The Fundamental Question

  • Thread starter heusdens
  • Start date
1,596
0
http://www.hedweb.com/witherall/existence.htm" [Broken]
 
Last edited by a moderator:
1,927
0
This is a great article, the similarity in his writing to my own is remarkable. Of course, the moment I become perfectly humble I want the whole world to know. However, he missed the central argument.

The main problem with both of these inegalitarian approaches to the fundamental question is that they use an inappropriate methodology, which succeeds in physics but does not apply to metaphysics. We cannot make sense of the idea of a natural state in this context unless we can make sense of the deviating forces that are supposed to bring the universe out of its natural state. But we have no coherent idea of what such a force might be. The notion of a force has its home in physical theory, but in the context of an explanation of why anything exists, it has no coherent application.
He is essentially arguing that logic must make sense. This to me is just another absurdity because logic itself is based on the notion of absurdity. That he only quotes western philosophers devoted to the notion that the absurd must be explained, no matter how absurd, clearly demonstrates his bias which is the central issue he never speaks of.

To say that the original nothingness contained a force which produced something is self-contradictory, because a force is something, and if nothingness contains something, then it must be something, which is impossible. Therefore, as an explanation, it fails. It might be thought however that there is no other way of expressing what must have happened, given that there is no eternal substance and no God. We are then left with a self-contradictory situation, which cannot explain anything but somehow serves to express something. It expresses our paradoxical situation, as entities whose world is an enigma, and whose origin is an outrage to reason and good sense. We can find joy in this situation, the joy of being released from rational thought so that we might revel in being the outpouring of nothingness, and enjoy our paradoxical existence. This feeling of joy is not separate from a feeling of awe, it is continuous with it. I am nothingness nothinged, you are nothingness nothinged, and yet we are all something! How astonishing! How comical! What an awesome world this is.
Here he comes close, but refuses to accept the evidences of his own senses and logic. It is just too much for his cultured mind to accept. Instead he runs away, poor patheditic soul.

Existence is mysterious, and the philosophically tantalising aspect of the awestruck response to something instead of nothing is the idea that we can come so close to the mystery as to feel it in our bones, even while we believe it to be irresolvable.
His verbose discription of the paradox of existence is both ethnocentric and replete with denial. Existence inspires not only awe, but equally comedy and every other emotion possible. Indeed, it is the source of all these and much more. It requires no explanation, but in attempting to explain existence we discover things about ourselves and the world around us. What more could you ask for?

It is simultaneously the best of all possible worlds and the worst. You don't need a stodgy philosopher to express this, what you need is a poet.
 
Last edited:
1,596
0
My own thoughts on this. Well I happened to have been struggeling with this question at a very young age (5 ? 6? don't quite remember it). Just wondered what it would be, if there wouldn't be anything, if anything I knew of which was existing, would not exist. So I imagined about anything I knew of that existed, and then eliminated that from my thoughts, untill it would get as dark and empty as I possibly could imagine. But this caused me to be amazed because all of a sudden it appeared to me, that if all of existence as I knew of, did not exist, then neither did I exist. So the reason for everything to exist is for me to exist. It's an astonishing conclusion, something out of the ordinary, but something that must be true for reasons one cannot explain. I did like this thought, it was an amazing discovery.

Would this feeling perhaps be fundamental for religious feelings of some sort? It feels like one can envision what the mind of a higher being would be like. However it did not turn me into a religious being, but that has perhaps more to do with education. You can interpret this also that material existence, in all it's forms and shapes and features, must be there, in order for us, consciouss beings wondering about everything that exist, to be there. Without material existence, there would not be a me. But ultimately I think, any form of expressing these thoughts in language expressions are too weak and are missing the point, the experience of it is beyond that what can be expressed in language, I think. It's something one has to wonder about him/herself.
 
Last edited:
3,754
2
What is so difficult about this question? "Something" does not exist "instead" of "nothing". A "state of nothingness" doesn't exist. "It" cannot exist, because "it" would have to exist for a certain period of time, and time is something.
 
Last edited:
1,927
0
Would this feeling perhaps be fundamental for religious feelings of some sort?
Not just religious, but also spiritual feelings and even more broadly psychology in general. I distinguish the spiritual as being more personal while the religious involves some kind of organized social form of the spiritual. The heart of such feelings are what most people call "surrender" and what I prefer to call "acceptance".

