Archive for June 2011
To answer this question we have to lay some groundwork because this is actually a very deep question, something unusual here on Quora.
First I would like to say that Plato’s Cratylus is on this topic posed as the relation between conventions and true names. It is a comedy and no conclusion is drawn between the dialectical opposite positions, but in the process this question is explored in depth. I have written a commentary on the first part of the Cratylus which is at http://emergentdesign.net
But let us start from the question asked and try to explain the components of it. As has been said many times by me in various answers there are four aspects of Being which are Truth, Reality, Presence, and Identity and their opposites (anti-Aspects) and so all of these need to be considered together. Being of course appears in this statement as the first word “Are there . . .” Being has many roots and the “er” is one of them.
When we refer to the “concept” of Reality we are talking about intelligibility, and intelligibility is the main manifestation of Being. Since Reality is an aspect of Being we are asking about intelligibility of Being itself which is Heideggers question of the Meaning of Being.
So the question is under this interpretation are there any symbols or icons that express the meaning of Being with respect to its aspects?
Now Being is an artifact of language unique to the Indo-Europeans, it is in fact the central or highest concept of Indo-European language which is the basis for relating everything to everything else as we use language. It has several meanings which are conveyed by the aspects, and several roots because it is a idea that is fragmented. Ideas refer to illusory continuities and concepts refer to non-representable “meanings” beyond all representation. The illusory continuity of the Idea of Being papers over its fragmentation. The concept of Being is the essence of its intelligibility beyond all the beings that are its representations, say in language but also elsewhere in culture. Among these are various symbols and Icons.
Now when we talk about symbols verses Icons we are really talking about the difference between symbolism and semiotics. An Icon is one of Peirce’s types of sign. Saussure’s semiotics is relational (deals with signs as only Seconds), and Peirce’s takes into account mediations (what he calls thirds). Peirce developed semiotics in order to understand Logic better in its practical context of everyday use. And generally signs are the structural components of symbols. Signs are like patterns while symbols are like forms, in as much as symbols are the next higher synthesis beyond the sign. It should be noted that a “Idea” as ‘illusory continuity’ is equal to a Symbol (Pure; determinate; form, arrow or mapping; Third, continua; two dimensional) + Sign (Process; indeterminate, probability; pattern; functor; Second, relata; one dimensional) + Trace (Hyper; fuzzy, possibility; monad; modulation; First, isolata; zero dimensional) + Nuance (Wild; propensity; facet; fluctuation; Zeroth; negative one dimensional). We are noting here the meta-levels of Being, Schema, Math category level, Peircian Principle, and the dimensionality that seems to be related to each level of the Idea as illusory continuity. We are not saying that this set of relations can be completely defended under close analysis but giving this a a first level approximation just to demonstrate how complex the structure of the idea might be. But actually when you look into the relations between these various series the whole situation becomes even more complex than this. See my recent dissertation for more information and a closer scrutiny of the relations between these various series.
Anyway, with this background we may perhaps be prepared to attempt to deal with the question at hand. Of course, the question is actually asking for symbols or Icons of ultimate reality. But we are going to have to deal with the mundane case first because that is so complex that unless we try to come to terms with it first we may become hopelessly lost as most people do in this maze. But on the other hand if we understand the mundane case then perhaps we will be amazed at the outcome when we consider ultimates.
So our first question is whether there are any symbols, or icons of reality at the mundane level. And this is where the Craytlus comes in because it considers the question as to whether there are true names or not and it is posed as a comedy of naming. Basically there are two interlocutors one representing the position of conventional names and the other representing the position of true names. But when Socrates begins giving his etymologies for terms to get at their true names then he completely mangles the language as Heidegger is known to do on a regular basis, trying to force roots of words to say something about their real, true, identical, present, i.e. aspectival meaning. It is fascinating that what we want to know is whether words have an aspectival dimension or not. Now we can understand that Being has meta-levels and each meta-level has its different version of the aspects, and thus the apsects become essentially different at each meta-level. So for instance Heidegger talks of Truth as verification, while at the deeper process level it becomes Alethia which is uncovering, a process by which we know a deeper truth as seen in the Oedipus saga.
