepts have no physical existence.

  • Anonymous
    8 months ago

    Obviously they exist since you're talking about them and they're used daily such as numbers. Are they natural that exist outside humanity? It probably depends on the "abstract object." Many "abstract objects" are representations of real things. For example, numbers represent quantity in general. If you were to see three rocks, collectively you're seeing three. However, some abstracts like happiness or love are intrinsic to humans.

  • 8 months ago

    Of course they don't. And a tree exists more than a car, because a tree wasn't invented by humans, except for its label of being a "tree," whereas a car is completely a human concept, made for humans, but its metal exists more than the idea of a car that the metal is shaped into

  • j153e
    Lv 7
    8 months ago

    A definition of both "abstract" and "object" is helpful.

    First, "exist": this in some respects circularizes your question, for Latin ex-, out of, and PIE *sta-, to stand, present two positings: Descartes' God Mind Soul ideation, in which God's Ideas stand forth in Descartes' Mindfulness (Saint Paul, "let this Mind abide in you..."), and the secondary positing of Descartes: that objects "stand forth" in space.

    "Object": from Latin ob-, towards, against, and PIE *ye-,

    to throw, [or more generally] to impel [cause]. Again, God creates by bringing forth, via Word of Light (Energy), the heavens and the earth; similarly, in a more reductive assumption, that which is put forth. This latter includes both Kantian transcendentalism as a putting forth of "pure" (aka, in Kant-system, abstract, rational) concepts, and empirical or 5-sense-based atomic data ("the sun rises").

    "Abstract":  Latin ab-, from, off, and Latin trahere, to draw (from PIE *tragh-, to draw).

    If a Soul-individuated one is drawing Ideas from God, Good, then that is one exposition of "abstract":  God as Jehovah-Jireh, all-seeing Vision of God as provider (Abraham and Isaac).  If, as Descartes, one puts forth the object of a coordinate geometric grid upon Nature, one is drawing of God the Noumenal-Dianoia geometrized Energy process which presently represents our most advanced understanding of physis in physics.  Husserl critiqued the "Galilean error" of only focusing on the reductive perspective, namely data-processing without phenomenological awareness, aka eidetic reduction, which latter is a process of comparing, using imagination or personal intuition, various energy-matrices in order to move to a transempirical awareness of the shape or eidos (idea) of an energy-process.  Thus early Husserl's "Cartesian Meditations" foreshadowed the more mature processing of this genius, and allow for the movement of thought through space from God to Man to Nature (later Kant's project, "Opus Postumum"), e.g., the Idea of geometrized Energy as handled in a coordinate or analytic geometry (permitting the calculus, and much more), with the refining of such awareness per "thinking God's thoughts after him" in terms of Gedanken experiments (Husserl's word for this in phenomenology is Phantasievariation).

    So, as some have noted, one person's abstract or irreal is another engineer's tool of art.  It ought be noted that while certain levels or sets of thinking obtain among perennial questions such as this, the Galilean erring has marched on quite profoundly in maths, logics, and physics, etc., such that much philosophic questing re "exist," "object," and "abstract" is comparatively "behind the arc," unless such questioning is conducted at the level of a Whitehead, Husserl, or Wittgenstein.

    Related: Merrell-Wolff's "Pathways through to Space: A Personal Report of Transformation in Consciousness," which imho is a good example of a genuine scholar (Stanford and Harvard training in philosophy and mathematics) moving per innersense into the transempirical realm (and general capability level) of Kant, Husserl, Whitehead, and, yes, Mou Zongsan, to mention but a few luminaries.

    So, in summary, your question points towards Frege's "non-mental" or "mind-independent" criterion as a kind of Platonic Forms or Eidos, maths are more discovered, and not so much invented, perspective. The prior paragraphs indicate that all three terms (exist, object, abstract) are fungible, observer/developer-dependent, insofar as some (e.g. Kant, Plato, Husserl) perceive and express awareness that, as Husserl noted, become bowdlerized in the sense of Enlightenment or even Romantic offense re the more truly transcendental levels of awareness accessed by such genius...the former (Enlightenment, Romantic, et al.) ego-man-centricness expressing and demonstrating Husserl's "Galilean error" trope.

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  • 8 months ago

    Josh, your problem is your choice of words. A concept is not an object. It's something that we manufacture as a thought or idea. All the examples you and your answerers give of objects are wrong. The ideas we create like Einstein's gedankinexperiments  a prime example.So you answer is ideas exist but they are not objects.

  • 8 months ago

    A rare legit philosophy question on here. Bravo. Like dreams, they do not exist physically, but certainly when we dream, it did not NOT happen. It did happen. So yes, these things, like also language, do exist, if only in our minds.

  • P
    Lv 7
    8 months ago

    Yes they do. Imaginary numbers, for example, are widely used in electronics and exist only as a concept. They are understood world wide by millions of designers, and used in exactly the same way. Without them much of our infrastructure, including the internet, wouldn't exist.

    They are not real in the sense that you can't see or touch them, and yet they do exist and enable us advance as a society.

  • larry1
    Lv 6
    8 months ago

    Plato, I believed did this (or was it Socrates). If.....I can conceive of a chair (and a table to go along with it). Their dimensions, shape, texture, form, all in 3D....in my 'minds eye'/ in my comprehension...…..does it.... exist?

    He and all the philosophers came up with really the... earth shaking.... Answer.....Yes......What humans can conceive....exists....and we can even make each thing we conceive exist physically using nothing else but this earth and our own abilities.

  • 8 months ago

    they might exist

  • Anonymous
    8 months ago

    Some numbers are real but some are imaginary!

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