A religious person might say they surrender their lives to God for example. In your case, you surrendered to or accepted the idea that existence is here for you as much as anything else. A small child suddenly dancing spontaneously and totally uninhibited, a musician becoming lost in their art, meditation, and similar experiences people have are also considered forms of surrender. When a person faces their own fears and sorrow they may have avoided for years and finds acceptance in their heart to move beyond them, that too can a form of surrender.
 
1,596
0
Originally posted by Mentat
What is so difficult about this question? "Something" does not exist "instead" of "nothing". A "state of nothingness" doesn't exist. "It" cannot exist, because "it" would have to exist for a certain period of time, and time is something.
Yeah, true of course. "Nothingness" is by definition a state of non-existence, so "existence" IS and "nothingness" IS NOT.

But this is a different type of approach, which comes without the mental experience of the meaning of the question.

You have to try it on your own, try to perceive of the universe how it would be, if anything you know of, would not be, if there wouldn't be anything. No earth, no moon, no sun, no planets, no galaxies, no voids, no light, no particles, no space, no time. Just nothing. Just try, and try harder. You will find how hard it is to think of "nothing", your thought will still leave some remains of there something there, which you have to eliminate.

You must realy push the question beyond your limit of rational understanding to encounter the meaning of it.
 
3,754
2
Originally posted by heusdens
Yeah, true of course. "Nothingness" is by definition a state of non-existence, so "existence" IS and "nothingness" IS NOT.

But this is a different type of approach, which comes without the mental experience of the meaning of the question.

You have to try it on your own, try to perceive of the universe how it would be, if anything you know of, would not be, if there wouldn't be anything. No earth, no moon, no sun, no planets, no galaxies, no voids, no light, no particles, no space, no time. Just nothing. Just try, and try harder. You will find how hard it is to think of "nothing", your thought will still leave some remains of there something there, which you have to eliminate.

You must realy push the question beyond your limit of rational understanding to encounter the meaning of it.
This is all well and good, until you get to the part about there being no time or space. If there is no space, then the "nothing" is not "there" or "here" it isn't anywhere (and "isn't anywhere" means it doesn't exist). If there is no time, then there can be no existence (as I've already mentioned) because everything exists for some duration of time.
 
1,927
0
You have to try it on your own, try to perceive of the universe how it would be, if anything you know of, would not be, if there wouldn't be anything. No earth, no moon, no sun, no planets, no galaxies, no voids, no light, no particles, no space, no time. Just nothing. Just try, and try harder. You will find how hard it is to think of "nothing", your thought will still leave some remains of there something there, which you have to eliminate.
I think you are perhaps missing the point of surrender, the idea is not to try. Taoists often quote the little puppet, Yoda, from the Star Wars movies. In one movie Yoda says, "Try? There is no try. Do or do not do." Buddhists often refer to what you call "nothing" as the "formless void". Again, the idea is not try and visualize or imagine the formless void, the idea is to surrender to it or accept it.

Lao Tzu compared such a mind to that of newborn babe before it has learned to smile. Utterly receptive, a tabula rosa without preconceptions or expectations. It is the pearl beyond price.
 
1,596
0
Originally posted by Mentat
This is all well and good, until you get to the part about there being no time or space. If there is no space, then the "nothing" is not "there" or "here" it isn't anywhere (and "isn't anywhere" means it doesn't exist). If there is no time, then there can be no existence (as I've already mentioned) because everything exists for some duration of time.
Correct. And you discovered a fundamental postulate of Materialism, namely that all being is being in space and in time.
 
3,754
2
I've just briefly tried to do what you suggested. All I can say is "WHOAH!!". I'd probably snap like a loon, if I did it for any really long duration of time.
 
1,596
0
Originally posted by Mentat
I've just briefly tried to do what you suggested. All I can say is "WHOAH!!". I'd probably snap like a loon, if I did it for any really long duration of time.
Don't push it TOO hard! :)

So, did you discover the Mind, Intend and Purpose of God now?
 
3,754
2
Originally posted by heusdens
Don't push it TOO hard! :)

So, did you discover the Mind, Intend and Purpose of God now?
I already knew those things. I did, however, feel a sense of enlightenment (for lack of a better word).
 
1,596
0
Originally posted by Mentat
I already knew those things. I did, however, feel a sense of enlightenment (for lack of a better word).
In what way enlightening?

What does it mean to you (in your reasoning about the world)?
 
3,754
2
Originally posted by heusdens
In what way enlightening?

What does it mean to you (in your reasoning about the world)?
Well, it was a feeling of realization, that these things don't have to exist. The universe continues without me, and empty space could continue without all of the "clutter" of matter. It makes me feel both insignificant, and very lucky, at the same time.
 