Now this has a deeper connotation when we realize that a formal system is made up of Truth, Presence, and Identity aspects with its properties being the relations between the aspects being consistency, completeness and clarity (wellformedness). Now when you add the aspect of Reality you get three more properties in addition to those of the formal system which are validity, verifiability, and coherence. So what Heidegger says about verification, can be extended to all of these properties. At the next level up, i.e. at the Process Being level all of these properties would be transformed essentially. How that would look I have not worked out because I just thought of it. But the key point is that this aspectival nature of words strikes to the heart of our worldview because it relates to science which compares theoretical models (formal systems) to the empirical world (reality). But what is not recognized widely, what is reality changes at each meta-level of Being, so there is no unified answer to this question because Being is fragmented among its roots and among its aspects.
So we can reinterpret the question to ask if any of our words represent the noumena as they are in themselves, or not. And then the more esoteric question merely asks whether in terms of the ultimates whether this problematic holds as well. Now I could punt the answer to say all my works are attempting to get at this question within its proper problematic, seeking deeper and deeper solutions. But that would be merely saying that this question is one way to strike to the core of our worldview that posits meta-levels of the Indo-european centric concept of Being, and its aspects, and roots which are the sources of words which either do or do not indicate something about the noumena. To me the structure that is specific to our worldview is more significant than any answer, per se. In effect only Indo-Europeans can actually ask this question. Other traditions without Being as a fundamental assumption and tool for thought cannot ask it because they either have existence or only the copula to work with and not the artificial fabricated concept of Being which is itself an illusory continuity as a basis for answering it. However, other non-indo-european cultures have their own version of this question. Now Hinduism in which Ohm is such a symbol or icon is Indo-European and it spawned Buddhism as a heresy that attempted to say there was no Being (SAT) with regard to the Self, at least, and rebelled against the tyranny of Being as perduring illusory continuity beneath everything. Buddhists denied as radically as they could this continuity, and chose aggregates (tattvas, dharmas) as the heterogeneous basis of all phenomena. We get a picture of the full scope of the question when we put it in terms of the relation between Hinduism and its nondual heresy of Buddhism and their historical interaction. The Hindu and Buddhist views of ultimates are very different due to the duality embraced by the former and the nonduality approximated by the later.
This might constitute a mere prolegomena for an appropriate answer to this question. It is not something that can be definitively answered in a short space of text but something that can take a lifetime of exploration. One of my favorite examples of someone who struggled with this question in a completely different context is in Knowledge Painfully Acquired by Lo Ch’in-shun. He spent a lifetime trying to understand what the original Chinese tradition had to offer that Buddhism did not offer and he presents a final answer. I like his answer because it comes from an obvious rumination on the problem for years. Since my own studies of this question are not as mature as his I will defer to him in this case.
Is our known reality just an illusion?
Lets take this apart as any good Analytical Philosopher would do.
Reality and Illusions are aspect and anti-aspect of Being (IS) along with identity, presence, truth and their duals.
The idea that we know reality, identity, presence and truth is somewhat of an oddity. This is because Being has usurped the place of Knowledge in the Indo-european worldview. Being is suppose to be perduring, but it is actually knowledge that is perduring. It is fairly clear that Heraclitus who embraced change was more right than Parmenides who rejected change.
Now the problem is that there are meta-levels of Being and that the aspects are different at each meta-level, and so to know the aspects we must know what the aspects are at each of the meta-levels of Being, i.e. Pure, Process, Hyper, Wild, and Ultra.
“Our” of course refers to the Mitsein, i.e. the inauthentic masses lost in the mundane who have not yet realized that they are in fact dasein, i.e. something deeper than subjectivity/objectivity dualism.
Given this analysis we can say that if we do not know what reality is at all the meta-levels of Being, i.e. Pure Reality, Process Reality, Hyper Reality, Wild Reality, and Ultra Reality and its opposite at each level, i.e. illusion, [and include in that all the other aspects and their opposites (truth, identity, presence)] then we can never tell whether the reality blends with the illusion or not. We have to make a non-nihilistic distinction at every level, and that becomes harder at every level because it is harder to think at each level. Reality and Illusion become more intertwined at each level. So basically reality IS illusion and illusion IS reality, because Being itself is really absurd in itself at the level of Ultra Being where it becomes a singularity.
