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March 30, 2015


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...it isn't possible to get outside of either yourself or the cosmos and know it as an object

Not literally, but to some extent we can get outside of ourselves and "the cosmos and know it as an object". If we couldn't, there would be no such thing as science.

For instance, when you see your reflection in a mirror, see a video or hear a recording of yourself, you are experiencing yourself from outside. We now have the means to perceive ourselves and our environment in ways we never have been able to.

This is not to say that the mystery will ever cease to be mysterious, but to say that we can ascertain a degree of objectivity that we never could until now.

What's being referring to here is getting outside of the cosmos as a whole, or ourselves as a whole. Obviously this isn't possible. Yes, we can objectify parts of the cosmos, or parts of ourselves. But there is no way we can detachedly look upon existence from the outside, since existence includes everything that exists (obviously).

That there is something rather than nothing seems to be a big fucking deal.

It means a couple of things:

a) that something has always existed and was caused by nothing else and is the cause of everything else. Do you know of anything that is acausal?
b) that something is eternal - do you know of anything that is eternal?
c) that a finite and exact amount of something exists, no more and no less, which cannot be created or destroyed. Why?
d) that something has some order at all, rather than being totally chaotic. Why should there be any order or laws at all, surely if it's spintaneous and random there shouldnt be any order at all?
e) that something is not only ordered, but precisely fine-tuned do that if only a handful of physical properties of the whole shebang were different something would not exist at all.

Nope something seems like a very big deal - it's the ultimate question.

Is there anything that you know of that is without cause, the cause of all other things, eternal and is not ? I don'tt

I agree George, it IS a big deal. All the questions that you pose do have notional 'answers' doing the rounds - but personally I find most of them unconvincing.

Perhaps that question (“WHY?”) is itself the wrong question to ask? Of anything?

Not just about deep-sounding issues like “Why is there something rather than nothing?” or “Why is there consciousness?”, but just about anything at all.

I think you’ve discussed this very idea in one of your past blog posts, Brian (far as I remember, although I could be mistaken). To ask that question, “WHY?”, already assumes part of the answer.

“Why” is not a question one can ask of something or someone that lacks intelligence. There are reasons why a person does things (no matter how convoluted or dysfunctional such reasons might be at times!), but that cannot be said of something inanimate or unconscious or lacking intelligence.

Why is there gravity? No answer. Why are energy and mass equivalent, via Einstein’s famous equation? No answer. Why does Pie equal 3.14? Again, no answer! In other words, “it is what it is”.

To ask of something, “Why?” already presupposes (if only implicitly) that there’s a generally intelligent background, and intelligent SOMETHING (call it God, call it an Intelligent Universe, whatever) to which this question can be addressed. It may be that that is indeed the case, of course : but it would clearly be wrong to start out on the question with that implicit assumption.

The best we can generally do is ask the much humbler question, “How?”, and be content with a more and more description of the mechanism of how a thing works or comes about. If that path leads one day to a place where the deeper “Why” questions make sense, well then, we can ask “Why” at that time ; but meanwhile, let’s stick to asking (and trying to answer) the more humble “How” question.

Mr. Hines,

Hi. Like you, I'm also very interested in the "mystery of existence". I think we can figure out an answer. My proposed solution is below, but even if it's not right, I think we'll figure it out sometime. Like the author of the book in one of your more recent posts, I think the universe is cold and meaningless, and for me, what gives life meaning is our relationships with family and friends. Anyways, I like your views, and my proposed solution is below. Thanks!


Why is there something rather than nothing?

