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“Why is there something, instead of nothing?” (–> being Logic & First Principles, 24)

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Heidegger famously posed this question, giving it redoubled force as a first question on critical analysis of worldviews:

To philosophize is to ask “Why are there essents rather than nothing?” Really to ask this question signifies: a daring attempt to fathom this unfathomable question by disclosing what it summons us to ask, to push our questioning to the very end. Where such an attempt occurs there is philosophy. [ M. Heidegger, An Introduction to Metaphysics, Yale University Press, New Haven and London (1959), pp. 7-8.]

Let’s explore, first pausing to see Prof Dawkins (dean of the notoriously unphilosophical new atheists) making needlessly heavy weather of the matter:

Clearly, the pivot of the matter is — again — logic of being: No-thing is non-being, which contrasts with being and as non-being can have no causal powers, were there ever utter no-thing [i.e., no reality whatsoever] such would forever obtain. Therefore if a world is, SOMETHING has always existed. And yes, eternity knocks at our doorstep, welcome or not.

However, logic of being is one of the many gaps in our dumbed down education systems and is not exactly a popular talking heads topic. So, let us again summarise for those needing (or needing to at last heed) a 101 in a nutshell:

So, the debate on origins of the world and of ourselves in it must be shaped by this prior question.

Where, we need a world root — and yes, this OP is about world roots: why is there at least one actual world, instead of utter non-being? — causally adequate to account for a fine tuned cosmos with information rich C-chemistry aqueous medium cell based life. Further, one with many complex body plans, and with freely rational [not merely computational] morally governed creatures in it — us.

Where, obviously, a claimed beginningless causal-temporal succession of finite duration prior stages [“years” for convenience] has to account for — not, beg the question of — traversal of an implicitly transfinite span in finite steps; a supertask. For, at any finitely remote past stage k on such a claim, k-1, k-2 . . . were already traversed, i.e. once one is claimed to have already reached k from the beginningless prior set of stages, one is implying that the traverse has already happened. But how? And no, a Russell-like declaration that one sees no problem or a similar [equivalent?] declaration of alleged inexplicable brute fact are nowhere near good enough. Those simply beg the question of implicit prior transfinite traverse.

Where, no, if something is said to be the case, we have an epistemic right to ask why and how so. A mechanical and/pr stochastic explanatory candidate is one thing (here, facing the issue of heat death as concentrations of energy dissipate). A Fluctuation of the quantum foam view:

. . . faces the question, why is this not a Boltzmann brain world (a much more probable though vastly improbable fluctuation), and fails to account for the parent sub-universe, given the transfinite traverse challenge.

In passing, I note that the volitional action of a capable, choosing agent is a responsible explanation. One, we are quite familiar with from day to day.

So, again: why is there something, rather than nothing? END

41 Replies to ““Why is there something, instead of nothing?” (–> being Logic & First Principles, 24)

  1. 1
    kairosfocus says:

    “Why is there something, instead of nothing?” (–> being Logic & First Principles, 24)

  2. 2
    kairosfocus says:

    F/N: As an in-the-wild, again:

    https://infidels.org/library/modern/keith_parsons/varghese.html

    The danger that science poses for theism is that as science progresses, God seemingly becomes increasingly irrelevant. A Creator has to have something to do. In his introduction to Stephen Hawking’s 1988 bestseller, A Brief History of Time, Carl Sagan remarked that Hawking’s “no boundary” quantum cosmology would erase an absolute beginning point for the universe, leaving us with “a universe with no edge in space, no beginning or end it time, and nothing for a Creator to do” (Sagan in Hawking, 1988, p. x). An otiose Creator soon withers into nonexistence. This, by the way, is why irenic proposals, such as Stephen Jay Gould’s suggestion that science and religion be regarded as “nonoverlapping magisteria,” are bound to fail. Gould relegates God to the realm of value, where value somehow mysteriously supervenes on fact, which is the domain of science (Gould, 1999). Surely theists suspect, rightly I believe, that a “Creator” assigned to such a minimal and ambiguous role would soon reduce to no more than the evanescent grin of the celestial Cheshire Cat.

    What theistic apologists seek, therefore, is a gap for God that cannot be closed by the progress of science, a domain for divine activity in the world that advancing science cannot seal off, marginalize, or supplant with naturalistic explanations. It is precisely the effort to locate and exploit such alleged lacunae that motivates “intelligent design” theorists such as Michael Behe and William Dembski to postulate “irreducible” and “specified” complexity as natural phenomena that allegedly defy naturalistic explanation (Behe, 1996; Dembski, 1998) . . . .