Hubert Dryfus picks out Hiroshima Mon Amor http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hiroshima_mon_amour
For me it is Andre Rublev http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Andrei_Rublev_(film)
Why do I like Andre Rublev better than all other films?
I like it best because it comes closest to portraying a whole world.
Most films are slices of the world which they portray. Few films strive to portray the whole world not just a slice, or several slices of it.
Why is it existentialist?
Existentialism is a movement in Western Philosophy with Dostoevsky, Kierkegaard, Sartre, Heidegger and others. It is really a rebellion against the normal view that the Being of Essences is primary, and it instead says that the existence of the individual is primary, and normally concentrates on the absurdity, or paradoxicality of individual existence. Hubert Dreyfus has a great course on Existentialism that has been recorded as an audio and has been released previously. Not sure if it is still available. In it he discusses Hiroshima Mon Amor and how it exemplifies Kierkegaard’s philosophy and then he talks about Brothers Karamazov and how Dostoevsky has similar distinctions as those made by Kierkegaard but predating him, and with no known influence between the two thinkers: one a philosopher who wrote works like a novelist, and the other a novelist who wrote philosophically. Heidegger took up the Existentialist banner but what he meant by it was the ecstasy by which dasein as being-in-the-world projects the world from groundlessness which envelops dasein. For him it was a way to talk about something prior to the separation of the dual of subject and object. Heidegger developed the theme of authenticity when dasein frees itself from the Group (They, mitsein). Sartre on the other hand concentrated on the theme of human freedom and we have radical choice to make our world as we see fit at every moment instead of falling into bad faith. However, all of these philosophers never really free themselves from the pale of Being, from the shadow of Being, and thus their views of existence are still entangled in Being. Thus being embedded in the Western Philosophical Tradition they never manage to take a stand outside Being, as Exi-stance suggests. So Existentialist themes tend to be about contradiction, paradox and absurdity, one of the limits of the worldview as seen in Plato’s divided line, i.e. the limit of Doxa (opinion, appearance). For Kiekegaard our religious views are absurd not rational as Hegel taught. For Heidegger it is the paradox of avatarism, where something projects the world in which it finds itself, i.e. dasein is like Christ, god and mortal at the same time. For Sartre it is the fact that being-in-itself and being-for-itself and being-for-others are in radical conflict and that the synthesis of being-in-and-for-itself and being-in-and-for-others cannot be reconciled. The only choice is radical freedom of choice where the individual chooses the life that is meaningful to themselves without their life being stolen by others or by becoming reified into a thing. Consciousness appears as groundless, i.e. out of Nothingness but that in fact is what gives us our radical freedom.
The key scene for me in Andre Rublev is when the boy whose father was the bell maker but died, and he claimed to know the secret of bell making, but in the end after he successfully makes the bell he admits that his father died without telling him the secret. This is the existentialist scene par excellence. The boy was self made by his radical choice to pretend he knew the secret, and by pretending he actually did know the secret and was successful against the odds of making a bell that rang and was not cracked. The boy took his chance by a choice of radical freedom to remake his life by pretending to have a secret he did not have. The paradox is that knowing the secret is pretending to know the secret and that changes the world for the boy who becomes what his father was the Bell Maker.
Of all these theories of what existentialism is probably Sartre’s is the best. Now Sartre’s work Being and Nothingness is considered Passe, and it is generally accepted that he just did not understand Heidegger. Heidegger wrote his Letter on Humanism to draw a distinction between himself and Sartre, between the NAZI and the COMMUNIST. Heidegger was anti-humanist and accused Sartre of implicit humanism. But we now know that Heidegger’s Being and Time was based on the unpublished works of Husserl which are very similar in theme and tone to Heideggers (so called genetic phenomenology in Husserl). Also we know that Heideggers lectures on Aristotle were key to the development of his phenomenology in an effort to distinguish his phenomenology from his teachers. And also he returned to the Phenomenology of Hegel for inspiration taking the term Dasein from Hegel’s logic. At one place Heidegger says dasein is Geist (spirit/ghost/mind). So Sartre’s interpretation of Heidegger in light of Hegel so that he could fit phenomenology and existentialism into a Marxist context may not have been too far from the truth. Sartre redeemed himself by writing Critique of Dialectical Reason, his most brilliant work, which of course no one studies. This work is very close to what Cannetti talks about in Crowds and Power where the pack is like the fused group of Sartre.
