Dismiss Notice
Join Physics Forums Today!
The friendliest, high quality science and math community on the planet! Everyone who loves science is here!

Why something rather than nothing?

  1. Oct 27, 2009 #1
    P) Why is there something rather than nothing?


    Take the general form of the question as: Why is there A rather than B?
    Where A, and B stands for facts, or state of affair.

    A general form of the answer would be something like the following:

    There exist fact C such that C makes the obtaining of fact A more likely than the obtaining of fact B. So, when comfronted with "why A rather than B?". One need only to find this unique C that would make A more likely than B.

    So, if we are to answer P, then we have to find a fact C such that C makes something more likely than nothing. This is absurd, because C is part of something, and thus, there is no fact of the matter that would make something more likely than nothing. What does this mean? It means that there is no underlying reason for why there is something rather than nothing. That the existence of something is a brute fact.

    answer to (p): It is simply a brute fact that there is something.

    Note: If you are going to reply. Please, explain yourself in easy to understand terms. Please, Do not try to show off by using "big words", or being "vague, and profound". It never works. Imagine yourself writing a actual philosophy paper in order to get a grade. Please, no not write about new age stuff. I neet so many people that thinks that by being obscure, and vague, they are better than everyone. It is not true. Most of what these people say could be said in simpler terms, and they are not all that profound and deep. Be true to yourself, and don` t try to impress anyone.
    Last edited: Oct 27, 2009
  2. jcsd
  3. Oct 27, 2009 #2
    Who is P)? Physicists or philosoph? Or both?
  4. Oct 27, 2009 #3

    P stands for a question
  5. Oct 27, 2009 #4


    User Avatar
    Gold Member

    Alternatively, the answer is that there was once a state of everythingness (fact c) which then makes somethingness (fact a) more probable as what we have now than nothingness (fact b).

    Then on further examination we realise that everythingness is also a form of nothingness and so really what we would want to talk about is vagueness and crispness.

    We can then rephrase the whole question as why is there the dichotomised something that is an asymmetry rather than pure potential, an everythingness that is a nothingness, which is an unbroken symmetry?

    I'm sure you will protest that vagueness must also be a something. But check the definition out first.....

  6. Oct 27, 2009 #5
    No. I see there is a temporal order in here. If there "was" everything, then "at some point in time", there is something.

    Another problem is if there was everything, then it begs the question of why there is not everything "now"( supposing a temporal order).

    Not true. If there is everything, then is a world with people. This world would not be "nothingness"( whatever this means).

    No. I don` t know your terms. If we are going to talk, we are going to use stardard technical terms within analytic philosophy.
    I don ` t want to make up words that only i can undertstand.

  7. Oct 27, 2009 #6


    User Avatar
    Gold Member

    And why would "temporal" order be a problem?

    It would be a problem if the argument ran that "time" as it exists crisply broken out in our reality was also crisply broken out in the prior vaguer state. But that is explicity not being claimed.

    You really make me wet myself laughing. If I had to restrict myself to what you know....

    I think Bertrand Russell once wrote a famous little diatribe against ontic vagueness. A very standard cite. I don't agree with his take on it of course.

    If you want to live within a discourse that simply ponders the paradoxes it creates - just as you are doing throwing out all these threads - then that's your hang-up.

    Academic logic of the sort you seem inordinately fond is like a computer that goes blue screen any time it tries to compute any question of actual interest. But if your computer craps out, do you just sit there waiting forever in helpless silence? Or do you go find a better machine?
  8. Oct 27, 2009 #7


    User Avatar
    Gold Member

    Last edited by a moderator: May 4, 2017
  9. Oct 27, 2009 #8
    Again, I do not know what your "crisply broken priori vaguer state". You ask me why time is important? The reason is that in general, time is thought of as a state of affair. In any case, time is not obvious. There are set of properties associated with time. We can described a state of affair that do not use time.

    You can wet yourself somewhere else, because i don` t buy it.

    Ok. give me a reference, because I don` t know what you are talking about.

    Analytic philosophy give us results, and answers. I don ` t know what i read when i read your writing. it is more like english literatire. It is like you are trying to define every word yourself, and take pride in being vague, and obscure. That is not funny.

    "Academic logic of the sort you seem inordinately fond is like a computer that goes blue screen any time it tries to compute any question of actual interest. But if your computer craps out, do you just sit there waiting forever in helpless silence? Or do you go find a better machine? "

    You can use analogy, and metaphors. I am sure it would be great for an english literature course.
  10. Oct 27, 2009 #9

    Look, i know the problems and arguments associated with vagueness. I would know what you are talking about if what you actually say does apply to the context of the discussion. It seems you are stealing some ideas, and words you don` t really know.

    Are you a philosopher of some university? I would really want to read some of your papers.
    Last edited by a moderator: May 4, 2017
  11. Oct 27, 2009 #10


    User Avatar
    Gold Member

  12. Oct 27, 2009 #11
  13. Oct 27, 2009 #12


    User Avatar
    Gold Member

    Ahh, it all comes back to you now?

    And first I'm inventing ideas and words, now I'm stealing them.

    Look, its your choice to present a series of standard logical paradoxes and ask for comment. My argument is that the flaw is in the logical machinery rather than in the world being described. So respond to the argument even if it escalates things to a meta-level where other logic models are permitted to exist as coherent possibilities.

    You've already agreed that answers to important questions cannot be delivered by the system you are using.

    If you want confirmation that the world of scholarship is bigger than the one you know, you really ought to check this little chart out.....

