## Ultimate question: Why anything at all?

 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.
Let me point out that it is y o u r opinion!

 Quote by chiro 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.
My view is that the concepts "Nothing" and "Something" are primitive.

Explication consists in the statement that they Negate each other.

To this a definition of Truth should be added together with the basic Laws of Logic

And perhaps we are done!

(BTW "Everything" seems to be what is neither nothing nor someting.)
 I have some good news for you - since nothing cannot be, it follows that non-existence cannot be as well. We are all eternal!

 Quote by sigurdW Proof: Suppose non-existence then nothing is something and nothing is not!

Corrected for you

 Quote by Maui I have some good news for you - since nothing cannot be, it follows that non-existence cannot be as well. We are all eternal!
I didnt think you would notice

Death IS not: You will never notice you are dead.

to exist is but another word for to be..."exists" = "is"

 Quote by sigurdW I didnt think you would notice Death IS not: You will never notice you are dead. to exist is but another word for to be..."exists" = "is"

But I have noticed quite a few people's deaths. This is rigorous enough for me as a confirmation that death is/exists. Death is one of those very few things that you are 100% certain that exists.

 Quote by Maui But I have noticed quite a few people's deaths. This is rigorous enough for me as a confirmation that death is/exists. Death is one of those very few things that you are 100% certain that exists.
Well I admit death is a subject that needs careful treatment but is this the proper place?

I gave the only answer there is on the topic question...

But your question is proper since it may point to an inconsistency in the logic used.

Otherwise the normal procedure is to try deriving a paradox,say by: This is not as it is!

But honestly I think a logic thread for such matters should be used.

Let us use "How to solve the Liar paradox" in Philosophy in General discussions in PF lounge

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 Quote by Luigi Acerbi 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'.
Yes, the Peircean view in general is that reality self-organises. So you start with an infinite potential - unbounded dimensionality, unlimited degrees of freedom - and then this state evolves organising laws. At first, there might be many tentative species of constraint. But eventually things shake down to whatever most general state of constraint works over all. A sum over histories approach where most constraints will in fact cancel each other other, and what remains in the end is the "least mean path" set of laws.

So it is very like a Lie group/gauge symmetry approach in modern particle physics where particles are excitations in a quantum field and the properties of particles are the result of irreducible symmetries - localised constraints that exist/persist because they can't get cancelled away.

 Quote by Luigi Acerbi 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.
Yes, this requires a shift in thinking from reductionist metaphysics which wants to think of reality in terms of collections of objects. The whole notion of "thing" is jettisoned in favour of a relational view, a process view - the excitations in a field view.

So all this talk about some-thing, no-thing and every-thing is rather missing the point. A systems ontology sees objects as emergent regularities. And that in turn demands the interaction between global contexts and local potentials. Or in other words, between constraints and degrees of freedom.

"Things" are not fundamental! And so set theory is not a good reasoning tool here.

The analogy of whorls in a stream is useful. You can't scoop up these turbulent features in a bucket and make a enumerable collection of them. It turns out that the context of the stream was necessary to their existence.

 Quote by Luigi Acerbi 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.
I did start this thread of sources on vagueness...

As to Peircean scholarship, there is a ton of it. But also it can be quite daunting as it is a way of thinking that is quite unfamiliar to most unless they have studied systems science or hierarchy theory. And Peirce creates a lot of his own jargon. Plus he was half crazy - like Goedel, probably an occupational hazard.

His basic triadic system is outlined on this Wiki page - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Categories_(Peirce) -

And for a taste of his own writing, here is a commentary on the structure of his cosmological argument....