Dostoevsky is trying to show that his version of Russian Orthodox Christianity, is the solution to the dualism of Protestantism (the inquisitor) and Catholicism (the returned Jesus). Each major point in the novel according to Dreyfus tries to posit that solution to the points made in the inquisition that merely remain paradoxes. In effect the story revolves around the choice of one of the brothers to take responsibility for the murder of the father who deserved death even though he was not guilty an existential choice.
Kierkegaard raises the ante by saying that all religion is absurd, and cannot be understood by reason at all, case in point Abraham’s decision to kill his son when the law is thou shall not kill. The miracle that saves the son cannot be understood by reason, and thus actually all human existence is really absurd due to its religious dimension.
Heidegger is really using Existence as a technical term to get beyond dualisms set up in Humanism i.e. subject/object dichotomies. It is really a way of talking about how Being gives rise to itself from itself in human beings, beyond what we can will, i.e. as an ecstasy we cannot control and which we find ourselves engulfed by.
It is Sartre that focuses on the problem of human freedom, and how we have the freedom to break from the past, and the expectations of others, and he used that philosophy to underwrite revolutionary movements around the world. Sartre went back to Hegel as the source of all these existentialisms. And he was probably right about that because Hegel in his logic specifically identifies nothing which is the opposite of Being as Buddhist Emptiness, so in fact of all these philosophers Hegel has the true nature of Existence in mind as the distinction from which to build his philosophy of the Logic of Being.
In the movie Andre Rublev the whole movie is in black and white when it is talking about his art, but in the end we see his art in color. What is being said by this is perhaps that in spite of the harshness of the world within which Andre Rublev existed he had visions of what lay beyond that world, but which grew out of the world that encompassed him. In effect his art was a way of embodying the spirit of Orthodox Christianity that rose above that world to make it something different when one considered Gods relation to that world. To me Andre Rublev is the ultimate movie because it draws a picture of a whole world in which Andre Rublev lived and then his radical freedom to imagine what was beyond that world and give that vision to others through his art.
Why is there X where X = (Existence != IS).
As I have said in many answers, Existence does not equal IS. The normal formulation of this question is Why is there something rather than nothing which is called the ultimate question. But to ask why exists X and why is there X are two very different questions, not the same question as you have implied ranking them together as if they were synonymous.
One interesting thing is that there is no meaning to Existence, as existentialists continually point out. Being on the other hand equals intelligibility or meaning as Parmenides said “it is the same to think and to be”.
Saying Why there exists something means why do I find myself thrown in the midst of things within a world as a thing myself. This according to Heidegger is an existentiell question which is discovered (befindlichkeit). it is part of the nature of dasein to ecstatically project the world and itself as part of the world. It actually has no why per se rather it is a facticity.
On the other hand Why there IS something is tantamount to asking about the intelligibility of what “is” and the meta-question concerns the meaning of Being. Is “IS” a facet of Indo-european language in particular and is part of our “rede” talk another existentiell. But also IS confers understanding within our particular worldview and thus gives rise to our unique kind of “verstehan” understanding another existentiell according to Heidegger.
So it is interesting that it is only one existentiell that relates to existence while the other two relate to Being per se as linguistic intelligibility peculiar to the Indo-Europeans.
This is probably not something that Heidegger himself would agree with but it reinforces the point that for the Arabs wajud (existence) was part of Being (kun) but not all of it. A rock exists, but it does not project a world which it can discover itself to be part of. So to the extent that we can discover ourselves to be part of the ultimate horizon of world then we exist as an ecstasy, but to the extent that we can comprehend and talk about that world overflows from the ecstasy alone into the projection of meaning or intelligibility.
For Heidegger the key point is that these existentiels fuse together at the core of dasein as being-in-the-world as “Care” (Sorge). In other words the discoveredness of oneself within the world already as part of the ecstasy of projection is the same in some way as understanding it and being able to talk about it.
