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My Argument: Why there is Something, Rather than Nothing.

Discuss any topics related to metaphysics (the philosophical study of the principles of reality) or epistemology (the philosophical study of knowledge) in this forum.
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Dr_Savage_Henry
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My Argument: Why there is Something, Rather than Nothing.

Post by Dr_Savage_Henry » December 1st, 2019, 1:34 pm

The Arguement Goes as Follows:
1. 'Nothing' is non-existence, no space, no time, no thought, no experience.
2. If nothing is non-existence then it can't exist. If it did 'exist' then it wouldn't be 'nothing'.
3. So nothing can't exist, but the only logical alternative is 'something'.
- Therefore, 'somthing' is innevitable and eternal.

What I find cool about this argument is it rejects the idea that 'something came from nothing'. Rather, it claims that 'nothing' is 'impossible', therefore something has always been here and will always be here.

I need critisism for this argument, I know there's something wrong with it!

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Halc
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Re: My Argument: Why there is Something, Rather than Nothing.

Post by Halc » December 1st, 2019, 7:02 pm

Dr_Savage_Henry wrote:
December 1st, 2019, 1:34 pm
1. 'Nothing' is non-existence
Your premise seems contradictory from the start, defining nothing to be something. Your argument seems to hinge on what seems to be an intentionally weak premise.
What I find cool about this argument is it rejects the idea that 'something came from nothing'.
That part makes sense. Something coming from nothing seems equally contradictory.

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chewybrian
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Re: My Argument: Why there is Something, Rather than Nothing.

Post by chewybrian » December 1st, 2019, 7:03 pm

This whole argument seems to imply that existence of some type, of some thing, is necessary. But, it is only necessary to us, for our understanding. We find it difficult to imagine complete nothingness, the lack of anything for us to understand, along with our not being around to understand it. But, that difficulty does not make anything necessary, including us. Nothingness seems to make as much sense as the reality we see, if we are able to pretend to view these issues from the imaginary, nonexistent 'outside' of non-existence.
"If determinism holds, then past events have conspired to cause me to hold this view--it is out of my control. Either I am right about free will, or it is not my fault that I am wrong."

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Re: My Argument: Why there is Something, Rather than Nothing.

Post by Thomyum2 » December 2nd, 2019, 10:56 am

This very question was discussed on the Philosophy for our Times podcast earlier this year. It was a while ago that I heard it, but as I recall it was a really good talk and I'd recommend giving it a listen. You can find it here, or on the various sites or aps that offer free podcast downloads.

https://player.fm/series/philosophy-for ... -sheldrake

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Re: My Argument: Why there is Something, Rather than Nothing.

Post by Felix » December 2nd, 2019, 4:30 pm

chewybrian: This whole argument seems to imply that existence of some type, of some thing, is necessary. But, it is only necessary to us, for our understanding.
Yes, the OP is actually addressing another perennial question, i.e., "what must the world be like in order that man may know it?"

There's an inherent anthropocentric bias: we are material beings so we assume that existence must have a material basis. Or to put it another way, we cannot prove a negative, i.e., that nothing (an immaterial reality) exists, we can only prove a positive, that something exists.
"We do not see things as they are; we see things as we are." - Anaïs Nin

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Re: My Argument: Why there is Something, Rather than Nothing.

Post by Halc » December 2nd, 2019, 9:38 pm

Felix wrote:
December 2nd, 2019, 4:30 pm
we can only prove a positive, that something exists.
I'd like to see that proof

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Re: My Argument: Why there is Something, Rather than Nothing.

Post by PAntoneO » December 3rd, 2019, 12:36 am

Dr_Savage_Henry wrote:
December 1st, 2019, 1:34 pm
The Arguement Goes as Follows:
1. 'Nothing' is non-existence, no space, no time, no thought, no experience.
2. If nothing is non-existence then it can't exist. If it did 'exist' then it wouldn't be 'nothing'.
3. So nothing can't exist, but the only logical alternative is 'something'.
- Therefore, 'somthing' is innevitable and eternal.

What I find cool about this argument is it rejects the idea that 'something came from nothing'. Rather, it claims that 'nothing' is 'impossible', therefore something has always been here and will always be here.
I think the fundamental problem is your definition of nothing. Nothing is not the [existence of nothing]; rather it is the [absence of some thing]. The [absence of some thing] cannot be a physical thing; but it is something. And what it is, is a concept.

Nothing cannot exist in physical reality, by definition. But if it didn't exist in conceptual reality, there wouldn't be a word to refer to it.