 Peirce's cosmology, or "mathematical metaphysics" (CP 6.213) aims to show "how law is developed out of pure chance, irregularity, and indeterminacy" (CP 1.407). The account, outlined in the accompanying chart, unfolds as follows. “If we are to proceed in a logical and scientific manner, we must, in order to account for the whole universe, suppose an initial condition in which the whole universe was non-existent, and therefore a state of absolute nothing.. . .But this is not the nothing of negation. . . . The nothing of negation is the nothing of death, which comes second to, or after, everything. But this pure zero is the nothing of not having been born. There is no individual thing, no compulsion, outward nor inward, no law. It is the germinal nothing, in which the whole universe is involved or foreshadowed. As such, it is absolutely undefined and unlimited possibility -- boundless possibility. There is no compulsion and no law. It is boundless freedom.” Now the question arises, what necessarily resulted from that state of things? But the only sane answer is that where freedom was boundless nothing in particular necessarily resulted. “ . .I say that nothing necessarily resulted from the Nothing of boundless freedom. That is, nothing according to deductive logic. But such is not the logic of freedom or possibility. The logic of freedom, or potentiality, is that it shall annul itself. For if it does not annul itself, it remains a completely idle and do-nothing potentiality; and a completely idle potentiality is annulled by its complete idleness. (CP 6.215-219)” Thus the principle that the logic of the universe is at least as sophisticated as our own -- that it therefore includes retroduction or abduction, the spontaneous form of inference that initiates a stream of inference -- leads us to an account of the first stirrings of determination in the utter indeterminacy of Nothing. This is the first appearance of a mode of positive possibility, different from the mere absence of determination that characterizes the initial zero-state. “I do not mean that potentiality immediately results in actuality. Mediately perhaps it does; but what immediately resulted was that unbounded potentiality became potentiality of this or that sort -- that is, of some quality. Thus the zero of bare possibility, by evolutionary logic, leapt into the unit of some quality. (CP 6.220)” The potentiality of a quality, in Peirce's metaphysics, is analogous to the Platonic Form or Idea, in that it is a timeless, self-subsisting possibility that serves as the metaphysical ground of the world of actual existence. “The evolutionary process is, therefore, not a mere evolution of the existing universe, but rather a process by which the very Platonic forms themselves have become or are becoming developed. (CP 6.194)” http://agora.phi.gvsu.edu/kap/Neoplatonism/
 Thanks Apeiron for the reply - I need some time to read everything, including your other thread about Vagueness. I skimmed through it, and some parts are serendipitously close to a post about the emergence of the laws of physics and their co-evolution with the universe (linked to Davies, Wheeler, etc.) I had half-written and I wanted to submit to this forum - at this point I am not sure I need to post it any more.

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 Quote by Luigi Acerbi I skimmed through it, and some parts are serendipitously close to a post about the emergence of the laws of physics and their co-evolution with the universe (linked to Davies, Wheeler, etc.) I had half-written and I wanted to submit to this forum - at this point I am not sure I need to post it any more.
Sure, post! This is a hot topic as I think Davies is adding another dimension to the debate now because he is making a strong case that holographic limits on information point to a new materialistic conception of the laws of nature.

The universe is not "computing with infinite means" and so this greatly restricts the kinds of laws it can have.

By contrast, most cosmological modelling still presumes that existence is unlimited. As with Tegmark's multiverse, the string Landscape, or the Many Worlds interpretation of QM, anything seems possible because there are no material limits to constrain what exists in "lawful" fashion.

One face of the "why anything.." question is the corollary "...when there could have been nothing." But just as much of an issue is "why just something when there could have been everything?".

The shift Davies is making is from laws as creating cause - things need to be made to happen otherwise they just wouldn't - to laws as restrictions. That is, the problem is how to limit the apparent fecundity of reality to some rational sub-set. Why instead of potential primal chaos have we ended up with a rather orderly, law-bound, universe?

Either this is just an anthropic fluke (the prevailing religion of cosmology based on the belief that reality computes with infinite means). Or it might just be that only one stable, persisting and self-consistent outcome was possible.

The second view does not necessarily rule out multiverses of course. The "one solution" might be broad enough to include something like Linde's eternal inflation scenario or whatever. So our own existence in a branchlet does become anthropic luck.

But it would still be a new direction of thought (or rather, a return to older ones like Peirce, Hegel, and even Anaximander) to argue that the laws of nature are materially constrained and not free to be just anything.

At the other end of the scale, as with Wheeler pre-geometry or current loop approaches to extracting regular spacetime from quantum foams, the thinking is the same.

If we start with unlimited degrees of freedom and let constraints on those freedoms spontaneously emerge to create lawful order, then was there only ever just one solution possible?

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 Quote by Maui But I have noticed quite a few people's deaths. This is rigorous enough for me as a confirmation that death is/exists. Death is one of those very few things that you are 100% certain that exists.
I think though, he was saying something to the effect that one never knows that onesself is dead. Which makes sense.

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 Quote by Maui I have some good news for you - since nothing cannot be, it follows that non-existence cannot be as well. We are all eternal!
So, why anything at all ?

 Quote by alt So, why anything at all ?

Why anything exists at all is a somewhat religious question and i am afraid can only be 'answered' within the bounds of religion, i.e. not here.

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 Quote by sigurdW My view is that the concepts "Nothing" and "Something" are primitive.
Rather than something, Hegel suggests that a better primitive is being.

