# Ultimate question: Why anything at all?

by bohm2
Tags: ultimate
P: 27
 Quote by Pythagorean is nothing existing distinguishable from a universe in complete equilibrium?
Im just a poor logician so I dont understand how you check that a universe IS in complete equilibrium!
Is it done from the inside? Then it seems to me your presence would disturb the equilibrium.
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P: 2,430
 Quote by sigurdW I can be sure because the negation of the first premise is self contradictory! Therefore the premise is true.
In what way is "nothing was" self-contradictory? And in what way is nothing the proper negation of something?

A lot more work has to be done here than can be achieved by your quick syllogism.

As has been discussed in this thread, nothingness should more properly be paired to some notion of everythingness (if not-nothing, then everything).

And the idea of nothingness is indeed self-contradictory if it requires any sense of a definite place where things are then definitely absent (because a definite place is not "nothing").

So for these reasons, we come back to the deeper - non-contradictory - notions of the potential and the actual. We get in behind arguments that depend on the law of the excluded middle to consider instead the development of crisp somethingness out of indeterminant vagueness.

A definite nothingness is self-contradictory, I agree, because to be definite requires at least the context that allows that judgement. So it can't exist before, during or after anything.

But an indefinite nothingness seems a different matter. And it also happens to be indistinguishable from an indefinite everythingness. Which has important implications. All is still possible when nothing has yet happened.
P: 27
 Quote by apeiron In what way is "nothing was" self-contradictory? And in what way is nothing the proper negation of something?
You cant be serious!

Do you deny that Nothing and Something negate each other?

Then how do you convince anyone that there is something?
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P: 2,430
 Quote by sigurdW You cant be serious! Do you deny that Nothing and Something negate each other? Then how do you convince anyone that there is something?
The negation, or logical complement, of the existence of some things would be the lack of existence of some things, not the existence of no things.

So the proper negation of the existence of no things would be the existence of every thing(s). If one claims that A = an absolute limit on existence, then not-A would have to = absolutely unlimited existence.
P: 27
 Quote by apeiron The negation, or logical complement, of the existence of some things would be the lack of existence of some things, not the existence of no things. So the proper negation of the existence of no things would be the existence of every thing(s). If one claims that A = an absolute limit on existence, then not-A would have to = absolutely unlimited existence.
By "nothing" we mean the lack of existence of ALL things
so it negates the existence of ANY things.
By "something" we mean "ANY things",

So "nothing" and "something" negates each other.

I think the concepts "nothing" and "something" are basic...
Deny that they negate each other and you cannot prove there is something...
P: 27
 Quote by apeiron The negation, or logical complement, of the existence of some things would be the lack of existence of some things, not the existence of no things. So the proper negation of the existence of no things would be the existence of every thing(s). If one claims that A = an absolute limit on existence, then not-A would have to = absolutely unlimited existence.
What do you mean:the existence of no things.

Neither do I believe there exists a largest natural number,nor do I believe there are existing no things!
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P: 2,430
 Quote by sigurdW By "nothing" we mean the lack of existence of ALL things so it negates the existence of ANY things. By "something" we mean "ANY things",
See how you tried to slide from all to any just there.

A lack of particular things is not necessarily a general lack of things. Any does not mean every.

Some-thing talks about particular thingness. So it's rightful negation would be a lack of such particularity. And so a most generalised notion of thingness. Ie: a vagueness rather than a nothingness.
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P: 3,964
 Quote by sigurdW Im just a poor logician so I dont understand how you check that a universe IS in complete equilibrium! Is it done from the inside? Then it seems to me your presence would disturb the equilibrium.
If there's an organism around to ask the question, then complete equilibrium does not exist.
P: 27
 By "nothing" we mean the lack of existence of ALL things so it negates the existence of ANY things. By "something" we mean "ANY things"
 Quote by apeiron See how you tried to slide from all to any just there. A lack of particular things is not necessarily a general lack of things. Any does not mean every. Some-thing talks about particular thingness. So it's rightful negation would be a lack of such particularity. And so a most generalised notion of thingness. Ie: a vagueness rather than a nothingness.
I see nothing really wrong in the definitions:

1 By "nothing" we mean the lack of existence of ALL things
2 By "something" we mean "ANY things"

And theres no sliding: By "something" we dont mean "ALL things"...
we mean any things selected from the set of ALL things.

You seem to think that to negate nothing we should claim the existence of ALL things,
but it suffices to claim there is at least one thing. Theres uncountably many negations of nothing.

I wonder where the vocabulary you use comes from? Heidegger?
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P: 2,430
 Quote by sigurdW You seem to think that to negate nothing we should claim the existence of ALL things, but it suffices to claim there is at least one thing. Theres uncountably many negations of nothing.

Nothingness cannot be defined in terms of the empty set because the set itself is a (general) kind of something. You can remove the contents one by one, but the very making of that claim then appeals to the something that exists - the context of the set which is becoming empty.

You don't seem to realise how you are jumping between generals and particulars here. The very fact that there seem to be "uncountably many" negations of the empty set shows that your point of view lacks sufficient generality to talk about the negation or logical complement of whatever it is you mean to talk about.
P: 4,543
 Quote by sigurdW I can be sure because the negation of the first premise is self contradictory! Therefore the premise is true.
In order to define nothing, you need to define its complement with respect to 'all that is'.

