# Can nothing not exist?

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They are in the opinion of most philosophers, and I would say in the light of common sense. Nor can something that was once finite become infinite.

Only the bad philosophers would say they are mutually exclusive. And there are all kinds of bound infinities, such as the set of all numbers between 2 and 3.

There was not, will not, nor will ever be a time when the universe does not exist. It is eternal. There was never a time before time t at which the universe existed. It had a beginning. Look at that, they go together just fine.

Edited by ydoaPs

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Only the bad philosophers would say they are mutually exclusive. And there are all kinds of bound infinities, such as the set of all numbers between 2 and 3.

There was not, will not, nor will ever be a time when the universe does not exist. It is eternal. There was never a time before time t at which the universe existed. It had a beginning. Look at that, they go together just fine.

Oh okay. No point in discussing it then.

Still, I would be interested to know if you could name any philosophers who share your view. I only know the bad ones, those who conclude that a beginning implies an end.

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How do you know the universe was created?

Okay smart guy, what word would use?

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Okay smart guy, what word would use?

Happened? Occurred? Created implies that some intelligent outside agency was responsible and there is no evidence of that.

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That's not logical at all, all we know about is what we can observe, we have no idea of anything other than what we can observe. There are models that postulate that what we see as the universe is really only a small part of something else but these are models and cannot be tested at this time. But to say with any authority that nothing existed before the universe is as nonsensical as saying something exists outside the universe...

What in hell does logic have to do with anything? We don't have rule by reason, and the laws of physics do not exist, so there is no such thing as logic. It is all big free for all and anything can happen in any order and it is all good.

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I already said I understand the point of view that there couldn't have been a nothingness to be around before the universe, but mathematically I can still trace it back to that, just like how if I graph falling off of a building with a quadratic equation, I will somehow find locations of accelerating going backwards in time.

I see what you mean qp and agree completely. It took me a long time to sort this one out. I believe you have adopted the correct mathematical approach, and it coincides with the correct metaphysical or logical approach. The problem may be only that you not taken into account Russell's Paradox. Or was it Cantor's? Backwards-engineering the universe means examining the foundations of mathematics, and also exactly what we mean by 'Something' and 'Nothing'.

Logic doesn't have to describe existence. So it is logical, but it may not have actually worked that way because there was no one around to observe if it did or not.

For a logic that describes existence there is the calculus of indications proposed by George Spencer-Brown in his Laws of Form. The maths is quite simple.

According to this calculus the distinction we make between 'Something' and 'Nothing' is ultimately conceptual. Accordingly, it is axiomatised on what is prior to this distinction, a phenomenon that is undefined, unmanifest, a formless form, neither exactly existent nor non-existent. He uses complex logic, imaginary numbers etc, to solve Rusell's Paradox, and to solve your problem of how to use mathematics to describe the universe.

For his view it would be taking this conceptual distinction to be real that causes us such a problem when we try to explain existence, whether in physics, mathematics or metaphysics. Kant shows us how to overcome the problem in metaphysics and psychology. For him, both the intellect and the world (or what Rucker and Davies call the 'Mindscape') would have their origin in a phenomenen that is not an instance of a category. Not Something or Nothing or in any case this as opposed to that. A perfect symmetry or unity.

Your equations are capable of reaching backwards only as far as the start of your fall, but they imply the prior existence of you.

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What in hell does logic have to do with anything? We don't have rule by reason, and the laws of physics do not exist, so there is no such thing as logic. It is all big free for all and anything can happen in any order and it is all good.

I don't under stand what you are asserting Athena. The laws of physics stand whether or not we use reason to govern ourselves...

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It seems to me that when the day comes that everyone participating in this thread agrees on what it means for something to exist the answer to this question will come quickly.

<br />But could it be meaningless precisely because before time does not exist, in a sense, that time infact has no beginning, no t=0?<br /><br /><br /><br />yes, thats why i say it is a flase question (i might be horribly wrong) and go on and develop a possible answer.<br />
<br /><br /><br />I disagree. IT might verywell be that the universe is jus one big quantum state. Before "time" it might very well be that the universe was described by a static quantum state. The big bang might just have been that state going from a static state to a time dependant state. So in the big picture the universes quantum state was always time depenant. The big bang might therefore have been the universes quantum state going through a change of state. I.e.

