Belief and Ontology
the question of reality

We understand the meaning of the term ‘being’, our ‘is’, intuitively – at least as regards our behaviour. We experience no difficulty in acting in the belief that that ‘is’ or ‘is not’ a table. However, we have difficulty when we come to define the term ‘being’ in a metaphysical sense. We have only to ask what ‘being’ really ‘is’ to reveal the linguistic difficulties. The metaphysical philosophers have, generally, sought to explain ‘being’ by defining its categories: abstract and concrete; universal and particular; existence and subsistence. The question has particular relevance (and difficulty) in theories of logic and ultimately Bertrand Russell resorted to the tautologous ‘whatever “is” is’.

We can note that the question of ‘being’ raises problems also for the scientific community, for example when discussing concepts of imaginary numbers, multi-dimensions or the complexities of quantum mechanics.

We must, for the moment, leave these esoteric debates to those philosophers and scientists concerned. From the perspective adopted here we need consider the idea of ‘being’ only in the instrumentalist sense – a cognitive tool that works for us in facilitating our involvement in the universe. This view does not excuse us from considering the origin, status and use of this term, but it does allow us to take a more focussed stance. We can examine the term ‘being’ as a concept, a cognitive construct, rather than a transcendental metaphysical item.