That works for me too as it is a proper generalisation - a universal category rather than some local particular. And as such, it quite directly invokes its dichotomistic "other". Which is what makes it a well-formed idea in metaphysics.

So to even want to have a word that denotes the general state or condition of being, there must be the antithetical possibility of non-being.

Hegel then unites the two in the third category of becoming in this fashion...

 “Being” seems to be both “immediate” and simple, but reflection reveals that it itself is, in fact, only meaningful in opposition to another concept, “nothing.” In fact, the attempt to think “being” as immediate, and so as not mediated by its opposing concept “nothing,” has so deprived it of any determinacy or meaning at all that it effectively becomes nothing. That is, on reflection it is grasped as having passed over into its “negation” . Thus, while “being” and “nothing” seem both absolutely distinct and opposed, from another point of view they appear the same as no criterion can be invoked which differentiates them. The only way out of this paradox is to posit a third category, “becoming,” which seems to save thinking from paralysis because it accommodates both concepts: “becoming” contains “being” and “nothing” since when something “becomes” it passes, as it were, between nothingness and being. That is, when something becomes it seems to possess aspects of both being and nothingness, and it is in this sense that the third category of such triads can be understood as containing the first two as sublated “moments.” http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/hegel/
There is a clever idea in there.

In this view, nothingness comes into definite existence along with being. So being is whatever becomes, and in so doing, what it did not become also now distinctly "exists" as non-being.

In this fashion, non-being gets granted an absolute kind of non-existence. It is not just defined by an absence of things (like the empty set approach), but by the now demonstrable absence of a generalised thingness (ie: being).

And you need there to actually be being for this to happen. If there was no something, there would also be no true nothingness!

So you can see how the usual forms of logical argument such as syllogistic reasoning do not work at the highest levels of metaphysics.

Like Hegel, Peirce and others, we need to step up a level to logic capable of self-referentiality - one where there is a further dimension of becoming or development, and where the law of the excluded middle does not (yet) apply.

So to be clear, the conclusion here is that rather than the existence of something excluding even the possibility of nothing, it is the existence of something that guarantees non-existence is also in fact quite actual - that is, actually and demonstrably non-existent.

Equally, before being became actual, non-being was not actual either. Both shared equal status as mere possiblia - inhabitants of the realm of vagueness, the general ground of becoming.

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 Quote by Maui Why anything exists at all is a somewhat religious question and i am afraid can only be 'answered' within the bounds of religion, i.e. not here.
I don't recall having seen a palitable answer within the bounds of any religion, either.

But it is interesting to see that scientists don't proffer a view either. Nor for that matter, have the best philosophers, the deepest thinkers, come up with a hint of an answer, no matter the the complexity of material offered.

I don't think any progress has been made on this question in the last 2,500 years.

No critisism intended of course - I don't have a clue either.

But it certainly IS the ultimate question.
 Looking for an answer to the question "why there is anything rather than nothing" is, in the strictest sense, a nonsensical question. Observe that merely asking the question "why there is anything" always perceive (recognizes) there is something to begin with. Except for sentient beings of whom "why" questions can be asked, only "what" and "how" questions are relevant to things (and processes) that exist in the universe.

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 Quote by steve watson Looking for an answer to the question "why there is anything rather than nothing" is, in the strictest sense, a nonsensical question. Observe that merely asking the question "why there is anything" always perceive (recognizes) there is something to begin with. Except for sentient beings of whom "why" questions can be asked, only "what" and "how" questions are relevant to things (and processes) that exist in the universe.

In the broad view taken by metaphysics, and holistic modelling in science, there are four "why" questions when it comes to causality. And one of these is final cause - for what pupose, for what ultimate goal?

Final cause usually gets subsumbed (concealed?) in natural laws or qualitative concepts. For example, the second law of thermodynamics. Or the principle of adaptive fit in evolutionary theory. These allow us to answer why things are as they are in a teleological sense.

Of course, the logical positivist approach to philosophy of science leads people to claim that there is only teleology as epistemology, not teleology as ontology. But that is just a useful belief to simplify modelling IMO.

The "why anything" question serves to return us to the fundamentals of causation and its modelling. So we need to be willing to challenge our "simple and convenient" causal or logical beliefs. Not just reassert them.

As for your general argument - there is always going to be something, never nothing - well I agree. And that is what then leads to a metaphysics that proposes a further fundamental dimension of development, the trajectory from the vague to the crisp.

As Hegel says, nothingness is a crisp concept so can only exist in emergent, contingent, fashion. It is the "everything that is not". And so it cannot itself "be" until there is also the "everything that is".