We can turn this around and say that because Indo-European language has Being, that affects the intelligibility of everything within that worldview and takes us beyond what we would have if we only had the standing of existence or the copula or some other central concept within our language, as other languages have. So there is a special kind of intelligibility that comes along with the concept of Being, and that intelligibility is expressed in our language and in our understanding which is unique. That uniqueness has to do with the way we use tropes like Metaphor, Metonymy, Synecdoche, and Irony. Other languages produce tropes by juxtaposition, while we use tropes by creating a substrate of connection through the projection of the illusory continuity of Being. In existence things stand on their own while in Being things stand through each other in an odd way. So Odysseus IS a lion which is more than the simile that could be had by juxtaposing Odysseus with Lion and allowing us to infer their similarity. Odysseus IS a lion means that somehow Odysseus and the Lion share the same substance.
So if we come back to the question Why is there an IS? the answer is we do not know why Indo-European has this odd yet unique peculiarity. But by the Worfian hypothesis we can infer that it must effect our understanding of the world when juxtaposed with the existence, copula or other basic concepts that are standings in other languages. Existence is a standing toward what is found (befindlichkeit) by finding ourselves already in the world. Copula (such as the Me in Sumerian) which is a unique agglutinative language is a standing of things toward each other. Interestingly the term Me also means something similar to the Tattva in Tamil which gives us the idea of dharmas in Buddhism. In this kind of language existence is fragmented into little mechanisms that just work, and we don’t know why but they are there in an array of juxtapositions in existence. On the other hand existence, like Wajud in Arabic is unified through its ecstasy that allows that which is to be found to be found.
Why there IS an “is” is unknown. But we do know it is a uniquely Indo-European concept that has a peculiar linguistic form in all related languages of that family. We also know that it is a construct because it is forged from different linguistic roots within proto-Indoeuropean, which is to say it is an artificially fabricated cultural construct, not something that arose naturally within the language, because it is constructed of disparate linguistic elements. And what we notice about the Indo-Europeans is that they were the first to domesticate the horse, and use that to conquer the unknown world making it known to them as their possession. It turns out that “having” is an equally fragmented linguistic root within Indo-European languages. Being and Having go together in some fundamental way in the Indo-European worldview. It was a linguistic project to forge Being/Having within this linguistic family, but why this is true we don’t know. But what we do know is that this has to do somehow with our ability to produce technology and that has something to do with the rife nihilism of our worldivew, at least according to Heidegger, and to some extent Nietzsche.
On the other hand, existence or copula has no why, in the same way as Indo-european has a why. In other words, without Being why itself does not have the same force. Within our language we have the fundamental structure Who, What, Where, When, Why and How, which in different ways probably exist in other languages as prominent. But after the ultimate question these are the subsidiary questions. And it is the Why that we associate with Being, because Being is for us the same as intelligibility and intelligibility is synonymous with knowing why.
If we ask Why is Being, then we get the answer of God’s will, or destiny, or fatedness (dreeing the wyrd)
If we ask Who is Being, then we get the answer God (Supreme Being) who is seen as Good only with evil a mere privation.
If we ask What is Being then we get the answer a substance that translates into omniscience of God which betokens the Rightness (RTA) of the Justice of God.
If we ask When is Being we get the answer the Hence/Thence (Now/Then) (Ongoing/Completed) which translates as the eternality of God which betokens the perfect order of Gods law beyond our understanding of the accidents of human life.
If we ask Where is Being we get the answer Hither/Thither (Here/There) which translates into the omnipresence of God which betokens the World as the dual of logos/physos, and the word that becomes flesh as an avatar that unites these duals. (omnipresence suggests omni-identity, omni-reality, and omni-truth, i.e. God is One, God is Reality, God is Truth, i.e. God is aspectival).
If we ask the How of Being we get the answer of omnipotence of God which betokens trinitarian mystery and the three fold nature of the existentiels.
This suggests that the subsidiary questions to the ultimate question has to do with the qualities of God as Supreme Being under the auspices of ontotheological metaphysics and that these are in turn related somehow to the nonduals at the core of the Western worldview, i.e. fate, good, right, order, etc.
