Do Mountains Exist? Do I exist? And What is Love?

In their article “Do Mountains Exist: towards an ontology of landforms”, Smith & Marc question the existence of mountains as everyday objects. While this question seems ridiculous at first, they point out that everyday objects can either be organisms or artifacts – of which mountains are neither. They do not have a distinct boundary from their surroundings, nor do they have any characteristics that differentiate them from other similar landforms like hills. Suddenly, the question seems like an interesting one.


Philosophical debates aside, mountains do exist as geographic landforms. Answering questions like “being” and “existing” for these landforms seem somewhat irrelevant when we know that, as the authors point out, beetles will congregate on mountain tops nonetheless – and these beetles are surely not debating the meaning of their home, they just know that they want to be there. This in itself gives it meaning as an object; however, it perhaps is not an everyday object. In the same way one might tell someone to sit in a specific chair, it is very difficult to do this with specific landforms unless a comprehensive ontology is developed. A complete ontology would incorporate both geography, and philosophy.


These geographic features are not specifically defined in terms of the geographic ontology.  For this to be done, the exact scientific nature and history of this planet would need to be assessed. While a mountain is easily visible when standing before it, it is not so obvious when incorporating the irregular shape of the earth and many slight changes in elevation features along its surface.


Landforms are also neglected in philosophical ontology, since they are not distinct entities. For these reasons, ‘mountains’ do not appear in geographic databases or in scientific models. While all of these philosophers and geographers dispute what makes a mountain a mountain, it remains that if you ask a 5 year old to point to the mountain, he will, no questions asked.


Pointy McPolygon


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