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Cosmologist George Ellis on the philosophical problems of cosmology — and a note from Rob Sheldon


Ellis is co-author of ‘The Large Scale Structure of Space-Time’ with Stephen Hawking. In this long-form essay, he concludes with four possibilities concerning the nature of reality, including

4. Things are meant to be that way. In some sense, meaning and purposes underlie the universe.

This can neither be proved nor disproved, as pointed out long ago by David Hume. But this is as coherent a possibility as any other, particularly if one takes into account the mental possibility spaces that relate to purpose and meaning. Humans have demonstrably contemplated purpose and meaning and ethics for millennia and their existence is data on how things are. The existence of these possibility spaces is part of the deep structure of the cosmos, in the way that I have proposed above. In that sense, meaning is built into the foundations of existence.

George Ellis, “The philosophical problems of cosmology” at IAI News (September 22, 2021)

Theoretical physicist Rob Sheldon comments,

George Ellis, a grandfather in cosmology and one of the few that thinks about cosmology philosophically, has a very nice review. Here’s a quote that makes him nearly a compatriot:

“It is a simple observational fact that the world is teeming with purpose: biological [8], economic, political, social [9], scientific. You can, if you wish, not take this into account in formulating your worldview. But if you do take it into account, it raises key issues: why and how does all this purpose exist? At a deep level, it exists because physical, biological, and mental possibility spaces allow it to exist. “

Rob Sheldon is also the author of Genesis: The Long Ascent and The Long Ascent, Volume II .


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