    Varghese [–> Parsons’ foil] begins by considering that the universe might be infinitely old, with no beginning and no end. [–> this follows the “dumb ox” of course] Taking time to examine this possibility may seem a distraction since cosmologists have decisively rejected the steady state theory that postulated an eternally existing universe. But cosmological scenarios postulating an endless past are now back on the table (e.g., Andrei Linde’s “eternal inflation” scenario), so the discussion is again relevant. Varghese argues that even if the universe had existed eternally, it would still need an explanation: “Even if we admit the assumption of an eternally existing universe we are left with the problem of explaining and accounting for the eternally existing universe” (Margenau and Varghese, 1992, p. 4) . . . .

    Actually, the question “How did matter and the universe come into being?” cannot be addressed on the assumption that the universe is eternal. That assumption precludes that the universe ever came into being. What about the question about how the eternally existing universe is to be explained? This is an odd question given that the universe is eternal, and given, as Varghese never denies, that each state of the universe is scientifically explicable in terms of the laws of nature and the previous states of the universe. In an eternal universe each state of the universe is explicable in terms of the universe’s preceding states and the laws of nature . . . But, Varghese might protest, the whole still lacks an explanation. Traditionally, the demand that even an eternal universe “as a whole” have an explanation has been put in the form of two questions: (a) Why is there something instead of nothing? and (b) Why this eternally existing universe rather than some other? I shall take it that these are the questions Varghese wants to ask.

    But it is hard to see what motivates such questions. What is the further mystery we are trying to address when we keep asking “why?” at this point? Why should it surprise us that there is a universe? Why should it surprise us that we have this universe? What else should we expect? Of course, we can imagine that there might (i.e., conceivably could) have been nothing at all or that all sorts of other universes might have existed instead of ours, but this need not create any mystery. There are always innumerable imaginable possibilities whose failure to be realized creates no mystery at all. The moon could conceivably have been made of cheese, but it is no mystery that it isn’t. In general, it is no mystery why something does not exist unless, given our background knowledge, its existence was expected, or at least no more unexpected than what does exist. Nothing in our knowledge base supports the slightest expectation that the moon would be made of cheese. Nor do we have any basis for thinking that some other (ex hypothesi eternal) universe should have existed all along instead of ours. Therefore, it is hard to see how asking “Why doesn’t some other universe exist?” is very different from asking “Why don’t we have a moon made out of cheese?”

    What possible grounds could we have for thinking that it is a puzzle or mystery why our universe exists rather than some other imaginable universe, or even none at all? . . . .

    If we repudiate the PSR, then we will no longer automatically infer that the fact that something lacks an explanation means that it requires one. It might well be entirely reasonable for some logically contingent things just to be and to have no reason for their existence . . .

    Let’s ponder what is going on here.

    Later, DV.

    KF

  3. 3
    kairosfocus says:

    F/N: A moment. SEP weighs in on nothingness:

    Why is there something rather than nothing?

    Well, why not? Why expect nothing rather than something? No experiment could support the hypothesis ‘There is nothing’ because any observation obviously implies the existence of an observer.

    Is there any a priori support for ‘There is nothing’? One might respond with a methodological principle that propels the empty world to the top of the agenda. For instance, many feel that whoever asserts the existence of something has the burden of proof. If an astronomer says there is water at the south pole of the Moon, then it is up to him to provide data in support of the lunar water. If we were not required to have evidence to back our existential claims, then a theorist who fully explained the phenomena with one set of things could gratuitously add an extra entity, say, a pebble outside our light cone. We recoil from such add-ons. To prevent the intrusion of superfluous entities, one might demand that metaphysicians start with the empty world and admit only those entities that have credentials. This is the entry requirement imposed by René Descartes. He clears everything out and then only lets back in what can be proved to exist.

    St. Augustine had more conservative counsel: we should not start at the beginning, nor at the end, but where we are, in the middle. We reach a verdict about the existence of controversial things by assessing how well these entities would harmonize with the existence of better established things. If we start from nothing, we lack the bearings needed to navigate forward. Conservatives, coherentists and scientific gradualists all cast a suspicious eye on ‘Why is there something rather than nothing?’.

