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Ultimate question: Why anything at all?

by bohm2
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bohm2
#325
Mar22-12, 10:25 AM
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Quote Quote by Nano-Passion View Post
I always think of nothing as something that would hypothetically exist outside of space. But since nothing can exist outside of space, I don't know if there can even be "nothing." Though, there is a theory that says that the universe started from the collision of two branes. So I guess some posit that there is space outside of our universe. So then, where is nothing??
Gisin who has done experiments confirming Bell's has argued that in a sense quantum entaglement/correlations do suggest something like that:
To put the tension in other words: no story in space-time can tell us how non-local correlations happen, hence quantum correlations seem to emerge, somehow from outside space-time.
Quantum nonlocality:How does nature perform the trick?
http://arxiv.org/pdf/0912.1475.pdf

Yet, amazingly, quantum physics predicts entirely different kinds of correlations, called non-local correlations for reasons described below. Physics has a word for the cause of these non-local correlations: entanglement. But physics offers no story in space and time to explain or describe how these correlations happen. Hence, somehow, nonlocal correlations emerge from outside space-time (for an explanation of this provocative terminology see appendix A).
Are There Quantum Effects Coming from Outside Space-time? Nonlocality, free will and "no many-worlds"
http://lanl.arxiv.org/PS_cache/arxiv...011.3440v1.pdf

Interestingly the philosopher Mcginn (as I posted before) has argued/speculated something similar with respect to the "non-spatiality" of mind/consciousness. It's very speculative but I do think he's arguing that there's something about spatiality that breaks down at some level but again this would still not be "nothing":
We need a conceptual breakthrough in the way we think about the medium in which material objects exist, and hence in our conception of material objects themselves. That is the region in which our ignorance is focused: not in the details of neurophysiological activity but, more fundamentally, in how space is structured or constituted. That which we refer to when we use the word 'space' has a nature that is quite different from how we standardly conceive it to be; so different, indeed, that it is capable of 'containing' the non-spatial (as we now conceive it) phenomenon of consciousness. Things in space can generate consciousness only because those things are not, at some level, just how we conceive them to be; they harbour some hidden aspect or principle.

We might be reminded at this point of the big bang. That notable occurrence can be regarded as presenting an inverse space problem. For, on received views, it was at the moment of the big bang that space itself came into existence, there being nothing spatial antecedently to that. But how does space come from non-space? What kind of 'explosion' could create space ab initio? And this problem offers an even closer structural parallel to the consciousness problem if we assume, as I would argue is plausible, that the big bang was not the beginning (temporally or explanatorily) of all existence. Some prior independent state of things must have led to that early cataclysm, and this sequence of events itself must have some intelligible explanation - just as there must be an explanation for the sequence that led from matter-in-space to consciousness. The brain puts into reverse, as it were, what the big bang initiated: it erases spatial dimensions rather than creating them. It undoes the work of creating space, swallowing down matter and spitting out consciousness. So, taking the very long view, the universe has gone through phases of space generation and (local) space annihilation; or at least, with respect to the latter, there have been operations on space that have generated a non-spatial being. This suggests the following heady speculation: that the origin of consciousness somehow draws upon those properties of the universe that antedate and explain the occurrence of the big bang. If we need a pre-spatial level of reality in order to account for the big bang, then it may be this very level that is exploited in the generation of consciousness. That is, assuming that remnants of the pre-big bang universe have persisted, it may be that these features of the universe are somehow involved in engineering the non-spatial phenomenon of consciousness. If so, consciousness turns out to be older than matter in space, at least as to its raw materials.
Consciousness and Space
http://www.nyu.edu/gsas/dept/philo/c...nessSpace.html
Xeeg
#326
Mar23-12, 12:05 AM
P: 1
To consider "Why anything at all?", start with the opposite! "What if nothing?"

Let's start at a time, let's call it t(0) = 0s

If, at this time, nothing at all exists.
Then there is no reason for anything to exist after this time.

We are here now (evident), therefore this is an impossible condition. This statement also shows that there has never been a time = 0 where nothing exists.

Now let's consider a piece of space where nothing exists... The boundary around this "nothing" could be defined, giving "nothing" an attribute, like volume. Once it has an attribute, is it still nothing?