1,596
0
Originally posted by Mentat
Well, it was a feeling of realization, that these things don't have to exist. The universe continues without me, and empty space could continue without all of the "clutter" of matter. It makes me feel both insignificant, and very lucky, at the same time.
Hmmmm. I think you stopped in your imagination with a mental picture of infinite empty space. Maybe you should try to also (in your imagination) "get rid of" space/space-time itself.

And by the way, didn't you somewhere in your stepward imagination process of "getting rid of anything existing", came across the fact that even when imagining the void and total lack of anything existing, there was still you "being there" that tried to make sense of it all?

The end step requires you, also to imagine what the world would be like, if anything that does exist, or of which you assume it could be existent, including yourself, was not there.

Try it one more time.
 
3,754
2
Originally posted by heusdens
Hmmmm. I think you stopped in your imagination with a mental picture of infinite empty space. Maybe you should try to also (in your imagination) "get rid of" space/space-time itself.

And by the way, didn't you somewhere in your stepward imagination process of "getting rid of anything existing", came across the fact that even when imagining the void and total lack of anything existing, there was still you "being there" that tried to make sense of it all?

The end step requires you, also to imagine what the world would be like, if anything that does exist, or of which you assume it could be existent, including yourself, was not there.

Try it one more time.
Well, it took a while to get Descarte's reasoning to stop hammering at me. I got to the point where space didn't exist, and there was no concept of time (that was really hard). The process has a lot to do with the "inner voice" saying "there is no..., there is no...". So, when I got rid of spacetime, all that was left was "there is no 'you'". Right at the brink of that, I "came back". Very cool experience though , I'm going to devote some more time to it later.
 
1,596
0
Originally posted by Mentat
Well, it took a while to get Descarte's reasoning to stop hammering at me. I got to the point where space didn't exist, and there was no concept of time (that was really hard). The process has a lot to do with the "inner voice" saying "there is no..., there is no...". So, when I got rid of spacetime, all that was left was "there is no 'you'". Right at the brink of that, I "came back". Very cool experience though , I'm going to devote some more time to it later.
Interesting. Well that is about the experience I had, although in a way it seemed for me that I "got a message" in which for me the content was that the world exist, because I exist. If there wouldn't be a world, neither there would be a me. And I could not possibly think about a world in which there would not be a "me".

Some ways to explain this is, one should not doubt about the real world, because ultimately you would have to doubt your own existence.
And even when the world can seem bad, it's only good that a world is there, cause you are there, in it, living his/her life.

If you care about yourself, and your own existence, then also you should care about the entire world, and all of that it consists and entails.

If we study this profoundly, maybe this could serve as a positive ideology about human existence, which is not in any way polluted with foreign admixtures and so, but rather a pure cognitive experience on existence (ones own existence, and that of the entire world), which comes directly from our inner consciousness.

...

Some thought I had afterwards of this "experience" is that for reasons of our genetics, and the way our consciousness has been formed through evolution, which has been a constant struggle to survive, we could not possibly imagine the world, without our existence in that world. The only reason for us to be here, to have been formed throughout all of history of billions of years of evolution, is that we, as a living organism, care about our own existence. Cause if we would not care about it, we would not be here in the first place, nature would have set us on a course of selfdestruct and extinction already.
 
Last edited:
3,754
2
Originally posted by heusdens
Interesting. Well that is about the experience I had, although in a way it seemed for me that I "got a message" in which for me the content was that the world exist, because I exist. If there wouldn't be a world, neither there would be a me. And I could not possibly think about a world in which there would not be a "me".

Some ways to explain this is, one should not doubt about the real world, because ultimately you would have to doubt your own existence.
And even when the world can seem bad, it's only good that a world is there, cause you are there, in it, living his/her life.

If you care about yourself, and your own existence, then also you should care about the entire world, and all of that it consists and entails.
Good observation. I second his post, and applaud the enlightenment contained therein.

I object, of course, to your having said that the world exists because you exist. But you cleared up what you meant, in the later parts of the post.
 
1,596
0
Originally posted by Mentat
Good observation. I second his post, and applaud the enlightenment contained therein.

I object, of course, to your having said that the world exists because you exist. But you cleared up what you meant, in the later parts of the post.
Thanks.

Well, I agree with your objection.
Yet, this is very close to the sensation I had, when imagining this.