$|Psi(r, t)>$

where

t < 0 ===> $|Psi(r, t)>$ = $|Psi®>$

and

t > 0 ===> $|Psi(r, t)>$ = $|Psi(r, t)>$

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Okay smart guy, what word would use?

Well princess, I didn't have any word in mind. I just asked how he knew it was created rather than it having always existed.

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I don't under stand what you are asserting Athena. The laws of physics stand whether or not we use reason to govern ourselves...

Imatfaal said in the logos thread. "The laws of physics do not govern the universe - they are merely a human attempt to model and formalise the underlying reality; they have no existence other than within the human pursuit of understanding."

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It seems to me that when the day comes that everyone participating in this thread agrees on what it means for something to exist the answer to this question will come quickly.

I agree with this. I also like your static state idea.

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• 4 weeks later...

Can anything be said to be "indescribable"?

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Can anything be said to be "indescribable"?

Interesting question. I believe that the answer is yes. It is possible to define an indefinable phenomenon, and one that might actually be more than an hypothesis. I'm aware that this statement appears to be paradoxical.

Everything we can describe, and everything we know, is describable and known because we can distinguish it from it from other things. We can describe it as this or that, big or small, fast or slow, transcendent or immanent, real or unreal, manifest or unmanifest, temporal or atemporal, wave or particle, extended or unextended and so forth.

Kant points out that the intellect depends on these contradictory and complementary pairs of distinctions in order to operate, thus in order to describe, and (to cut a long story short) it would follow that the at the very point of origin of the intellect there must be a phenomenon that is not an instance of a category. He calls this the 'proper subject for rational psychology'. On the same reasoning he concludes that the universe as a whole must originate in such a phenomenon.

This is a phenomenon that in an everyday sense cannot be described. It must remain an undefined term by definition. You will see why if you try to imagine a phenomenon defined as being in no case ever this or that. It is unimaginable. Our intellect has no way of getting any purchase on it. It would be invisible to physics.

We might describe it as not an instance of a category, and this seems to be a description, and it allows us to agree what we are talking about. But speaking rigorously this phenomenon is an instance of a category, as it is a member of the category of phenomenon that are not an instance of a category. Such a phenomenon must be described by the use of paradox and contradiction. This is a comprehensible description of it, in that it identifies it and tells us something about it, and yet it is paradoxical and self-contradictory.

Any non-paradoxical description of this phenomenon would have to be false. ('True words seem paradoxical' - Lao-tsu). We can treat it as an hypothetical or real phenonema but either way it would have to be indescribable in a real sense. By definition it would have all properties and no properties, be neither small nor large, hard or soft, timeless or eternal, transcendent or immanent, personal or impersonal, and so on for all the categories of the intellect. It would be both and neither and yet not both or neither. Ordinary language and logic cannot handle it. We have defined it as such.

Might such a phenomenon actually exist? If it is not an instance of a category then the answer must be yes and no. At best there would be two possible points of view, neither of which would be fully adequate. Exist/not-exist is a categorical distinction and ex hypothesis and by defintion we cannot apply it to this phenomenon.

Re the topic, this could be called Nothing, but only if we add that to the intellect it would have two aspects and must also be called Something. If it is a real phenomenon then a state of Nothingness, as a Nihilist would mean it, would have no location in the possibility space of Reality, and yes would be the answer to the OP's question, or no, depending on how we look at it.

At any rate, it's very confusing talking about something that cannot be described.

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Can "nothing" have a boundary ? What would be a "nothing" near the boundary ? If it is something else than a "nothing", what would be the "nothing" next to the "something else" ?

So, I think that "nothing" cannot have a boundary.

But, if it had no boundary, it would be unlimited. So, the whole world world would be "nothing". This ist not the case.

Therefore, I think that there is no "nothing".

Edited by Orundellico
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Answering the question "Can nothing exist?":

"nohing is" and "everything is not" against "everything is" and "nothing is not". the second statement is a paradox, the firs isnt.

to me, this would imply, that the original question isnt correct, that its opposite IS the question: "can nothing not exist"

Of course nothing exists. If it didn't, you wouldn't be able to conceive of it as a concept.