If not, this shows that "nothing" is not only an impossible scenario to the start of the universe, but also cannot exist.
alt
#327
Mar23-12, 10:40 AM
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Quote Quote by chiro View Post
Personally I see this as more of a limitation of our ability to comprehend than anything else.
Yes .. Why, are you aware of anyone that can comprehend without limitation ?

Mathematically we can use time to represent a form of a pattern or an attribute that gives constraints for something to evolve, but in terms of describing something whether it is structure, evolution of structure or any other relationships it's not required.
Not sure what you are saying here.

Could it be possible that everything existed simultaneously and that time is simply one way to organize what we are exposed to that constrains us to see the rest of the picture?

Mathematically in terms of describing any system, time does not only have to be linear but it doesn't need to be taken into account if we get knowledge of the state-space.
OK .. point to this thread ?


In order to explain the patterns that occur in our experience of the physical world (whether the experience is through us or some other apparatus) we introduce the concept of time to help make sense of things because it aids us in our goal.
Who introduces the concept of time ? We as intelligent, educated beings ? My dog has a concept of time (I'm sure she does). I don't think we make a choice and say "Aha - let's introduce time" if that's what you mean. Else, I'm not sure what you are saying here, either.

But if you constrain yourself to think in terms of that constraint, then by that constraint you will be bound by and with your hammer, everything will look like a nail.
Very true. But whether by choice or make up, we are constrained to some degree nonetheless, aren't we ? Or are you saying that there is the ability to think without any constaint whatsover ? In which case, you would be omnipotence - or close to it.
sigurdW
#328
Mar23-12, 12:26 PM
P: 27
Quote Quote by Xeeg View Post
To consider "Why anything at all?", start with the opposite! "What if nothing?"

Let's start at a time, let's call it t(0) = 0s

If, at this time, nothing at all exists.
Then there is no reason for anything to exist after this time.

We are here now (evident), therefore this is an impossible condition. This statement also shows that there has never been a time = 0 where nothing exists.

Now let's consider a piece of space where nothing exists... The boundary around this "nothing" could be defined, giving "nothing" an attribute, like volume. Once it has an attribute, is it still nothing?

If not, this shows that "nothing" is not only an impossible scenario to the start of the universe, but also cannot exist.
Yes...The argument is old...Parmenides was first to point out that nothing isnt something.
chiro
#329
Mar23-12, 08:58 PM
P: 4,572
Quote Quote by alt View Post
Very true. But whether by choice or make up, we are constrained to some degree nonetheless, aren't we ? Or are you saying that there is the ability to think without any constaint whatsover ? In which case, you would be omnipotence - or close to it.
I think I added a bit too much fluff to my post, but the main point I was trying to express is that the constraints we put as human beings on analyzing things is often very limited because it's hard to think in terms of constraints that are not manageable in an ability to analyze something in a way that is useful.

It reminds me of the changes that have taken place since GR and QM have come about: it's forcing the physicist and to some extent the layman to greatly expland the constraints we used to have for analyzing the world and when we don't do that, it means that we will be looking at the world as a nail and using our old hammer instead of perhaps treating it like a screw and using a screwdriver.

The idea I think we will move towards is not just remove constraints per se altogether, but to go to the constraints that are the most flexible and make sense. We as human beings currently need constraints to make things manageable in terms of proper comprehension and at least for the near future, I just don't see that changing.

But consider the developments in all of the areas of mathematics and the introduction of statistics: logic is showing us ways to find systems that make sense in terms of consistency, statistics can show us properties for general stochastic processes that don't blow up and make sense, analysis does the same thing but for systems that are deterministic (with convergence) and so on.

What I see happening (and it is starting to happen right now) is that all of these ideas will come together and the constraints will do two things: they will allow more flexibility and also that flexibility will be tamed by conditions that come from all areas of mathematics.

As an example it's like us going from analyzing rational numbers to real numbers however in doing so we also introduce the idea that we only want to deal with real numbers that are computable. By doing this we are increasing our flexibility, but we are taming this flexibility with something else.