    Most contemporary philosophers feel entitled to postulate whatever entities are indispensable to their best explanations of well accepted phenomena. They feel the presumption of non-existence is only plausible for particular existence claims. Since the presumption only applies on a case by case basis, there is no grand methodological preference for an empty world. Furthermore, there is no burden of proof when everybody concedes the proposition under discussion. Even a solipsist agrees there is at least one thing! . . .

    The issue is pivotal, and in it lurks at least the weak form PSR: if something is or may be or is not or is impossible of being, we have an epistemic right to ask, why?

    So, yes, logic of being lurks.

    Again, later.

    KF

  4. 4
    kairosfocus says:

    And yes, this is what we have come to!

  5. 5
    SmartAZ says:

    The reason you can’t “prove” God is that if you don’t believe, then by definition all proof is nonsense. It seems odd that people who consider themselves so logical can’t realize that.

  6. 6
    kairosfocus says:

    SAZ, you have a point. If we accept a claim, A, why? B. So why B? C, then D . . . so, we face the Agrippa trilemma. Infinite regress is impossible, and a circle from X to Y and back to X is little better. So, we are forced to accept finitely remote points F, which are things we accept but cannot prove. That’s why I call F a faith point. For example that came up a few days back, the triple first principles of reason — identity, excluded middle, non-contradiction — are like that. Any attempt to prove them automatically uses them. Proofs start after that. What we do is we can compare the difficulties across faith points F1, F2 . . . Fn, across factual adequacy, coherence and explanatory power. That avoids worldview level question begging. And BTW, it exposes the claimed atheism default as seriously question-begging. KF

  7. 7
    kairosfocus says:

    F/N: Let’s focus, from Parsons:

    [KP:] What possible grounds could we have for thinking that it is a puzzle or mystery why our universe exists rather than some other imaginable universe, or even none at all? . . . .

    If we repudiate the PSR, then we will no longer automatically infer that the fact that something lacks an explanation means that it requires one. It might well be entirely reasonable for some logically contingent things just to be and to have no reason for their existence . . .

    He is a highly educated person, so why is he appealing to brute inexplicable fact like this to sustain his obvious naturalism? That’s a first clue that his system has broken down irretrievably.

    Next, notice a chain of argument in the OP:

    [KF:] the pivot of the matter is — again — logic of being: No-thing is non-being, which contrasts with being and as non-being can have no causal powers, were there ever utter no-thing [i.e., no reality whatsoever] such would forever obtain. Therefore if a world is, SOMETHING has always existed. And yes, eternity knocks at our doorstep, welcome or not.

    However, logic of being is one of the many gaps in our dumbed down education systems and is not exactly a popular talking heads topic . . . .

    So, the debate on origins of the world and of ourselves in it must be shaped by this prior question.

    Where, we need a world root — and yes, this OP is about world roots: why is there at least one actual world, instead of utter non-being? — causally adequate to account for a fine tuned cosmos with information rich C-chemistry aqueous medium cell based life. Further, one with many complex body plans, and with freely rational [not merely computational] morally governed creatures in it — us.

    It seems to me, my highlight answers KP’s shrug and dismissal — and throws light on linked remarks in SEP by bringing out why such can be powerful and helpful.

    The logic of being and non-being implies an eternal root to reality. If a world is, a causally adequate world-root always was. That’s a big answer as the best explanation for something to always have been is that it is a necessary being, independent of external on/off enabling causal factors.

    Where, it is effectively undeniable that a weak-form investigatory principle of sufficient reason is relevant:

    [PSR, weak (investigatory) form:] Of any particular thing A that is

    [. . . or (ii) is possible, or even (iii) is impossible],

    we may ask, why it is

    [. . . or (ii’) why it is possible, or (iii’) why it is impossible],

    and we may expect — or at least hope — to find a reasonable answer.

    Couple that right of investigation to the logic of being and we have a solid tool with good teeth on it!

    That’s before we turn to another feature of KP’s remarks:

    [KP:] the question “How did matter and the universe come into being?” cannot be addressed on the assumption that the universe is eternal. That assumption precludes that the universe ever came into being. What about the question about how the eternally existing universe is to be explained? This is an odd question given that the universe is eternal, and given, as Varghese never denies, that each state of the universe is scientifically explicable in terms of the laws of nature and the previous states of the universe. In an eternal universe each state of the universe is explicable in terms of the universe’s preceding states and the laws of nature . . .

    Notice, that KP never denies that there is an eternal world-root, but proposes a candidate then tries to dismiss the metaphysical questions? That’s a second clue that we are seeing more of a clever argument than a truly sound one. Where, we already saw that posing utter no-thing as an alternative rapidly delivers some powerful and perhaps uncomfortable results.

