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Thread: Is "Why is there something rather than nothing?" a legitimate question?

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    tWebber Boxing Pythagoras's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Paprika View Post
    Not so, because nothing is not a thing.
    But an absence is a thing. Hence the contradiction, if "nothing" is to be understood as "the absence of any thing."
    "[Mathematics] is the revealer of every hidden truth, for it knows every hidden secret, and bears the key to every subtlety of letters; whoever, then, has the effrontery to pursue physics while neglecting mathematics should know from the start he will never make his entry through the portals of wisdom."
    --Thomas Bradwardine, De Continuo (c. 1325)

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    tWebber Leonhard's Avatar
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    Everything that exists in reality has being, it is and is a certain way. Nothingness would be identical to non-being, there would be nothing left, not even causal powers since those belong with things that exist. From that you can quickly see that from nothing nothing comes. Its also trivial to see that there is no nothingness, because as long as something exist, nothingness doesn't.

    Nothingness is a purely abstract metaphysical concept.

    There is a reason why there is no nothingness, that is, there is a reason why anything exists.

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    tWebber Kelp(p)'s Avatar
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    Pythagoras, I agree that nothing is not a thing, but neither is reality. You don't have this concrete thing called "reality" that can be spoken of separately from everything that really exists. "This is real" is just a description we apply to some things but not others. So what's so incoherent about a hypothetical situation in which no individual concrete thing was real?

    I understand the concept of an empty set (at least I think I do), but I don't know that a set can really be called a "thing" without opening the door to Platonism (numbers are things, laws of logic are things, etc).

    If there had never been such a thing as Batman, there similarly could not be such a thing as the Absence of Batman.
    But Batman did not exist until 1939. Therefore we can truly describe the year 1938 (or 1401, or 2000 BCE) as a year in which there was an Absence of Batman. Otherwise, it is incoherent to talk about history or chronology at all and I don't think we want to go down that road.

    So if there had never been a Batman, what's stopping a hypothetical omniscient, multiversal observer from also describing 1939 as a year in which there was an Absence of Batman? It would be just as true in 1939 as in 1401. It would be true for every year.

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    tWebber Boxing Pythagoras's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by 2nd Kelp View Post
    Pythagoras, I agree that nothing is not a thing, but neither is reality. You don't have this concrete thing called "reality" that can be spoken of separately from everything that really exists. "This is real" is just a description we apply to some things but not others. So what's so incoherent about a hypothetical situation in which no individual concrete thing was real?

    I understand the concept of an empty set (at least I think I do), but I don't know that a set can really be called a "thing" without opening the door to Platonism (numbers are things, laws of logic are things, etc).
    I think you are conflating reality or existence with the philosophical concepts of a "thing" or an "entity." The Empty Set is most certainly a "thing," in philosophy, whether one is a Platonist or a nominalist-- and an extremely useful one, at that. A thing needn't actually exist in order to be a thing. I'm sure you'll agree when I say that Batman is not equivalent to "nothing," despite the fact that Batman does not exist.

    But Batman did not exist until 1939. Therefore we can truly describe the year 1938 (or 1401, or 2000 BCE) as a year in which there was an Absence of Batman.
    We can only describe years prior to Batman's existence as being years Absent of Batman because the idea of Batman exists. The phrase "Absent of Batman" is completely incoherent without first having a concept of Batman. This is why no one prior to 1939 ever referred to anything as being "absent of Batman."

    So if there had never been a Batman, what's stopping a hypothetical omniscient, multiversal observer from also describing 1939 as a year in which there was an Absence of Batman? It would be just as true in 1939 as in 1401. It would be true for every year.
    If this omniscient, multiversal observer is describing something as being Absent of Batman, it obviously has a concept of Batman by which to compare. If it does not have a concept of Batman, it cannot coherently describe something as being Absent of Batman.
    "[Mathematics] is the revealer of every hidden truth, for it knows every hidden secret, and bears the key to every subtlety of letters; whoever, then, has the effrontery to pursue physics while neglecting mathematics should know from the start he will never make his entry through the portals of wisdom."
    --Thomas Bradwardine, De Continuo (c. 1325)

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    Quote Originally Posted by Boxing Pythagoras View Post
    But an absence is a thing.
    It is not.

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    tWebber Boxing Pythagoras's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Paprika View Post
    It is not.
    How do you figure? An absence has properties and qualities, and refers to a specific concept. An absence is every bit as much a thing as is a presence.
    "[Mathematics] is the revealer of every hidden truth, for it knows every hidden secret, and bears the key to every subtlety of letters; whoever, then, has the effrontery to pursue physics while neglecting mathematics should know from the start he will never make his entry through the portals of wisdom."
    --Thomas Bradwardine, De Continuo (c. 1325)

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    tWebber Kelp(p)'s Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Boxing Pythagoras View Post
    I think you are conflating reality or existence with the philosophical concepts of a "thing" or an "entity." The Empty Set is most certainly a "thing," in philosophy, whether one is a Platonist or a nominalist-- and an extremely useful one, at that. A thing needn't actually exist in order to be a thing. I'm sure you'll agree when I say that Batman is not equivalent to "nothing," despite the fact that Batman does not exist.
    Point taken.
    Quote Originally Posted by Boxing Pythagoras View Post
    We can only describe years prior to Batman's existence as being years Absent of Batman because the idea of Batman exists. The phrase "Absent of Batman" is completely incoherent without first having a concept of Batman. This is why no one prior to 1939 ever referred to anything as being "absent of Batman."

    If this omniscient, multiversal observer is describing something as being Absent of Batman, it obviously has a concept of Batman by which to compare. If it does not have a concept of Batman, it cannot coherently describe something as being Absent of Batman.
    Ok. I guess that that makes sense. Thanks for putting up with me.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Boxing Pythagoras View Post
    How do you figure? An absence has properties and qualities, and refers to a specific concept. An absence is every bit as much a thing as is a presence.
    What properties and qualities does nothing have?

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    tWebber Boxing Pythagoras's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Paprika View Post
    What properties and qualities does nothing have?
    That's my point. Nothing, philosophically speaking, is supposed to be devoid of properties and qualities. An absence is not. Therefore, "nothing" cannot be cogently described as an "absence" of things.

    An absence is meaningless unless it refers to something which is elsewhere present. I'm sure that you'll agree that an Absence of Batman is very different from an Absence of Mountain Dew.

    Absence also has number. There can be an absence or multiple absences.

    You can describe the quality of an absence, as in a partial absence or a complete absence.

    Et cetera, et cetera.
    Last edited by Boxing Pythagoras; 11-11-2014 at 06:39 AM.
    "[Mathematics] is the revealer of every hidden truth, for it knows every hidden secret, and bears the key to every subtlety of letters; whoever, then, has the effrontery to pursue physics while neglecting mathematics should know from the start he will never make his entry through the portals of wisdom."
    --Thomas Bradwardine, De Continuo (c. 1325)

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    tWebber Boxing Pythagoras's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by 2nd Kelp View Post
    Ok. I guess that that makes sense. Thanks for putting up with me.
    No worries! These are strange concepts to explore, and quite difficult! Also, you gave me a reason to utilize Batman in a serious discussion about ontology and metaphysics, so that's a reward in itself.
    "[Mathematics] is the revealer of every hidden truth, for it knows every hidden secret, and bears the key to every subtlety of letters; whoever, then, has the effrontery to pursue physics while neglecting mathematics should know from the start he will never make his entry through the portals of wisdom."
    --Thomas Bradwardine, De Continuo (c. 1325)

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