So yeah I agree that we are always going to be constrained, but the key thing is to realize how these constraints will change and how we deal with removal of constraints in one aspect and an increase of constraints in another.
bohm2
#330
Mar27-12, 09:22 AM
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I'm not sure if this really confronts the question but I found it interesting:
In a deep sense, theories of causal responsibility start from perplexity that changes occur (why did something happen?), and their driving metaphysical question is the ancient question: Why is there something rather than nothing?...In contrast, the core concept behind causal significance is not production. Because production requires one thing to in some sense come “out of” another, production is asymmetric, directed, and naturally limited to local connection. If the deep structure of the natural world is a structure of natural constraint, then the logic of constraint leads to a focus on selective inclusion and exclusion rather than production.

Conceptualizing the world as the ultimate clique directs questioning toward the discovery of the secret character by which the world denies existence to so many things that could have been. The humble truth is that, for all we know, existence might be something toward which all things tend. If so, what requires metaphysical explanation might be why some things aren’t rather than why some things are. Perhaps the fact that new things can come into being is part of the noncontingent nature of the world, and perplexity should start at observation of how restrained these facts are in reality. Most possibilities do not occur....

One billiard ball hitting another is a paradigm case of one event causally producing another, and so “billiard ball causation” is not necessarily the best paradigm case of causal significance. A better paradigm case might be two entangled quantum particles. Two entangled particles are similar to two coins that must always be flipped together and that share a special constraint. Although each coin could land either heads up or tails up if it could be flipped separately, making for four possible joint states between them, because the two coins are entangled they share a constrained joint state in which each can land heads or tails only if the other one also does. So they could both be heads, or both be tails, but they could not come up one tails and the other heads. In this sense, the state of each has causal significance for the other, and their mutual causal significance excludes two possibilities. “Causal significance” names the presence of constraint between them, while not necessarily explaining the state of one by assigning responsibility or temporal precedence to the other.
A Place for Consciousness: Probing the Deep Structure of the Natural World
http://www.sentimentaltoday.net/OUP/...d.Nov.2004.pdf
apeiron
#331
Mar27-12, 06:32 PM
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Quote Quote by bohm2 View Post
I'm not sure if this really confronts the question but I found it interesting:
Rosenberg does strip causation down to its basics - constraints in interaction with unlimited degrees of freedom. But then how well does he build back up to create a systems view again?

I think his approach falls apart on the usual panpsychic grounds. He wants to make some deep identification between the extrinsic properties of the material realm (charge, spin, mass, etc) and the intrinsic ones of the subjective realm (qualia, downward causation, etc).

So there is a collapse of scale, a collapse of distinctions. Micro or macro, it is all the same. And the gaps are papered over by the use of opaque abstractions, like Rosenberg's dichotomy of effective and receptive properties.

One sounds like what we are talking about when we speak of material cause, the other like what we mean by proto-mental action. And if you don't look too closely at the join, you might believe something was actually explained.

I would constrast this with pansemiosis where constraints are physically identified with information - and a theory about how information regulates dissipative actions.

So yes, we need to strip causation down to its simplest model. And this is very relevant to the "why anything?" question. As Rosenberg says, a constraints-based view makes you want to ask "why not everything?". Why is reality in fact so limited when undetermined possibility seems inherently unliimited?

But Rosenberg has the usual idea that consciousness is a general kind of thing, rather than a highly particular state of things. The standard categorical error that keeps sending folk down the cul de sac of panpsychism.

Pansemiosis argues instead that the general activity represented by "consciousness" (all the many levels of things that a brain and nervous system is doing) is instead semiosis. Which in turn is about the dissipation of gradients via structural information.

So in the end, it is stuff you can hope to point to and measure.

How would you measure something like receptivity in Rosenberg's scheme? Like qualia, it seems to be defined as an intrinsic property and so in principle unmeasurable?
Whovian
#332
Mar29-12, 01:47 PM
P: 642
I just feel like calling on the Anthropic Principle. Short answer: because we wouldn't be here to see the the something/nothing if there wasn't anything, so any universes with nothing are not observable, so asking if they exist is impossible to prove or disprove.
phoenix:\\
#333
Mar29-12, 02:03 PM
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Better question to ask is, "how", not "why", because really, no one knows why.
apeiron
#334
Apr18-12, 03:45 AM
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Why anything is becoming a fashionable question to be asking again....