My view is that "absolute nothingness", if looked at another way can be seen to be an existent entity. That is, that our distinction between "nothing" and "something" is not correct. I put "nothing" and "something" in quotes because I think our distinction between them is incorrect. Two arguments that support this are:

1. Consider the question “Why is there something rather than nothing?”. Two choices for addressing this question are:

A. "Something” has always been here.

B. "Something” has not always been here.

Choice A is possible but does not explain anything. Therefore, choice B is the only choice with any explanatory power. So, let's explore this choice to see where it leads. With choice B, if “something” has not always been here, then “nothing” must have been here before it. By “nothing”, I mean the same "absolute lack-of-all” (no energy, matter, volume, space, time, thoughts, concepts, mathematical truths, etc., and no minds to consider this complete "lack-of-all") described above. In this "absolute nothing”, there would be no mechanism present to change this “nothingness” into the “something” that is here now. Because we can see that “something” is here now, the only possible choice then is that “nothing” and “something” are one and the same thing. This is logically required if we go with choice B.

Instead of just saying "That can't be. Nothing and something are not the same; they're opposites.", I think it's more useful to accept what is logically required with choice B and try to figure out how "nothing" and "something" could be the same. This is gone over in #2, below.

2. I think that a thing exists if it's a grouping defining what is contained within (e.g., the surface of a book, the definition of what elements are contained in a set, the mental/neural construct called the concept of love defines what other mental constructs are contained in it, etc.). The grouping is equivalent to an edge or boundary that gives substance and existence to the thing. So, if there is a grouping defining what is contained within, it's an existent entity.

In regard to the question "Why is there something rather than nothing?", if we consider what we've traditionally thought of as “the absolute lack-of-all” (no energy, matter, volume, space, time, thoughts, concepts, mathematical truths, etc.; and no minds to think about this “absolute lack-of-all”), and not our mind's conception of “the absolute lack-of-all”, this "absolute lack-of-all" would be the entirety, or whole amount, of all that is present. That's it; that's everything; there's nothing else; it would be everything that is present. It is absolute nothing, and also the all. An entirety or whole amount is a grouping defining what is contained within and is therefore a surface, an edge and an existent entity. In other words, because the absolute lack-of-all is the entirety of all that is present, it functions as both what is contained within and the grouping defining what is contained within. It defines itself and is, therefore, the beginning point in the chain of being able to define existent entities in terms of other existent entities. The grouping/edge of the absolute lack-of-all is not some separate thing; it is just the "entirety", "the all" relationship, inherent in this absolute lack-of-all, that defines what is contained within.

If you're more interested, I've got more on this at:

(4 page summary)

(click on 3rd link; contains more detail and philosophical stuff)

Thanks again!

Roger, interesting ideas. I need to read the material on the links you shared. (By the way, your original links were partial and didn't work; I found them via Google and corrected the links.)

It does seem very possible that the question, why is there something rather than nothing?, amounts to a linguistic rather an actual paradox or problem.

I mean, reality just does what it does. It doesn't operate in line with how the human mind/brain works. When people assume that it does, or should, that is an unreasonable assumption -- as in quantum mechanics.

Sorry about the links being incomplete and thank you for correcting them. Amanda Gefter, who's a good popular science writer, wrote something at Nautilus magazine at:

(I hope this link gets copied correctly!)

similar to what you said about the problem maybe being more one of language and how the human mind works than an insoluble paradox of reality. You and she said it far better than me, but I basically agree that I think it's more a question of incorrect assumptions about the words "something" and "nothing" and what it means to be "something".
Have a good week!


George asked :

Is there anything that you know of that is without cause, the cause of all other things, eternal and is not ?

Yes Sir


To me, it's always been a simple paradox.
Self evident, if we did not exist, we would not have the opportunity to question, thus the act of Being draws attention to itself as the absence of which is a much simpler answer.
It's the complication that makes the answer interesting.. Else it would be just that, simple.

Steve said: "To me, it's always been a simple paradox.
Self evident, if we did not exist, we would not have the opportunity to question, thus the act of Being draws attention to itself as the absence of which is a much simpler answer."

That is an old nonsense cliché. This implies that we exist so that we would have the opportunity of asking why we exist. This does not constitute a cause, reason or explanation for existence.

All you are really saying is that the condition of existing is required for asking the question of why one exists. This is prosaically self-evident.

If HE is LOVE, a lot of it
he has no time/opportunity to reflect on the question
To busy



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