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The Fundamental Question

  1. Jul 8, 2003 #1
    The Fundamental Question

    At the very basement of our ongoing attempt to try to understand, we might as well dig into this astonishing and fundamental question in the theory of knowledge and philosophy, which is known as the "Fundamental Question".

    This question is adressed as:

    "Why is there something (anything at all) instead of nothing"

    It might be formulated as well as:

    "Why is there a universe, a world, instead of nothing at all?"

    For the purpose of the discussion, we hold that both questions ask the same basic question.

    I like to discuss this peculiar question with you and thereby explore:

    • [1] The nature of the question. Is the question answerable?

      [2] Why is there a possibility to answer the question, and what is the answer to the question.

      [3] What the world in primary instance is, i.e. what the necessary component of the world is, which is not dependend on anything else, and without wich the world would not exist.


    A. The nature of the question. Can it at all be answered?

    Although many people have their own answer to this question, it's worthwhile mentioning an argument, which is about reasoning that NO answer to this question at all is possible.
    The formal reasoning behind this is follows. What could form adequate and sufficient grounds to answer this question at all, since the nature of the question urges us, that nothing at all can be assumed to exist, which could form ground for answering the question. A formal ground for answering a question in the form "Why is it the case that X?" must be founded on an answer like "Because B is the case". The nature of the answer however implies that there is not any B that could form that ground.


    B. How can there be an anwer, and what is that answer?

    Despite the formal argument that indicates that the answer can not be given, we are in the fortunate position that we do not have to answer the question without there being any context for the question. The fact is namely that we happen to witness there is a world. This already forms a context for and in which an answer to the question can be given, since we happen to know, there is a world, in which we exist.
    This fact, even if we would have no other forms of knowledge, must mean something that could constitute a possibility for this question to be answered.
    Cause, if we would at one time assume that there not being anything, there not being a universe or a world, would be a factual state for the world to be in, it could be clear that the world would never leave this state. Because the very fact that we defined this "state of the world" to be a state without there being something, anything at all, that exists, it would therefore be a state without change, without motion, without content.
    Anything that could be said to exist, would in such a state not exist. So, if that would have ever been the state of the world would have ever been in, it would 'always' be in that state (any referrence to time itself, would of course be inadequate, cause not even time would exist).

    This however we witness the world not to be. Whatever we consider that is or has existence, at least we recognize that there must be something that exists at all time. Since the only way in which we could arrive at such a conclusion, the very minimum of that which has existence is, the fact that I recognize that I myself exist. If that for the world would be a necessity, is of course something very different. One could of course assume that oneself is a necessary ingredient to the world, for the world to exist, although this might very well be a big mistake and overestimation.

    This makes it at least plausible to conclude, that:

    • [1] If in fact there would not have been anything, the state of the world would be like that "forever" (there would not exist anything that could form this state of the world into something, not even time would exist).

      [2] Stating that we can factually test there is a world in whatever form that world would exist (i.e. wether that world would be formed by my consciousness alone, or wether there is something apart from, independend from and outside my consciousness)

      [3] Therefore, at the very minimum, we must assume that a world (in whatever form or substance) must have always existed. There must have always been something, instead of nothing.


    C. What is there in primary instance?

    The answer to the question as "why is there something, instead of nothing" has been forumlated. Since we witness there is a world, and from nothing we can not assume a world to become existent, therefore there has always been a world, in whatever form or subtance, in whatever content.

    The second fundamental question is then. What has there been as the primary substance of the world, that was always there?

    With primary here, we mean to say that it has existence without residing the necessity of the existence of something else.

    As we already concluded in the previous chapter, we concluded that at the very minimum there would have to be something that exists, since I witness there is a world. I have sensations about a world. And I am witnessing my own consciousness.

    So, it could perhaps be that I myself, since that is the first or immediate thing I am aware of, am the very primary thing that exist, on which the rest of the world depends.

    Is that a logical possibility?

    Our conclusion was that there needed to be necessarily something, instead of nothing, cause we can not assume that at any given moment there was not something.

    This would urge us then to conclude that I would have been there eternally, since I am the essential and primary 'substance' of the world.

    However, fact is, I do not have knowledge about having been there all the time, my consciousness goes back to some 40 years ago.

    So, this must mean that:

    • [*] either that for some weird reason, my consciousness was blocked, until about 40 years ago I became consciousness, and witnessed the world to exist.


      [*] that I did not exist prior to that time at all, and can therefore not be the primary substance of the world, which means something other then me must be primary and has existed for all time.

    Unless I assume that apart and outside of me, there is a real world, which exists independend of, apart from and outside of my consciousness, I would have to assume that in a strange way, I am the only fundamental or primary thing to the world, and for some strange reason, this world only 40 years ago began to exists in consciouss form, and will also end, as soon as my consciousness goes extinct.

    This contradicts however with the first conclusion that at all time, there has had to be a world. The world could not have come into being from nothing, or will cease to be.

    Because it is therefore implausible that the fundamental or primary thing in the world, would be my consciousness, I therefore conclude that something which is apart, independend and outside of my consciousness exists, and has always existed, and will always exist, which formed the world.

    That is what is called: matter
    Last edited: Jul 19, 2003
  2. jcsd
  3. Jul 23, 2003 #2

    Hi heusdens,

    Absolutely fascinating and enlightening post!

    A simple answer to this fascinating question would be this:

    The question is a mis-application of mode-based properties to the mode-less. Therefore the question is meaningless or absurd.

    Now to very simply unpack this answer. [hint: If you know Spinoza's metaphysics you may be able to unpack the meaning for yourself!]

    Nothingness is a concept based in human experience with finite patterns of the infinite and continuous Substance. These patterns are called "modes". When I think of an object in my hand I call it "some-thing". I can also think of the absense of this object, which is called "no-thing or nothingness". When I examine this "nothingness" in my hand I will find that it is made of molecules of air coming and going into and out of this region where once there was an object. This is not the absense of anything whatsoever so it is still "somethingness". I can take this object into outer space and do the same thing. On closer examination I will find that there are electromagnetic waves and many kinds of fields permeating this "nothingness" therby rendering it "somethingness". Nowhere in nature have we seen anything remotely resembling an absolute nothingness and this concept simply applies to the absense of a specific "somethingness", a mode.

    Nothingness is a concept which includes its own negation in its very definition. It does not contain causality therefore it cannot truely exist.

    The question "why is there something rather than nothing" is exclusively applicable to specific modes or patterns of substance and whether those specific patterns--or any perceptible patterns at all--are present or not. The question is not applicable to Substance itself because Substance is necessarily continuous and cannot be limited by anything lacking causality. In fact, Spinoza argues, Substance could only be limited by a Substance with similar properties (causal compatibility) and this is the same thing as the Substance itself so Substance is absolutely unlimitable and therefore infinite and continuous. There is no reason to assume that absolute nothingness is a physically meaningful concept. In fact it seems to be a direct contradiction in terms! The "fundamental question" is simply a misapplication of mode-specific properties to the mode-less (infinite and eternal) substance itself, i.e. The Universe.

    [Note: Spinoza's arguments run much much deeper than this simple application of his thinking]

    Kind Regards,
    sir Mojo Loren
    Last edited by a moderator: Jul 23, 2003
  4. Jul 23, 2003 #3
    Good post, Sir Mojo Loren! Thanks

    There are of course several ways to approach the question.

    The most simple one is to approach it as a linguistic tautological misconstruct, since existence means there must be something that exists, and therefore a 'nothing' does not exist.
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