A Yale conference last October - http://whyisthereanything.org/

Cosmos, logos, and the “why” of the universe… is a transdisciplinary inquiry into the origins and meaning of the cosmos, cross-fertilized by scientific, philosophical, and theological perspectives centered on an exploration of the question most foundational to each: Why is there something, rather than nothing at all?
And the blog giving a sketch of proceedings - http://whyisthereanything.org/blog/?paged=2

Then more Templeton money paying for people to set up philosophy of cosmology programs - http://www.philosophy.ox.ac.uk/news_...field_of_study

In a new partnership between Oxford and Cambridge, researchers in physics and philosophy Simon Saunders, Joe Silk, and David Wallace at Oxford University, and John Barrow and Jeremy Butterfield at Cambridge, are to join researchers at a cluster of US universities including Columbia University, Yale University, and New York University, to establish the field of philosophy of cosmology as a new branch of philosophy of physics.
And the US branch home page - http://philocosmology.rutgers.edu/

Also there is Krauss's "big questions" project at Arizona - http://origins.asu.edu/
chiro
#335
Apr18-12, 04:47 AM
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Quote Quote by phoenix:\\ View Post
Better question to ask is, "how", not "why", because really, no one knows why.
I think you should combine the how and why by some kind of inference technique.

Understanding the realization of the known and observed 'how' with respect to the unrealized and unobserved 'how' can give real inferences on the 'why'.

When you look at something in complete isolation with respect to other potential possibilities that exist, then you have no point of reference and it's the same thing as a fish trying to figure out what water is.
bohm2
#336
Apr24-12, 12:09 AM
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Quote Quote by apeiron View Post
And the blog giving a sketch of proceedings - http://whyisthereanything.org/blog/?paged=2
It's difficult to disagree with this point in that blog by Heller/Ellis:
Heller concluded by saying that if we truly tried to construct a physical model from absolute nothing, we would not be able to move one step forward. That’s why the “Why is the anything?” question is so persistent...we cannot get off the ground in explaining the universe if we start with nothing.
Though, again, I'm not sure this Platonic argument by Ellis (similar to Rickles) is particularly convincing (to me):
For instance, most scientists assume that a mathematical structure pre-exists the beginning of the physical universe; most physicists also seem to believe that the laws of physics pre-exist the universe. Ellis endorses a Platonic theory of mathematics. When we learn a mathematical truth, we’re discovering something that is independent of humanity. They exist in a Platonic world before the universe comes into existence. This, for Ellis, is the model for other pre-existing entities.
Personally, I think I lean towards the ideas of Gisin, Rovelli and even McGinn who have suggested that perhaps our conceptions of space-time are either only approximations or even perhaps misconceived/flawed or emergent from something more "fundamental" that defy spatio-temporality and yet we may never truly be able to fully understand it because of our own cognitive limitations (like all other animals) and this has little to do with some form of mind-independent mathematical Platonic realm/structure that pre-exists the physical universe.

I found this quote summarizing this idea interesting:
In sum, for the time being, it remains unclear how to spell out an ontology according to which spacetime emerges from a more fundamental level. As things stand, the supposed emergence concerns only descriptions, but not ontology: in the search for a theory of canonical QG, one can in one’s mathematical descriptions abstract from spacetime and seek to recover spatio-temporal notions at a less fundamental level of description (as within the semi-classical analysis of quantum geometrodynamics and LQG, see above). But it remains unclear how to transform this move in one’s mathematical descriptions into a cogent ontology of the physical domain according to which spacetime is not fundamental, but emerges from some entities outside spacetime (Hedrich forthcoming reaches a similar assessment).
A dilemma for the emergence of spacetime in canonical quantum gravity
http://philsci-archive.pitt.edu/9074/
Quinzio
#337
Apr24-12, 12:28 PM
P: 558
I'd like to share my silly and irrelevant thoughts.

So far I have the impression that despite the impressive progresses made by science we understand next to nothing (sic!) about the universe around us. Maybe one day, somewhere, someone will have a deep understanding of all the universe. That entity will then find questions like "Why something ?" just meaningless.
Just like primitive men who interpreting the will of the gods looking at the animals guts, we ask our questions, unaware of the real answers.
Containment
#338
Apr24-12, 12:48 PM
P: 18
Seems to me like we are asking the wrong questions. It's like trying to figure out how a computer works by asking "how does a computer work?" Without first asking "What are the parts of a computer and how do they function?" In this case is it not true that everything under the stars must be included as the parts of something and thus the answer can not be fully understood until everything is? Or one might ask "Can you think of a better way to understand how a computer works without understanding each component?"