There would be no "thing" that you could slap a label on called nothing.

I don't believe that a single concept that you could concieve of can not exist.

How can we as members of existance concieve of something for which we have no basis for comparison? Non-existence cannot exist within existence except as that which is conceptually understood to be the opposite of existence.

Edited by Just Some Guy
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Hmm. Are you sure you can conceive of it as concept?

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Suppose the universe would not contain light, never had, never will and never can. Would then everything be dark (darkness being the absence of light)?

No, of course. Since when there is no light at all, neither there is darkness. Darkness only exists in the presence of light, and just means that there are places where light can't travel to, and where there is absence of light.

The revserse is also thrue. If there would be light, but no darkness anywhere, you couldn't detect there being light.

So light and darkness only exist in their combination as a unity.

Similarly this is also true for "being" and "nothing".

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Hmm. Are you sure you can conceive of it as concept?

Not in it's entirety no, but as the gentleman above me also expressed, as a concept, we can understand it as the opposite of everything we know.

Because we are beings living inside existence, made of existence. And I'm not talking in a religious sense, though you can take it that way if you wish. What I mean by that is we exist, and so does, conceivably (key word), anything that we can imagine, with the exception of fantastically crazy things that violate the laws of physics.

So we, as creatures born, raised, and educated in existence, and knowing nothing else, cannot conceive of it except as the opposite of everything we know. For to completely imagine non-existence within only the frame of reference of existence is impossible. But since it can still be understood to be a concept, even if we don't know it's particulars, enough of one that we could invent a word specifically for it ("Nothing") then it must exist.

And yes, I realize that therein lies the paradox, but that (to me, I cannot speak for others) proves it's truth. Because we are playing to a bit of a play on the word "existence" itself. We are saying that something that is the opposite of existence must exist, because existence cannot exist without it. Do you understand the paradox?

Edited by Just Some Guy

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Not in it's entirety no, but as the gentleman above me also expressed, as a concept, we can understand it as the opposite of everything we know.

Because we are beings living inside existence, made of existence. And I'm not talking in a religious sense, though you can take it that way if you wish. What I mean by that is we exist, and so does, conceivably (key word), anything that we can imagine, with the exception of fantastically crazy things that violate the laws of physics.

So we, as creatures born, raised, and educated in existence, and knowing nothing else, cannot conceive of it except as the opposite of everything we know. For to completely imagine non-existence within only the frame of reference of existence is impossible. But since it can still be understood to be a concept, even if we don't know it's particulars, enough of one that we could invent a word specifically for it ("Nothing") then it must exist.

And yes, I realize that therein lies the paradox, but that (to me, I cannot speak for others) proves it's truth. Because we are playing to a bit of a play on the word "existence" itself. We are saying that something that is the opposite of existence must exist, because existence cannot exist without it. Do you understand the paradox?

hi, nice inputs,

but regarding the dialectical existance vs nothing pair, I am more leaning into the direction of asking: not if nothing can exist, but can nothing not exist while everything can. So to speak, I am letting go of the diallectical grip in this case, which I think is a special case (regarding dialectical reasoning).

@ Of course nothing exists. If it didn't, you wouldn't be able to conceive of it as a concept.

i think nothing is a special case, .. yet dont have time to develop this.

regarding your question: can I put doubt in conceptual thinking here, in the sense of, that I (you, we,them), can make conceptual mistakes and over time give them names. Perhapse the concept of nothing - as such - does not exist, while nothing as- such can. again, I think the notion or concept of nothing is a special case and a good path to a possible answer (to the original - stupid - question) is to ask the double negated opposite: can it at all be, that nothing would not exist?

the hope here is, that this would lead to an answer, because in the opposite scernario, we should already see, that everything is nothing, and everything does not exist.

its like standing on the dividing line between the Matrix and the Real, only, not ever stepping in any dirrection. Its the third pill.

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I don't believe that a single concept that you could concieve of can not exist.

This is where philosophers bum out, sprawling with guesses.

