The fundamental question of Metaphysics: Why something rather than nothing

• 5.3k
If that's the case, then as I explained above, premises 3 and 4 are false. Because they both assert that the state of nonexistence has a length which can be compared to a given measure. Therefore, your argument cannot even get off the ground.

By the way, do you think that when people say things like "Nothing tastes better than fettuccine alfredo", they are really saying something like "The state of nonexistence tastes better than fettuccine alfredo?" Because it seems quite clear to me that what we actually mean when we say this is something like "There exists no object which tastes better than fettuccine alfredo."

Indeed you're right. Nothing tastes better than fettuccine alfredo doesn't imply that nothing has a taste but the issue is not that nothing has a taste or not but if taste could be extended in terms of a measured value beyond that of fettuccine alfredo, what would lie in that region? Nothing, of course. Now imagine a great chef invents a dish tastier than fetuccine alfredo in 2021. Where would this dish lie on the taste scale after 2021. It would be located in the region previously occupied by nothing, no?

To reference the 3-object universe, imagine now a fourth object D = 3 cm. On the length scale both B and D would occupy the same spot and then I would have to conclude they have the same length. If the great chef in the previous paragraph created a dish tastier than fettuccine alfredo in 2021 then that dish would occupy the taste scale at the spot previously allocated to nothing. Doesn't that mean nothing, if it were possible to taste it, would taste better than fettuccine alfredo? :smile:
• 76
Nothing tastes better than fettuccine alfredo doesn't imply that nothing has a taste but the issue is not that nothing has a taste or not but if taste could be extended in terms of a measured value beyond that of fettuccine alfredo, what would lie in that region? Nothing, of course.

-

This makes it amply clear that you are indeed conflating the two senses of the term. As before, no object lies in the region, but it is not the case that the state of nonexistence lies in the region.

I’m not exactly sure if there is much more I can say on this issue, but I guess I can ask your opinion of the ham-sandwich argument from earlier. Do you not see how that argument equivocates the two senses of nothing, and how you are doing the exact same thing?
• 5.3k
This makes it amply clear that you are indeed conflating the two senses of the term. As before, no object lies in the region, but it is not the case that the state of nonexistence lies in the region.

I’m not exactly sure if there is much more I can say on this issue, but I guess I can ask your opinion of the ham-sandwich argument from earlier. Do you not see how that argument equivocates the two senses of nothing, and how you are doing the exact same thing?

No, I'm not conflating anything at all.

Suppose dish x is the tastiest in the world in 2019; this will allow us to say, "nothing is tastier than x" If the taste scale extends from 0 and then goes on to 10 (0 being least tasty and 10 being tastiest) then x would be a 10. Beyond 10 on the taste scale would be nothing. Now imagine in 2020, a chef creates a dish y which is tastier than x. What would be the position of y on the taste scale? Beyond 10, no? But this was the region of nothing in 2020. Now dish y is in at the same position occupied by nothing in 2019. Can I not then say that just as y is now tastier than x, that nothing was tastier than x? After all, both occupy the same region on the taste scale? If you disagree then you would have to say that another dish z with the same score of 10 that dish x has isn't equally tasty as x which is obviously false.
• 76
As I have said numerous times, nothing is tastier in the quantificational sense, but not the ontological sense.

Since we keep going in circles and you won’t answer my questions, it would not be productive to continue down this line of discussion.
• 5.3k
As I have said numerous times, nothing is tastier in the quantificational sense, but not the ontological sense.

Since we keep going in circles and you won’t answer my questions, it would not be productive to continue down this line of discussion

No problem. Thank you for your time. I'll give it more thought; hopefully I'll see your point. Will get back to you if anything we can agree on comes up. :up:
• 76

Sure thing. Until next time :smile:
• 1.2k
What do you mean? Take this universe (matter, energy in space-time) and begin with your idea of "relative" absence and suppose you have an anti-matter gun that annihilates matter. You shoot objects into oblivion one by one i.e. you cause relative absence of things. Ultimately, you would've destroyed everything after shooting yourself and programming the gun to take itself out. That which is left, after the gun self-destructs, is absolute nothing.

You'd be left with a lot of energy, which isn't nothing.
• 5.3k
You'd be left with a lot of energy, which isn't nothing.

Mass-energy equivalence?
• 1.2k
Mass-energy equivalence?

Yes.
• 5.3k
• 3
From the perspective of a computer programmer we could visualize the situation as pseudocode...

# Our universe is one-dimensional, its contents quantified by "length." Units are centimeters.

# Our universe is a set of objects, defined as follows...

UNIVERSE = {A: 5, B: 3, C: 1}

# The only way we can define what does not exist is in its relation to that which does exist. We can only visualize "nothing" as sort of a negative image of "something."

