Why is there something rather than nothing? Or more positively (my preference): There is something rather than nothing!
A great question. And a great exclamation.
I hugely enjoy pondering both, especially the latter. But the mystery of existence is much more than a pondering to me. It's an immediate, um, existential experience that always is lurking not far from the surface of my consciousness.
I'm easily drawn into the depths of WOW! by ducking my everyday conscious mind just a little ways below the surface of the perceptions, thoughts, sensations, emotions and what-not which normally are the focus of my attention.
So when I learned about Jim Holt's book, "Why Does the World Exist? An Existential Detective Story," I raced into Amazon's always-eagerly-embracing arms as fast as my laptop-typing fingers would take me. I haven't been disappointed.
Highly recommended, though I'm only a bit over halfway through the book. Holt is a terrific writer, a frequent contributor to the New Yorker, New York Times, and other esteemed publications.
He describes an all-encompassing search for what Deep Thinkers about the mystery of existence have to say about it. Philosophers, scientists, religious types, novelists. Holt's interviews are fascinating. Even when highly technical theories or esoteric logic is being discussed, I remain engrossed in the conversation.
The guy I agree with the most so far (no gals have been interviewed in the chapters I've read; maybe pondering the mystery of existence is a guy thing) is Adolf Grünbaum, a noted philosopher of science. His attitude is almost exactly the same as mine, though he can explain his viewpoint in a much more sophisticated way than I can.
...Grünbaum finds the existence of the world utterly unastonishing. And he is utterly convinced that it is rational for him to be unastonished.
Consider again the basic mystery as originally stated by Leibniz: why is there something rather than nothing? Grünbaum dubs this, with appropriate grandeur (and perhaps a bit of irony), the Primordial Existential Question. But what makes it legitimate?
Like any other why question, he observes, it rests on hidden presuppositions. Not only does it presuppose that there must be some explanation for the existence of the world. It also takes for granted that the world needs an explanation -- that, in the absence of some overriding cause or reason, nothingness would be expected to prevail.
Now you might be wondering how I could agree so much with Grünbaum given that I feel WOW! when I grok the mystery of existence, while he finds the mystery utterly unastonishing.
Well, Grünbaum's unastonishment is rooted in his dislike for the question, why is there something rather than nothing? I too am uninterested in the "why?," though I used to believe there could be an answer to it.
As noted above, it's there is something rather than nothing which truly amazes me. I get a chill up my psyche's spine when I lie in bed at night and visualize something being something for infinity, ever and ever, something without beginning or end.
This has no connection with God. There's no need for God in the mystery of existence. The cosmos is. For me (and Grünbaum) that's the end of the story. And the beginning of it.
My mind gets boggled when I try to envision existence existing eternally, outside of time. This is the far side of the mystery of existence. Endlessness. Eternity. Being without becoming. Effect absent cause. Yet I'm equally boggled by the near side of the mystery of existence.
This present moment. What's right here, right now. The fact that I'm experiencing what I am, given how much is'ness there is in the cosmos. Mystery doesn't only lie beyond the horizon of my consciousness. Mystery is immediately before me.
In fact, is me. Because I exist, and no one knows why anything exists, nor if "why?" is even a valid question when asked of the entirety of existence.
Inbetween the near and far sides of the mystery of existence, knowledge can be known. Science guides us. Explorations of causes and effects can steadily enlighten the darkness of what it is possible to know, yet presently isn't. This illuminating has no end.
Except at the near side and far side of the mystery of existence.
Here, I believe, all we can do is WOW! And that one word is, for me, all the religion, spirituality, and mysticism I need in my current churchlessness.