Being more specific, then, I think we can reword your argument as follows:

1. To actualize physical [nothingness] there would have to be an absence of all things, there could be no physical space, no physical time, no physical thought, and no physical experience.
2. If physical nothing is the absence of all physical things, then it can't exist physically.
3. So nothing can't exist physically, but since there is something we refer to as "nothing" it would seem that it must exist in some other way, else there would be nothing for "nothing" to refer to.
Therefore, "nothing" must be a non-physical concept, which has no corresponding physical presence.

This, of course, is exactly what we find to be the case. Even the vacuum of space is teeming with plasma and sub-atomic particles. It's a vacuum only because there are less particles than elsewhere, not because there aren't any particles.

Nothing is a concept that can only be applied to specific, limited scenarios. If someone asks, "what do you want to do?" I might respond by saying, "Nothing." What it means is that I don't want to do any physical thing. I want to engage in the absence of any activity. This is not an actualized behavior, it is but an idea of a possible behavior.

Also, notice that for nothing to have any meaning, I have to qualify it. In this case, someone had to inquire about possible activities. The word nothing refers specifically back to all the possible activities that I might be inclined to chose--but I don't want to choose any of them. Similarly, when asked what's in my pocket, I might respond by saying "nothing." This is not entirely true, in the most absolute sense, for there is probably dirt in my pocket and there is most certainly air. But in a practical sense, those are not the kinds of things the questioner is concerned about when he asked the question. He's talking about the kinds of things that we might place into our pocket, and there are none of those kinds of things in my pocket.

This may seem like a strange situation, but it's really not that unusual. Numbers, like [3] are not that dissimilar--I also have to specify something that it refers to in order for it to have any meaning. I can't just say something like, "there are three on my desk." That has no meaning. But "there are three pens on my desk" does have meaning. The only difference between a term like "nothing" or "none" and "three" is that the first two refer to the [absence of a specified physical thing], while "three" refers to a [specific number of physical things]. Nothing seems weird because we are referring to an absence, instead of the more typical presence--but otherwise, there really is very little difference.

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Re: My Argument: Why there is Something, Rather than Nothing.

Post by Steve3007 » December 3rd, 2019, 4:19 am

My own view of the place where the argument falls down the most obviously is here:
Dr_Savage_Henry wrote:If nothing is non-existence then it can't exist.
It's a form of the "fallacy of equivocation". The word "nothing" is used in two different senses in the same sentence. In the same sentence, it is defined both as a "thing" which can be proposed to either exist or not exist and as the word which is used to signify the absence of a thing. It's like saying:

If "the absence of a hat on my head" means no hat then "the absence of a hat on my head" can't exist.

Obviously the concept "the absence of a hat on my head" is not a "thing" which can be proposed to either exist or not exist.

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Re: My Argument: Why there is Something, Rather than Nothing.

Post by Steve3007 » December 3rd, 2019, 4:27 am

Felix wrote:we can only prove a positive, that something exists.
Halc wrote:I'd like to see that proof
I assume Felix is using the word "proof" here as a synonym for "empirical test", as it is frequently used, and not as the word for the demonstration of a logically necessary truth, as it is also frequently used. So we can test the proposition "there exists a black swan" and the proof of that particular pudding is in the finding of a black swan. But we can't test the proposition "there are no black swans" in the same way.

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Re: My Argument: Why there is Something, Rather than Nothing.

Post by Steve3007 » December 3rd, 2019, 4:33 am

PAntoneO wrote:I think the fundamental problem is your definition of nothing. Nothing is not the [existence of nothing]; rather it is the [absence of some thing]. The [absence of some thing] cannot be a physical thing; but it is something. And what it is, is a concept.
Yes, I agree.

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Re: My Argument: Why there is Something, Rather than Nothing.

Post by chewybrian » December 3rd, 2019, 6:12 am

Steve3007 wrote:
December 3rd, 2019, 4:19 am
My own view of the place where the argument falls down the most obviously is here:
Dr_Savage_Henry wrote:If nothing is non-existence then it can't exist.
It's a form of the "fallacy of equivocation". The word "nothing" is used in two different senses in the same sentence. In the same sentence, it is defined both as a "thing" which can be proposed to either exist or not exist and as the word which is used to signify the absence of a thing. It's like saying:

If "the absence of a hat on my head" means no hat then "the absence of a hat on my head" can't exist.

Obviously the concept "the absence of a hat on my head" is not a "thing" which can be proposed to either exist or not exist.
I think you nailed down the answer to the initial question better than the rest of us.

But, I always struggle with that idea that concepts are not real. Does 'real' have to mean physical? Why couldn't we say a concept exists or does not exist? Of course, it does not exist in a physical sense. But, either it has been discovered or proposed or it has not. When we stumble upon concepts like justice, taxation or environmentalism, there are huge impacts on the physical world as a result. How does a thing that is not real have impacts in the real world?