Does the question asked say more about the person who asks it then anything else?
apeiron
#339
Apr25-12, 06:02 PM
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Quote Quote by bohm2 View Post
I found this quote summarizing this idea interesting:

In sum, for the time being, it remains unclear how to spell out an ontology according to which spacetime emerges from a more fundamental level.
Again the authors only consider a bottom-up model of emergence - one which requires the local beables to crisply pre-exist. Emergence becomes just a suitable (re)arrangement of some set of atomistic parts (events, flashes, edges, etc).

This is trying to get a qualitative difference out of purely quantitative changes. Reductionism in a nutshell. And always doomed to disappoint. You need instead models of causality which allow the development of qualities of well.

In geometrodynamics, for instance, that emergent quality would be "generalised flatness" - flat and smoothly connected spacetime. And what would thus be constrained would be "foamy" curvature - a disconnected or vague roil.

Local beables could only definitely exist within the crisp context of a generalised flatness. The quantitative stuff - the countable atoms - are part of what emerges rather than the stuff that gets anything going.

So the authors ask the question of how can you assemble regular spacetime out of some kind of pre-existing, more fundamental, components. This is a notion of emergence that can only lead to infinite regress as you are left forever chasing the moment when the essential quality - of crisply existing - first makes it appearance.

You have to instead adopt a Hericlitean ontology of flux~logos. You start with a vagueness, a foam, an unbounded potential, an everythingness that is a nothingness. Then you ask the question of what limits it to being just a something. What constrains its dynamism so that there is a concrete world that persists?
apeiron
#340
Apr25-12, 07:11 PM
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A good paper on Peirce's approach to "why anything" from Eric Steinhart.

http://www.ericsteinhart.com/progres...-evolution.pdf

There is no time in the original chaos: “Not only substances, but events, too, are
constituted by regularities. The flow of time, for example, in itself is a regularity. The
original chaos, therefore, where there was no regularity, was in effect a state of mere
indeterminacy, in which nothing existed or happened.”(1.411)
thoughtgaze
#341
May12-12, 12:04 AM
P: 63
I have the answer (i like to think i do).

Whether there is something or nothing depends on a state of perception. Something and nothing is relative. When you die, you experience 'nothing'. When you are alive, you experience 'something'. The factor a lot of us don't realize is that consciousness plays a fundamental part in defining reality to begin with. So something and nothing will obviously be in relation to the perceiver (alive) or nonperceiver (dead).

So in fact, there is both something AND nothing because the DEFINITION of something and nothing should be thought to be relative.
Paulibus
#342
May13-12, 06:54 AM
P: 175
The Gorilla in this room is like "the curious incident of the dog in the night-time", namely
that "the dog did nothing in the night-time" which, as Sherlock Holmes remarked in his
Memoirs about investigating a murder in Silver Blaze, "was the curious incident".

In this long thread only Bohm2 seems to have noticed the Gorilla, namely that what we are must colour our perceptions:

Quote Quote by Bohm2 @336
....Personally, I think I lean towards the ideas of Gisin, Rovelli and even McGinn who have suggested that perhaps our conceptions of space-time are either only approximations or even perhaps misconceived/flawed or emergent from something more "fundamental" that defy spatio-temporality and yet we may never truly be able to fully understand it because of our own cognitive limitations (like all other animals) and this has little to do with some form of mind-independent mathematical Platonic realm/structure that pre-exists the physical universe.
Here, for instance, the gorilla is being ignored with talk of a familiar concept, flatness:

Quote Quote by Apieron @339
....In geometrodynamics, for instance, that emergent quality would be generalised flatness" - flat and smoothly connected spacetime. And what would thus be constrained would be "foamy" curvature - a disconnected or vague roil.
Local beables could only definitely exist within the crisp context of a generalised flatness. The quantitative stuff - the countable atoms - are part of what emerges rather than the stuff that gets anything going.
But the importance and primacy we accord to flatness may be because we are creatures who evolved on the locally flat surface of the round Earth. Flatness is only an invented concept suitable for use by sailors on calm seas and simplicity-seeking general relativists for describing local geometries.

This knowledge, that we are evolution-conditioned creatures, has been around for a century and a half, yet physicists and philosophers seem to argue while ignoring how such conditioning must limit our cognitive abilities and our ability to answer strange questions.


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