So in this regard, you need to know what nothing is to define what everything is which means that nothing in whatever form it is in needs to having some kind of interpretation in order to really and truly analyze what is being described and its implications.
 PF Patron Sci Advisor P: 1,767 I see here people trying to apply logic to as yet ill defined concepts and without any agreement on postulates. Let me point out that logic can only take you from one logical predicate to another via implication. You will get no answers to the question of "why" this way. Deduction will only answer questions of the logical consistency and logical equivalence of sets of statements.
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P: 3,964
 Quote by jambaugh I see here people trying to apply logic to as yet ill defined concepts and without any agreement on postulates. Let me point out that logic can only take you from one logical predicate to another via implication. You will get no answers to the question of "why" this way. Deduction will only answer questions of the logical consistency and logical equivalence of sets of statements.
welcome to the philosophy forums...
P: 1,303
 Quote by jambaugh I see here people trying to apply logic to as yet ill defined concepts and without any agreement on postulates. Let me point out that logic can only take you from one logical predicate to another via implication. You will get no answers to the question of "why" this way. Deduction will only answer questions of the logical consistency and logical equivalence of sets of statements.
Philosophy helps to answer what physics doesn't. Kind of like how language completes mathematics. You can't do mathematics without language to put it in context. And I'm not saying philosophy aims for absolute truth either,there will always be competing schools of thoughts when there is this much complexity.
P: 4,543
 Quote by jambaugh I see here people trying to apply logic to as yet ill defined concepts and without any agreement on postulates. Let me point out that logic can only take you from one logical predicate to another via implication. You will get no answers to the question of "why" this way. Deduction will only answer questions of the logical consistency and logical equivalence of sets of statements.
It would be handy for us to know what specific comments you are talking about.

My comment is simply saying that everything has a complement in some universal set. Using this we can say exactly what something is by comparing it to what it is not in some context which depends on the universal set.

If you can't take something and describe what it is not, then you don't have any boundaries in your definition and it won't make sense.

As a general rule in language, we need to define this boundary in whatever way we can and that means enough relativity to say what something is and what something is not.
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P: 322
 Quote by apeiron Have you actually read the thread yet? Nothingness cannot be defined in terms of the empty set because the set itself is a (general) kind of something. You can remove the contents one by one, but the very making of that claim then appeals to the something that exists - the context of the set which is becoming empty. You don't seem to realise how you are jumping between generals and particulars here. The very fact that there seem to be "uncountably many" negations of the empty set shows that your point of view lacks sufficient generality to talk about the negation or logical complement of whatever it is you mean to talk about.
Earlier on in post #272 you said to sigurdW

A lot more work has to be done here than can be achieved by your quick syllogism.

But a lot more work has already been done - mainly by you. 285 posts, 18 pages ..

And where are we with it ?

OTOH, I found sigurdW's recent entry to this forum refreshing, and his quick syllogism quite appropriate. He said earlier;

You seem to think that to negate nothing we should claim the existence of ALL things, but it suffices to claim there is at least one thing. Theres uncountably many negations of nothing.

I found this as clear and understandable a statement as any in this thread. Yet you responded with the post in quotes above, particularly that which I've underlined, which seems to be some length of sliding on your part. General or particular things, they are still something.
P: 0
 Quote by apeiron Another big one is that reality has crisp existence (I instead argue the Peircean view that it self-organises out of vagueness via semiosis).
This sentence - and other points you made in other posts - seem to summarize a lot of my thoughts on the subject.

I've been thinking for some time that reality might be better characterized as 'what remains after you set some constraints on everything [1] and then quotient everything else away'.
I am sloppily referring to a quotient operation in set theory (i.e. equivalence classes), but I could also be thinking in terms of probability distributions over states of the world given the constraints, from a Bayesian point of view.
This probability would represent not epistemic ignorance, but ontological indifference - I suppose quite similarly to the 'vagueness' you are referring to [2].

In this picture the focus shifts from 'things' to the constraints (which are relational, by the way), and I think it is not only a metaphysical issue but something to be taken into account when building a modern physical theory (some of these ideas are present in some works, but not so mainstream I'd say).
What the constraints are and where they come from deserves another discussion.

Anyhow, I am curious about 'the Peircean view that [reality] self-organises out of vagueness via semiosis', can you provide some specific references please? I was not aware of this at all.

Notes

[1] Everything is quite hard to pinpoint formally, so to imagine it you would define a pretty large universe of something-s (e.g. a space of operators) and work inside that. (There are many issues here though.)

[2] I appreciate that probability/set theory might not be the best frameworks since they are so intrinsically centered on things, but I do not know other ones at the moment...
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P: 641
 Quote by Nano-Passion Philosophy helps to answer what physics doesn't. Kind of like how language completes mathematics. You can't do mathematics without language to put it in context. And I'm not saying philosophy aims for absolute truth either,there will always be competing schools of thoughts when there is this much complexity.
I'm not sure if philosophy can really do that. I like this quote by M. Friedman on philosophy:
 the philosophers of the modern tradition from Descartes are not best understood as attempting to stand outside the new science so as to show, from some mysterious point outside of sciences itself that our scientific knowledge somehow mirrors an independently existing reality. Rather, they start from the fact of modern scientific knowledge as a fixed point, as it were. Their problem is not so much to justify this knowledge from some 'higher' standpoint so as to articulate the new philosophical conceptions that are forced upon us by the new science. In Kant's words, mathematics and the science of nature stand in no need of philosophical inquiry for themselves, but for the sake of another science: metaphysics.

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