Not that I think it knocks down your answer, but the state of nothingness would include the non-existence of the concept of nothingness, in the sense I am describing.
"If determinism holds, then past events have conspired to cause me to hold this view--it is out of my control. Either I am right about free will, or it is not my fault that I am wrong."

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Re: My Argument: Why there is Something, Rather than Nothing.

Post by Steve3007 » December 3rd, 2019, 8:25 am

chewybrian wrote:I think you nailed down the answer to the initial question better than the rest of us.
To be fair, PAntoneO made a similar point and got it posted slightly before I did.
But, I always struggle with that idea that concepts are not real. Does 'real' have to mean physical? Why couldn't we say a concept exists or does not exist? Of course, it does not exist in a physical sense. But, either it has been discovered or proposed or it has not. When we stumble upon concepts like justice, taxation or environmentalism, there are huge impacts on the physical world as a result. How does a thing that is not real have impacts in the real world?

Not that I think it knocks down your answer, but the state of nothingness would include the non-existence of the concept of nothingness, in the sense I am describing
I wouldn't have any problem saying that an abstract concept like "justice" or "taxation" or most things that can be represented by nouns are real and that they exist, if it's useful to do so. But if we do that we just have to be careful to remember that we have more than one conception of what is means for something to exist and that they don't necessarily mix sensibly. The existence of a physical object is a different kind of existence to that of of an abstract concept.

That fact is often used in humour. Take, for example, this line from "The Hunting of the Snark" by Lewis Carroll:
'You may seek it with thimbles and seek it with care;
You may hunt it with forks and hope.
It derives its humour from the fact that such things as "forks" and "hope" are both nouns, and they both exist, but that grouping them together is a mismatching of concepts. Almost everyone instinctively knows this which is why it's clear that the line is supposed to be a bit of funny nonsense.

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Re: My Argument: Why there is Something, Rather than Nothing.

Post by chewybrian » December 3rd, 2019, 8:58 am

Steve3007 wrote:
December 3rd, 2019, 8:25 am
I wouldn't have any problem saying that an abstract concept like "justice" or "taxation" or most things that can be represented by nouns are real and that they exist, if it's useful to do so. But if we do that we just have to be careful to remember that we have more than one conception of what is means for something to exist and that they don't necessarily mix sensibly. The existence of a physical object is a different kind of existence to that of of an abstract concept.
My contention is that 'real' gathers up and includes both those kinds of existence. In the past, I've found that many folks here do not agree. My dog and the fourth amendment are both real, even though only one has a physical existence. I can encounter them both, and they both impact the world. Neither existed in the past, both exist now, and either could cease to exist (though a lot of people would have to forget or die to eliminate the fourth amendment; even if it was repealed, the concept would carry on for a long time).
"If determinism holds, then past events have conspired to cause me to hold this view--it is out of my control. Either I am right about free will, or it is not my fault that I am wrong."

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Re: My Argument: Why there is Something, Rather than Nothing.

Post by Halc » December 3rd, 2019, 10:24 am

Steve3007 wrote:
December 3rd, 2019, 4:27 am
Felix wrote:we can only prove a positive, that something exists.
Halc wrote:I'd like to see that proof
I assume Felix is using the word "proof" here as a synonym for "empirical test"
Agree, but I was speaking of the evidence of objective existence (the subject of this topic), not relative existence (what Felix seems to reference). An empirical test can only demonstrate evidence of the latter, that the black swan say exists in relation to that which measured it, but that test works whether or not the measuring thing objectively exists or not. For example, 9 is a perfect square if there exists a whole number which when squared yields the 9. 3 satisfies this, therefore 3 exists. This is not a valid demonstration of the objective (platonic) existence of 3, just a demonstration that 3 exists in relation to 9, both being members of the set of whole numbers.
Similarly, I am a member of the same set as the black swan (assuming I see one), and the empirical test is evidence of that, but not evidence that the set itself exists. To test for that, I'd have to be outside the set, and somehow be able to apply a test to it, and there is no empirical way to do either.

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Re: My Argument: Why there is Something, Rather than Nothing.

Post by Felix » December 3rd, 2019, 5:54 pm

Halc: Similarly, I am a member of the same set as the black swan (assuming I see one),
So you are a member of a water fowl species? You share the same level of intelligence?
... and the empirical test is evidence of that, but not evidence that the set itself exists. To test for that, I'd have to be outside the set, and somehow be able to apply a test to it, and there is no empirical way to do either.
Huh? :? In terms of intelligence and self-awareness, humans are indeed "outside the set of swans," and it is intelligence that makes empirical investigation possible.
"We do not see things as they are; we see things as we are." - Anaïs Nin

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