The tropes are Metaphor, Metonymy, Synecdoche, and Irony:
God IS Being, Holy Ghost is God, Son IS Father, The three are one.
All this is OntoTheological Metaphysics according to Heidegger which is a metaphysics of Presence that discounts Absence, a metaphysics of Identity that discounts difference, a metaphysics of Truth that discounts Fiction (Lies), and a metaphysics of Reality that discounts Illusion or unreality. To the extent that we pay homage to formal systems and also are realists we continue this tradition. Formal systems are based on Truth, Identity and Presence aspects whose relations give the properties of completeness, consistency and clarity (well-formedness). When we add in the Aspect of Reality then oddly enough we generate meaning and also the properties of Verifiability, Validity, and Coherence. Together the properties of the formal system can give soundness but we need the properties that associate the formal system with reality to give correctness.
Peirce contributed the Existential Operator (Backwards E) to logic. Without that our logic floats free without any tie to actual facts. Logic itself is composed of three operations And, Or, Not. The other important operator that balances existence is All (upside down A) that differentiates the Universal from the Particular. The Universal indicates the Set Like differentiation of particulars. While Existence is Mass-like and indicates that there is a dual to sets which are Masses, and a dual to syllogistic logic which is the boundary or pervasion logics. Our culture forgets the non-count and emphasizes the count and thus we base our math on Sets, and our logic is syllogistic. We forget about non-count masses (like furniture) and pervasion or boundary logic (like Laws of Form, G. Spencer Brown). Masses and Boundary logic is more related to Existence, while Sets and Syllogistic Logic is more related to Being.
Thus the forgetting of Being is at the same time a remembering of Syllogism, and Sets and the Oblivion of non-Being as existence along with Masses and Pervasion Logic as the dual of sets and syllogism. One reason we cannot think Existence is because we have lost the tools of thought, and this is part of the OntoTheology of our worldview. Existence appears in our worldview as the dragon (typhoon, python) destroyed by St. George (Zeus, Apollo). This triumph of Being over Existence comes at a cost, one of which is our disconnection from the planet on which we live (unfortunately at this time as parasites). The benefit is the ability to integrate technologies that other cultures have not been able to do. No one knows who invented the wheel but Indo-Europeans invented the Chariot as the first war machine, when horses were big enough to pull them in a team, but not yet big enough to ride. This was the beginning of the first great colonial wave of Indo-European domination, the second wave of which was the colonization of the whole world by sea power and gun powder, and the third wave is globalization of Indo-European culture happening now.
We have to go back to the meaning of the term existence. As I have said in previous answers existence has an interesting history which has to do with the collision between Greek which is a language like all other Indo-European languages that have Being and one of the other myriad languages that do not have Being, but instead have either existence, or copula or something else which plays a similar role to Being as the central concept that relates things to other things. In this case the language was Arabic, and the Arabs were reading Greek Philosophy and realized that Being (ontos) in Greek was completely different from Existence (Wajud) in Arabic. So the Arab philosophers made up a technical term Kun (to make) to specify the difference between Being and Existence. Then during the Renaissance when Arab interpretations of Greek philosophy were translated into Latin there was no term for Existence in Latin which was an Indo-European language to, so the term Existence was made up to have the same meaning as Wajud in Arabic which means “that which is found” and also ecstasy. Heidegger uses this difference in senses of existence in Being and Time when he says that the projection of Being by dasein is an ecstasy. Existence means Exi-Stance, to stand outside of . . . Being. It is what is outside of our projection of Being, i.e. what comes before the Apriori Synthetic in Kant’s terms. Existence is what is found prior to any projections of ours onto what is there such as values for instance. So the rock beside the road that no one cares about has mere existence.
Now when we talk about True Existence then another aspect is revealed. What is interesting is that both Being and Existence are standings that share the aspects Truth, Reality, Identity and Presence. Thus in some sense aspects of Being and Existence are more fundamental than the standings themselves. So when you say True Existence, you are really talking about Existence without any contamination with the illusion generated as a projection a prior in Being. But also we could talk about Real Existence, Identical Existence, and Present Existence. In existence these different aspects are not separate from each other as they are in Being. That is a difference between Being and Existence. In Being the aspects are separated but in Existence they are interpenetrated.