And I don't realy mean to say that the world exist "because" I exists, since that is obviuously not the case. It would reflect the very opposite of the real connection between me and the world, in which in reality I exist, because the world exist (that is: the chain of causalities present in the world, have caused me to be in this world).

On the other hand though, the fact that I am me, makes it understandable that I can not think of a world in which I would not be there. Not that such a world can not exists in itself (since it existed before I was there, and will continue to exist after I am gone), but that world contains no "me" to think about that! How can I reason about the state of the world, in which I am not present?
So in fact, the statement that I cannot think about the world, in which I am not there, is true, cause if I am not present in the world, how can I think about the world, or anything at all?

Extending such logic to the absurd, and introducing the concept that I know about the world only through perception, leads to the absurd conclusion that the world (the perception of it) was created in my mind.

Hence, you could already guess so, leads to the the doctrine of Idealism, in which the mind was present in the world, before the world itself was present.

To put in short, from this "inner perception" or "inner consciousness" and extending it into the extreme, it is certainly thinkable that people tend to hold on to their "belief", even when the knowledge we have about the world, defeats such absurd propositions.
 
3,754
2
You are correct, heusdens. This might be a good point to bring up in my thread "I think therefore I am". Do you see why?
 
1,596
0
Originally posted by Mentat
You are correct, heusdens. This might be a good point to bring up in my thread "I think therefore I am". Do you see why?
No, tell me.
 
3,754
2
It is applicable because you said:

On the other hand though, the fact that I am me, makes it understandable that I can not think of a world in which I would not be there. Not that such a world can not exists in itself (since it existed before I was there, and will continue to exist after I am gone), but that world contains no "me" to think about that! How can I reason about the state of the world, in which I am not present?
Especially that last sentence. You see, Descartes' philosophy is based on the same kind of reasoning as your last (quoted) sentence. "I think therefore I am" means that I cannot reason about not existing, if I don't exist. You are basically saying the same thing.
 
1,596
0
Originally posted by Mentat
It is applicable because you said:

. Not that such a world can not exists in itself (since it existed before I was there, and will continue to exist after I am gone), but that world contains no "me" to think about that! How can I reason about the state of the world, in which I am not present?

Especially that last sentence. You see, Descartes' philosophy is based on the same kind of reasoning as your last (quoted) sentence. "I think therefore I am" means that I cannot reason about not existing, if I don't exist. You are basically saying the same thing.
Actually the last sentence should have read:

"How can I reason about the world, in a state of the world in which I am not present?"

I can of course reason about the world that existed before I was born, or about the world after I am gone. But those are reflections from the present situation, in which I am present in the world.
 
3,754
2
Originally posted by heusdens


Actually the last sentence should have read:

"How can I reason about the world, in a state of the world in which I am not present?"

I can of course reason about the world that existed before I was born, or about the world after I am gone. But those are reflections from the present situation, in which I am present in the world.
Exactly, and the fact that you are reasoning about the past proves that you presently exist (otherwise, who would be doing the reasoning, that I have already attributed to you?).
 
Last edited:
1,596
0
Some remarks on my earlier post.

As I stated, when one puzzles deep down there, one could adopt a point of view in which the self-awareness that one has, came into existence prior to the sensory perceptions.
This of course I can not realy proof. I would neccesitate to investigate what goes in the head of pre-born human beings.
But it is reasonable to assume this, that the "thinking process" and "mental awareness" at some point in the development of owns brain come into being, before any actual input of the surrounding environment is detected as such. Or maybe this awareness arises simultaniously, and in first instance, we have to learn to make a distinction between "inner" and "outer" awarenesses.

For people with the unreasonable belief that the only thing existing is the mind, and only in secondary sense, the sensory perceptions of the outside world, this might form their ground.

But we know of course that this reasoning is ultimately wrong. We learn later that there was a world which existed before we existed.
Wether we accept that as a fact or not, that is what we have to deal with.
 

Related Threads for: The Fundamental Question

  • Posted
Replies
2
Views
2K
  • Posted
Replies
11
Views
2K
Replies
7
Views
780
  • Posted
2 3 4
Replies
91
Views
8K
Replies
45
Views
3K
Replies
17
Views
2K
Replies
1
Views
442
  • Posted
Replies
19
Views
3K

Physics Forums Values

We Value Quality
• Topics based on mainstream science
• Proper English grammar and spelling
We Value Civility
• Positive and compassionate attitudes
• Patience while debating
We Value Productivity
• Disciplined to remain on-topic
• Recognition of own weaknesses
• Solo and co-op problem solving

Hot Threads

Top