So we, as creatures born, raised, and educated in existence, and knowing nothing else, cannot conceive of it except as the opposite of everything we know. For to completely imagine non-existence within only the frame of reference of existence is impossible. But since it can still be understood to be a concept, even if we don't know it's particulars, enough of one that we could invent a word specifically for it ("Nothing") then it must exist.

I would definitely make you shake your head if I said "Then unicorns exist!" But our issue is not logic. We use nothing all over the place: "My life's greatest work is worth nothing." I think such a question, "Can nothing exist?" is very sloppy, and so as "Can nothing not exist?" Clearly, this problem involves faulted semantics.

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What a great discussion. Some really good thoughts. It was exactly an analysis of this problem that led me to the idea of 'nonduality'. I'd go along with JSG as far as he goes, but the universe becomes paradoxical if we stop there. Melhuish's book 'The Paradoxical Universe' uses this kind of model, and Priest and Routley' 'dialethism', and Chalmers' 'naturalistic dualism, so it is in good company. But...

The Professor's of Samual Butler's 'Erewhon' conclude (from memory), 'The mean is illogical, but it is better than the absurdity of the extremes'.

We are approaching Middle Way Buddhism.

One more step would be required on order to overcome the dualism that still inflicts the theory, which is not yet a full solution for the existence/non-existence or Something/Nothing dilemma. This would be to recognise that the distinction we make between these two extremes, existence and non-existence, is conceptual, not ontological. That is, in epistemology dualism would be required for anything to seem to exist, for otherwise what would observe what? But logic suggests that in ontology the universe must be a unity, where 'unity' would have a very particluar and difficult to grasp meaning. This what Hegel concluded anyway.

This is how Buddhism solves metaphysical dilemmas, and also Kant. It is the perennial philosophy. Hegel has a word, which I've forgotten, to describe this process of reduction by which in logic we reduce the world to a unity. Kant calls this phenomenon 'the proper subject for rational psychology'.

Once we hypothesise this unification of all phenomena, and thus the purely conceptual nature of all distinctions 'out there' in the world, or 'in here' in our minds, we have Nagarjuna's 'theory of emptiness', the philosophical foundation of Middle Way Buddhism, aka 'nonduality'.

This explains the first term in the phrase 'advaita Vedanta', which translates as 'not-two'. It would not be 'One'. Otherwise we would have to question whether dualism or monism is true, or why it 'exists'. This would not be the meaning of 'unity' in this context. This is also the reason why mysticism is know for its 'doctrine of the mean'.

On this view nothing really exists and nothing ever really happens.

Or not in the way we usually think it does.

Much as science and logic suggest.

And as Heraclitus proposed.

Zeno tried to prove that motion is impossible in order to show that our worldview is paradoxical. An analysis of motion of things in time and space suggests that things are not what we think they are. The logic doesn't work. This was in support of his master Parmenides proposal that there must be one phenomenon that never changes, and this must be the basis for everything else.

If we call modifiers properties, then this phenomenon would have all properties and no properties.

As Carl Jung explains online somewhere.

And George Spencer Brown in his 'Laws of Form'.

And Francis Bradley in his essay 'Appearance and Reality'

And Paul Davies in his book 'The Mind of God', in aroundabout way.

This is the cutting edge of philosophy.

Perhaps.

Edited by PeterJ
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This explains the first term in the phrase 'advaita Vedanta', which translates as 'not-two'. It would not be 'One'. Otherwise we would have to question whether dualism or monism is true, or why it 'exists'. This would not be the meaning of 'unity' in this context. This is also the reason why mysticism is know for its 'doctrine of the mean'.

On this view nothing really exists and nothing ever really happens.

Or not in the way we usually think it does.