The opposite of the Existence I call the Quintessence. The Quintessence is both aspect and anti-aspect, while Existence is neither aspect nor anti-Aspect. So the Quintessence is both True and False (Fiction) while Existence is neither True nor False (Fiction) and so on with the other three aspects. The main interpretations of Existence are Buddhist emptiness or Taoist void. That is to say Existence is interpreted as non-dual. In this interpretation it is not non-being and neither aspect nor anti-aspect but instead NOT (Aspect) nor (anti-aspect), nor (both aspect and anti-aspect) nor (neither aspect nor anti-aspect) but something else beyond these logical alternatives. That something else is interpreted as interpenetration which is the antipode beyond existence and quintessence. An image of the quintessence is the philosopher’s stone, i.e. the perfect transformative catalyst that in myth turns base metals into gold.
Now the model of Existence is the Special Systems and the Special Systems are interleaved with the Kinds of Being, so Being and Existence are duals of each other. The Special Systems are a model of interpenetration (cf Reflexive Autopoietic Dissipative Special Systems Theory of the author http://kdp.me). And the special systems describe the ultra efficaciousness of Life Consciousness and the Social. So in this sense the viability of just living is true existence. Doing something “productive” with your life is part of the projection of Being. And so from the point of view of this sort of Fundamental Ontology/Existentialism, existence covers life, consciousness, and sociality, but does not cover Productivity, which is part of the projection of illusion and delusion of Being. The best book about this is the Mirror of Production by Baudrillard where he says that what communism and capitalism share is the idea that we must be productive, to be human is to be productive, and what cannot be imagined is an unproductive life. However, Buddhism and Taoism and other non-dual spiritual ways undermine this assumption of the preeminence of productivity in human life and say it is enough just to be conscious and to recognize the purity of existence unsullied by the projections of Illusion that are founded in Being.
Thus I would answer the question you raised by saying that the true meaning of existence is in just viable living, purified conscious, positive and non-destructive social relations, and productivity is a delusion (like “Progress” for instance) which according to the Buddhists and Taoists would be based in delusion.
However, this said I do find that there is a big difference between the productive life and the non-productive life myself. And we must realize that productive and destructive are duals. Nietzsche says that all creation is based on destruction. So that productivity and destruction are intertwined as nihilistic duals that feed each other. So the nondual of existence has to be between and beyond these duals as it is with all duals. Thus it has to be a misinterpretation to say that the Buddhist or Taoist life is completely non-productive, but on the other hand it is not productive either. The difference is that in these contemplative kinds of life what we are trying to do is to produce a transformed self, so that our productivity is aimed back at our selves not at other things in existence. Zen/Chan aesthetic traditions make much of this in arts of Flower Arrangement, Archery, Gardening, Tea Ceremony, Calligraphy, etc. In other words, there is a certain attitude toward work, which all Zen monks are required to do, which does not focus on the end product but the consciousness of what is happening in the process of creation or production in the moment. An excellent example of this is the poems of StoneHouse (translated by Red Pine), where he criticizes the buddhist monks for begging, and prises the hermit who makes his own food or gathers it, or works gathering fire wood and is not dependent on the generosity of others for their livelihood. His poems are the perfect example of the blending of Taoism and Buddhism. In fact at a certain point in his poems he has a line of emptiness and a line of void, then a line of emptiness and a line of void. Much of Korean Zen comes from the StoneHouse lineage which combines Zen and Taoism while recognizing the difference between emptiness and void as two different attitudes toward existence. In Taoism there is the idea of “non-action” which does not mean not doing anything, but means not fabricating anything nor departing from the natural flow of nature which is he Way (Tao). In Taoism non-action may mean producing something or not producing something depending on the situation. The basic idea is that you remain unattached to production or non-production. But the emphasis in production or non-production is on the transformation of the self not the transformation of external products as it is in capitalism or communism which assumes that productivity/destructivity is a basic human trait.
http://bitly.com/ieG1Vs Revolution in Photography: so much more information in a picture . . .