Philosophy for Kids: What is Being?

The philosopher Hegel said “Being” is the most general, and empty, way of talking about something that “is.” Of anything, from an idea in your head to a rock in a stream, we can say that it “is,” that it has “Being,” but what exactly “Being” means is confusing because it seems to refer to everything without meaning anything in particular.

In general, “Being” is said in many ways, but in philosophy usually refers to the “meaning” of something, and the “sense” of something. The meaning of something answers the question WHAT it is, and the sense of something answers the question HOW it is. So for example, a table may be brown and hard in terms of “what” it is, and badly positioned in terms of “how” it is if it is in the middle of the floor in a gym if you are trying to start a basketball game. In fancy philosophy words, Being is called the essential (what) way of looking at an entity, and the existential (how) way of looking at a being. So, we can say Being refers to the “what” and “how” of something, and so has this basic difference in itself.

QUESTION: The word “existential” used above contains the word “exist” in it. What does “exist” mean? When I say something exists, I mean I understand it in such a way that it seems to have Being apart from anything my mind is doing. So, if I say the table I am looking at exists, I mean it has Being on its own, that I am not dreaming or imagining or hallucinating it. But, my mind is still contributing something, because to say the table exists “in itself” still involves my understanding because I don’t sense “in-itself-ness” like I sense brownness and hardness. So oddly, existence both refers to how I am understanding the table just as much as the table having Being apart from my mind. What, then. does existence mean?