NOTHING = {x in RANGE(∞, ∞) where x not in UNIVERSE}

# NOTHING = {..., -2, -1, 0, 2, 4, 6, 7, 8, ...}

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

It's similar to the common inquiry into our cosmological origin: "But how can something come from nothing? We've never seen something come from nothing before, why should it happen now?"

Such a question is based on the premise that we've actually ever seen "nothing" at all; which is by definition impossible.

As soon as we can define nothing it ceases to become nothing.
• 850
As soon as we can define nothing it ceases to become nothing.Key

Most people don't know how to think about nothing properly because it's deeper, more mystically philosophical than they realize
• 3

Would you be willing to elaborate on that statement?

Also I would like to clarify that I am not implying that we cannot necessarily define the concept of nothing but rather its contents.
• 118

I assure you, in the most personal way, ultimately, there will be nothing rather than something for each one of us.
• 850
I am not implying that we cannot necessarily define the concept of nothing but rather its contents.Key

"It has no content. It has form and no form. It has no content". That is how I would say it. It implies a contradiction, but I don't believe a contradiction is definable, so that is not a problem. Anything mystical will appear "paradoxical" at first
• 1.3k
You're erroneously treating "nothing" as a rigid referrent.

Consider Propositions 3 and 4:
3. Nothing is longer than A
This means: For all x: x<=A

4. Nothing is shorter than C
This means: For all y: y>=C

y and x are two different variables, having no mathematical or logical relation between them. In your proof, you conflate them (in effect).
— Relativist

I'm examining a property, here length, which x and y can share.

The problem is here:
Ergo, we can combine statements 3 and 4 as:

5. Nothing is longer than A which is longer than C which in turn is longer than nothing.
In this statement, "nothing" means there is no x > A. i.e. such a thing doesn't exist. Properties are associated with existents, but you're claiming a non-existing thing has properties.
• 5.3k
Properties are associated with existents, but you're claiming a non-existing thing has properties.

Yes, I did mention this "difficulty" or perhaps better described as an embarrassment, in my OP and in my later posts. However there is a sense in which nothing can be assigned a property as I tried to show in my discussion with Alvin Capello. How about if you view it from the point of potentiality? If I say "nothing is larger than the sun" then I mean that if the size of the sun is 10 then there's no object that is larger than 10. Now, "there's no object" is basically nonexistence or nothing. Expressed differently, if we consider the size of 11, bigger than 10, then I would not find an object to assign the size 11 to; the absence of an object is, weil, nothing. This could be taken to mean that beyond the size of 10, there's nothing.

Now imagine a discovery is made and an object, a supersun is found and its size is greater than 10. Does this star not occupy the region that once previously belonged to nothing. This indicates that though nothing doesn't, can't, have a size and can't be, in any sensible sense, larger than the sun, it is also the region in which anything real must exist in for it to be larger than the sun. Nothing can then be viewed as a realizable potential in which something larger than the sun can exist. It's not that nothing is larger than the sun but that if anything can be larger than the sun it must exist so in the region that nothing occupies on the size-scale.

An analogy will perhaps help. Imagine a row of books arranged according to size from the smallest to largest on a rack. The smallest book forms the lower limit and the largest book forms the upper limit. Beyond the smallest book and the largest book lies the nothing of space. If I were now to say there's a book B that is larger than the largest book in the rack then it would occupy the space or nothing beyond the largest book in the original row. Can't I then conclude that, if nothing could possess the property of size, then it would be conclusively larger than the largest book in the original rack? Basically, in terms of potential that can be realized, nothing is, in the sense of size, larger than the largest book in the original rack.
• 118

The question: "Why is there something rather than nothing?" presupposes, uncritically, that the principle of sufficient reason, according to which my intellect operates, must also necessarily be applicable, without exception, to everything that exists, including, myself. In other words, my intellect is compelled to assume that there must be a reason that explains why anything, including myself, exists.

WHICH MAY NOT BE SO. THE WHY MAY SIMPLY BE AN EXPRESSION OF THE ULTIMATE IN ANTHROPOMORPHISM
• 898
THE WHY MAY SIMPLY BE AN EXPRESSION OF THE ULTIMATE IN ANTHROPOMORPHISM
:clap:
• 9.5k
THE WHY MAY SIMPLY BE AN EXPRESSION OF THE ULTIMATE IN ANTHROPOMORPHISM

That would sound very impressive, were you the only sentient being in the Universe - but then, you'd lack an audience, so I guess there wouldn't be anyone to impress.