  14. Oct 27, 2009 #13

    No, i did not. I gave you analysis, claims, and proves. This is not an open ended question at all.

    If you do want to comment, then comment on the analysis itself. if you ask a mathematician, he would think of the prove. If you ask a philosopher, he would think of the argument. Why would you think i would ask for comment about a particular question?
    Don` t you think such question is more fitting if you are in high school?
  15. Oct 27, 2009 #14

    The "something" is an assumption. An assumption that science can never prove, because if it were to prove it, it would have to pass through our minds(we never experience the world directly;all we ever know is the image of the world generated in our awareness). Science and scientists have chosen to adopt the assumption that there is "something" out there, for the benefit of making progress.

    There is no way now or in the future that someone will prove with certainty that there is such a thing as "something" or "out there". If 20th century physics is saying anything worthwhile on this topic, it is that "something" and "nothing" are never that far apart as when seen through our human senses.

    What you call "something" is merely the manifestation of the interaction of 4 fundamental forces. Why we see the manifestation of 4 forces as something is not a question that science can answer.

    But it's in philosophy that everything is put into question, every single assumption that science makes. And as Lee Smolin says in the Trouble with Physics - in the end it might be the philosophers who'd be laughing.
    Last edited: Oct 27, 2009
  16. Oct 27, 2009 #15
    Before I introduce some pies to start throwing at each other, maybe we can actually get something out of this thread.

    OP, are you saying that in order to prove that A is superior to B we have to have a C, and the C is derived from A and therefore can not prove or disprove the superiority of A?

    So the question is:
    What D (something outside of A and B) exists that would allow for A to be superior to B?

    Could this come down to a 50:50. A equal chance of either having an A or B.
  17. Oct 27, 2009 #16
    Why should we take the "general form" of the question as you put it? Somethingness vs nothingness seems like an altogether different question than your little analogy.

    You're assuming existence by calling it "brute fact". What does "brute fact" mean when discussing this sort of ontological question.

    See no big words either, other than "ontological". Was that too big for you?
  18. Oct 27, 2009 #17
    I imagine that by "no big word" he implied no philosophy-only jargon. He wanted to try to keep the debate in the realm of common language. Instead of using words we might have seen on Plato's thesis paper.
  19. Oct 27, 2009 #18


    User Avatar
    Gold Member

    I think what vectorcube actually said was please just discuss modal logic in the vernacular of modal logic. Please don't challenge my framework, just consider this particular working out I have constructed within this framework.

    So he wants to limit the debate to the realm of a particular academic discourse. Treat it as a student exercise to be graded, as he said.

    This would be fine. Except he then chooses precisely the kind of logical paradoxes which explode the framework. He pushes a tool (which can be useful in certain applications) to the point where it becomes self-contradictory rather than self-consistent.

    Which is what justifies escalating matters to a meta-level where humans look at their tools and scratch their heads wondering what a better designed tool might look like. Or rummage through the drawers of academia to borrow someone else's more appropriate instrument.

    And any scholars response to big words ought to be curiosity. The more varieties of thought we can explore, the more clear we become about the ways we ourselves are thinking.
  20. Oct 28, 2009 #19
    Ok if I'm following this right... Well first off on the subject of nothing and something. It is that either one or the other must come first if anything is to come at all. An example of this is the big bang theory... we have the universe and to explain its existance we have a theory that states that the universe started as a micro dot that basicaly blows up and eventualy becomes the universe we know. Now the problem with this is that ever awful question of "why?" or more to the point what came before. The answer we are given is that there was no before or that nothing came before... Yet when you ask was it possible that nothing was before the big bang they all say no. Funny how they just said basicaly that nothing was before the big bang...

    Now that begs the question... What was before nothing? This is where the question comes to an end because the only possible answer to that is nothing. So before was nothing and before that was nothing or more to say that this is where the blank starting state of the universe must be. So this begs the question "How?" or more to the point... How will it end? The answer to this seems fairly obvious to me... That it wont end. To come to this conclusion all you need to do is understand how much space is in space. It is not a hard thing to think about and yet it is impossible to think about. If we started traveling at 100 times the speed of light in one straight direction out into space from anywhere we would never hit a wall that made us turn off our course. We could effectivly travel forever at that speed out into space.

    So how big is the universe? A: As big as you can dream it be.

    What was the first thing to exist? A: The first thing to exist was nothing.

    How can we be sure there wasn't something before nothing? A: We really cant know if something did not exist before something else but eventualy the question of what caused what will result in us finding the answer that nothing was before it... This is what every parent knows when they tell thier kid that its just because after a long list of whys.
  21. Oct 28, 2009 #20
    "Before" requires time and time implies space. Absence of either can't be described as anything we can imagine.

    "Why something or nothing?" can only be asked in a world with time, space and logic... something. Meaningful question asking presupposes the very things that we're trying to 'trace' the origins of, and our usual tools of logic and analysis breakdown when applied to such a self-referential puzzle.

    Apeiron's approach - as discussed in the https://www.physicsforums.com/showpost.php?p=2413735&postcount=105" - is as meaningful as any other attempt at providing a map to such trackless territory. Equally possible IMHO is Paul Davies' attempts at defining a Universe which self-selects from the primordial plenum/void, following ideas from Stephen Hawking about history having a quantum indefiniteness.
    Last edited by a moderator: Apr 24, 2017
Know someone interested in this topic? Share this thread via Reddit, Google+, Twitter, or Facebook

Similar Discussions: Why something rather than nothing?
  1. Something or nothing (Replies: 15)

  2. Nothing is something (Replies: 9)