The Supreme Principles of Being

BEING AND EXISTENCE: A Brief Introduction into the Nature of Reality

by Jonathan Dolhenty, Ph.D.

PART FOUR

The Supreme Principles of Being


A principle is that from which something else proceeds in any way whatever. The supreme principles of being are those highest principles which are immediately derived from the concept of being. These are important for us to understand as we proceed with our study of metaphysics. These principles cannot, strictly speaking, be proved. Deny them, however, and all rational discussion must cease. There is no point in debating the truth of these metaphysical principles of being. They are, simply and unequivocally, true.

The principle of identity tells us that whatever is, is. Furthermore, it tells us that whatever is not, is not. Everything is what it is and everything is its own being. Put simply: being is being and non-being is non-being.

The principle of contradiction tells us that it is impossible for a thing to be and not to be at the same time (within the same “context”). A being cannot be and not be some being at the same time. It should be kept in mind that “at the same time” implies “in the same respect” or “from the same point of view.”

The principle of excluded middle tells us that a being either is or is not. Every being must either be or not be. There is no middle ground between being and non-being; no middle being is possible.

The principle of sufficient reason tells us that nothing exists without a sufficient reason. Every being must have a sufficient reason for its being and existence.

The most important and fundamental of these principles is the principle of contradiction. This stands to reason since the principles of excluded middle and sufficient reason are a development of the principle of contradiction. Furthermore, the principle of identity is simply another way of expressing the principle of contradiction. We can say, therefore, that the principle of contradiction is the basic principle of being.

THE SUPREME PRINCIPLES OF BEING

  • Identity
  • Non-Contradiction
  • Excluded Middle
  • Sufficient Reason

The late Dr. Jonathan Dolhenty was the Founder and President of The Center for Applied Philosophy and the Radical Academy, and is Honorary Philosophy Editor at The Moral Liberal. The Moral Liberal has adopted these projects beginning with a republishing and preserving of all of Dr. Dolhenty’s work.


The Radical Academy and The Moral Liberal recommends Mortimer J. Adler’s Ten Philosophical Mistakes