Which puts me in mind of the following: modern science is unwittingly anthropocentric. Why so? Because the move of 'bracketing out the observer' that lies at the base of scientific objectivity, is a methodological step, not a metaphysical postulate. In other words, science, for the purpose of arriving at an objective view, brackets out anything which can be attributed to subjective factors, so as to consider only what exists, irrespective of any particular viewpoint. But what it doesn't see is that the mind itself, including the mind of the scientist, has an irreducible role in any kind of scientific analysis or observation whatever. A perspective is required to make any statement about anything whatever, and there is nothing that can be shown to, or known to, exist without existing from a perspective. The perspective is what the mind brings to the object of analysis.

For naturalistic purposes, none of this matters. Where it does matter, is as soon as it ventures into metaphysical propositions, about what is real, and the like, which it most often does.
• 5.3k
The question: "Why is there something rather than nothing?" presupposes, uncritically, that the principle of sufficient reason, according to which my intellect operates, must also necessarily be applicable, without exception, to everything that exists, including, myself. In other words, my intellect is compelled to assume that there must be a reason that explains why anything, including myself, exists.

WHICH MAY NOT BE SO. THE WHY MAY SIMPLY BE AN EXPRESSION OF THE ULTIMATE IN ANTHROPOMORPHISM

The principle of sufficient reason (PSR) is similar in structure to the statement, all swans are white. If you wish to disprove the claim all swans are white you need to first assume that all swans are white and if you want to disprove the PSR you have to first assume the PSR. This is what I did and there is a reason why there's something rather than nothing viz. that nothing, the idea, causes contradictions and so, is impossible.
• 118

Be courteous! Arguments "ad hominem" are often the last resort of the ignorant!
• 900
Why is there something rather than nothing? was labeled as the fundamental question of metaphysics by Martin Heidegger.

Ugh. No doubt it's already been pointed out somewhere in this thread, and certainly elsewhere, that this "fundamental question" according to Everyone's-Favorite-Nazi is rhetorical, in that it assumes that nothing is something, or a kind of something, which would otherwise be available if there was no "something." Accept the question and you accept the assumption. Or, if you don't, you realize that the question is, in fact, "why is there something?"

And this realization, I think, provides one with an insight as to what motivates the speculation engaged in by those who believe this to be a "fundamental question." Heidegger was, like Nietzsche, a Romantic, and Romantics who find themselves unable to believe in the God of their fathers also find themselves deprived of a time-honored explanation for life and source of the meaning of life. But they remain convinced that there must be a reason for the existence of the universe and, most importantly, their own existence. So, they deploy in pursuit of that all-important reason; a reason which, presumably, can only be determined by philosophers (as opposed to scientists).
• 118

If, as you state, " ... nothing, the idea, causes contradictions and so, is impossible," how, then, in the first place, can the idea of nothing be a "cause," since, by definition, it does not exist?

Also, might there not be a significant difference between nothingness as a logical, rather than as an existential, cause?

For a someone who is dying, nothing definitely "exists" as an existential, rather than as a merely logical, reality which will shortly be experienced, or encountered. Nothing is eminently real to the dying! Do we really want to insist that what they are dreading is impossible?
• 8
The idea of state of nothingness contains the inherent assumption that things are naturally alienated from one another. This is a long argument but it can be absolutely proven to be wrong. In fact, here is no opposition between something and nothing. The unity of something and nothing is embodied in the determinate being that is always becoming; determinate becoming. The problem is not whether there is a something and nothing. The point is your unconscious struggle to merge the two.
• 118

Well before Heidegger, both Leibniz and Schopenhauer dealt with this question. It is not a peculiarly "Nazi" question.
• 900
Nothing is eminently real to the dying! Do we really want to insist that what they are dreading is impossible?

It's interesting (to me at least) that in pre-Christian times, Epicurus was admired for his teaching that there was no afterlife. We simply cease to exist; there is no punishment, no dull, dreary existence in the kind of grey shadow world envisioned by pagans when eternal torment was not expected. As a result, the fear of death was thought irrational. We recall nothing bad happening to us before we were born, as we didn't exist then; nothing bad will happen to us after we die as we won't exist. Lucretius and others considered him a kind of savior as he was thought to have freed us from the superstitious fears which cause us to fear death and dissolution.

Now, apparently, we're horrified because someday we won't exist. Something in us has changed, it would seem.
• 900

I agree, and don't mean to say this is something of significance to Nazis only. I think it may be a general, and emotional, reaction to a loss of faith in what served as providing a reason for our existence for centuries, and a perceived need to replace it with some other reason.
• 118

Excellent piece! Well thought out!

Unfortunately, rational explanation has never been an effective antidote for the majority of humanity. The majority of humanity always was, still is, and always will be horrified by the approach of death's nothingness. In my opinion, it seems that nothing in us has really changed.
• 9.5k
Be courteous!

It is not discourteous to examine fundamental philosophical presuppositions, although it is sometimes uncomfortable.
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