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The Fundamental Question

  1. Apr 6, 2003 #1
    http://www.hedweb.com/witherall/existence.htm" [Broken]
    Last edited by a moderator: May 1, 2017
  2. jcsd
  3. Apr 6, 2003 #2
    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.

    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.

    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.

    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: Apr 6, 2003
  4. Apr 7, 2003 #3
    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: Apr 7, 2003
  5. Apr 7, 2003 #4
    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: Apr 7, 2003
  6. Apr 7, 2003 #5
    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.
  7. Apr 7, 2003 #6
    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.
  8. Apr 7, 2003 #7
    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.
  9. Apr 7, 2003 #8
    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.
  10. Apr 7, 2003 #9
    Correct. And you discovered a fundamental postulate of Materialism, namely that all being is being in space and in time.
  11. Apr 7, 2003 #10
    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.
  12. Apr 7, 2003 #11
    Don't push it TOO hard! :)

    So, did you discover the Mind, Intend and Purpose of God now?
  13. Apr 7, 2003 #12
    I already knew those things. I did, however, feel a sense of enlightenment (for lack of a better word).
  14. Apr 8, 2003 #13
    In what way enlightening?

    What does it mean to you (in your reasoning about the world)?
  15. Apr 9, 2003 #14
    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.
  16. Apr 9, 2003 #15
    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.
  17. Apr 9, 2003 #16
    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.
  18. Apr 9, 2003 #17
    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: Apr 9, 2003
  19. Apr 9, 2003 #18
    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.
  20. Apr 15, 2003 #19

    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.
  21. Apr 16, 2003 #20
    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?
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