That's not what advaita says, it doesn't accept nihilism. It positively says that something exists.

http://www.mountainrunnerdoc.com/emptiness_is_empty.html

Sankara's and Buddhist methodology: epistemic, not ontological negation

Sankara's method of 'neti, neti' (‘not this, not this’) is also often misunderstood. In it the sheaths or upadhis are supposedly rejected one by one as 'not-self' in order to reach the Self. Guadapada, his predecessor, had often, in fact, as previously mentioned, been accused of being a 'crypto-Buddhist' as the dialectic used by him was nearly identical to that of the Madhyamikas. However, the doctrine of the five sheaths in the Tittireya Upanishad, which forms part of the material which Sankara drew from, never once mentioned negating a sheath as not real or as not-self. Rather, the method of analysis there was wholistic, in which one successively realized each sheath as the Self, incorporating each in turn within the other, until nothing was known apart from the bliss of the Self. Sankara used a provisional negation, an epistemological method of negation, yes, as a first stage to find the self apart from the world, which some have interpreted as ontological negation, looking for an essence apart from that which was not real. But, in non-dual truth, there is no such separated essence per se, as nothing is not-real or known apart from the Self. The Self is the negation of a negation, realized in the second stage of the Vedantic approach where the world is known as Brahman. That is, Sankara would use 'neti neti' to strip away one's attachment to everything perceivable; then, when one had become so detached, he would ask one to reintroduce the negated elements into the one Self. "Brahman is real, the jiva is mithya (neither real or unreal, that is, apparent or relatively real), the jiva is Brahman' is how the formula actually read. The emphasis on 'neti neti' was more on negating the limits on the Self rather than trying to negate or eliminate the world. For even after realization of the Self, the sage would still see the world of duality like other men, only as not apart from the Self and this not objectively real in itself. Sometimes Ramana Maharshi, for instance, would say things that implied that for the sage whose jiva-hood was gone there was no world, thus misleading some people into an incorrect view of non-dualism.

The correct view of advaita is [brahman is real, the empirical world is an illusion, the noumenal world is real and everything in that noumenal world is Brahman.] IMO.

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Oh good grief. I forgot you'd be here to ruin the discussion.

You are wrong. Please cite texts and authors, and do not just state your own interpretation as if it is bound to be correct.

.

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Oh good grief. I forgot you'd be here to ruin the discussion.

You are wrong. Please cite texts and authors, and do not just state your own interpretation as if it is bound to be correct.

I didn't quoted you to convince you, I quoted to prevent a strawman of a philosophical doctrine, its not that difficult for me to cite Shankara's works itself. There is a lot of difference between advaita vedanta and buddhism. For someone who keeps denying that he is not misinformed I can't do much about it.

"For Shankara, the universe is not created "out of nothing" (ex nihilo) but out of Brahman."

We have now refuted both the Buddhist Realists, who maintain the (momentary) reality of the external world, and the Buddhist Idealists, who claim that only consciousness exists. The third variety of Buddhist philosophy (Madhyamaka Voidism), that is, the view that everything is empty (that is, that absolutely nothing exists), is contradicted by all the recognized means of knowledge [perception, inference, the verbal testimony of the Scriptures, etc.] and therefore requires no special refutation. The reality of the phenomenal world is guaranteed by all the means of knowledge. Its existence cannot be denied without a convincing proof of its non-existence (or "emptiness"), for a conclusion arrived at on the basis of the standard means of knowledge must be accepted in the absence of a convincing argument to the contrary.

General assessment of Buddhist philosophy

No further special discussion is required. From whatever points of view the Buddhist systems are tested with regard to their plausibility, they cave in on all sides, like the walls of a well dug in sandy soil. [buddhist philosophy] has, in fact, no foundation whatever to rest upon, and thus it is foolish to adopt it as a guide in the practical concerns of life. Moreover, the Buddha, by presenting three mutually contradictory systems of philosophy — teaching respectively the reality of the external world, the reality of consciousness-only, and general emptiness — has himself made it clear either that he was a man given to making incoherent assertions, or else that hatred of all beings moved him to propound absurd doctrines that would thoroughly confuse all who might take him seriously. Thus, the Buddha's doctrine must be entirely disregarded by all those who have a regard for their own happiness.- Shankara (778-820), Brahmasutra-Bhasya.

Now its your chance to cite where Shankara said that nothing exists and we will know who is wrong and who is not. Shankara always said that Self is all that exist and the only thing which is real.

There is always a noumena, the ground of all phenomena which exists eternally.

It is a positive metaphysical position.

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