    Next, the suggestion of a quasi-infinite causal-temporal succession driven cosmos runs into serious difficulties, as I also pointed out in the OP:

    [KF:] Where, obviously, a claimed beginningless causal-temporal succession of finite duration prior stages [“years” for convenience] has to account for — not, beg the question of — traversal of an implicitly transfinite span in finite steps; a supertask. For, at any finitely remote past stage k on such a claim, k-1, k-2 . . . were already traversed, i.e. once one is claimed to have already reached k from the beginningless prior set of stages, one is implying that the traverse has already happened. But how? And no, a Russell-like declaration that one sees no problem or a similar [equivalent?] declaration of alleged inexplicable brute fact are nowhere near good enough. Those simply beg the question of implicit prior transfinite traverse.

    Where, no, if something is said to be the case, we have an epistemic right to ask why and how so. A mechanical and/pr stochastic explanatory candidate is one thing (here, facing the issue of heat death as concentrations of energy dissipate). A Fluctuation of the quantum foam view: [pic] . . . faces the question, why is this not a Boltzmann brain world (a much more probable though vastly improbable fluctuation), and fails to account for the parent sub-universe, given the transfinite traverse challenge.

    KP glides over that huge cluster of problems as though it were not there. That’s a third clue, and leads to the verdict: indoctrination, not genuine education. That’s also why comparative difficulties is so important as a general method.

    We also have another consideration: we have to account for responsible, rational, morally governed freedom. That’s why, earlier, I commented to EG in another thread:

    We have in hand a finitely remote world root, and that root in addition has to account for a world including morally governed, rational creatures — us. Where, moral government begins with known and inescapable . . . duties to truth, right reason, prudence (so, warrant), sound conscience, justice, etc. This means that the IS-OUGHT gap . . . has to be bridged, which on pain of ungrounded ought is only feasible in the world root. Such requires — and this answers Euthyphro’s so-called dilemma — that the world root is inherently good and utterly wise.

    Such and linked considerations are why, after centuries of debate, there is just one serious candidate NB world root adequate to ground ought. Where, a serious candidate — flying spaghetti monsters need not apply (composite . . . ) and show the gaps in understanding logic of being of too many atheists — NB will be either impossible of being or actual. Those who claim to know there is no God have the logic of being challenge to show God as understood to be impossible of being. Where, post Plantinga, the problem of evil collapsed and indeed should have been seen as only reflecting the issue of good long since pointed out by Boethius: yes, if God is, why evil, but if God is not, whence good? Plantinga gives a good defense relative to the former, appealing to the good only points to its only credible source. Such appeals include, calling us to duties to truth, right reason, prudence (so, warrant), justice etc. — i.e., appeals to the moral government of our intellectual faculties.

    The rebalancing of the issues opens up a very different discussion than KP envisioned, and shows why these issues are pivotal.

    KF

  8. 8
    Fasteddious says:

    Author and philosopher Jim Holt has written a book, “Why Does the World Exist? “, which I have just begun to read. He starts with this very question, why is there something rather than nothing, and he spends a chapter defining nothing and nothingness, with some humour. He then explores the subject by interviewing others with various views, in later chapters, which I have not yet read. He also has a TED talk on the subject, which is very similar to his introductory chapter: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zORUUqJd81M His talk is not very convincing or satisfying, but gives a decent introduction to the topic. He comes across as a self-satisfied, atheist name dropper, but it is still worth a listen if this subject interests you.

  9. 9
    Fasteddious says:

    On the subject of an eternal universe, the major argument against it in my book is that, if the universe has existed forever, then it has taken an infinite amount of time to get to “now”, and no one really knows what that even means. How can an infinite time have already passed? Another argument is that, if this universe (with largely known physics) has existed forever, then wouldn’t it have run down into heat death an infinitely long time ago? Clearly it isn’t now in heat death, so it could not have always existed.
    Attempts to get around that involve imagined concepts like eternal inflation or some sort of multiverse generator, with entirely different physics that doesn’t die down over time; i.e. the 2nd law of thermodynamics does not seem to apply in these imaginary constructs. Fred Hoyle had the most clever approach in his steady state universe, with hydrogen atoms popping into existence as space expands indefinitely. No heat death appears, and the universe looks the same all the time. Of course this would violate other laws of physics and it does not fit the data that points to a beginning.

  10. 10
    kairosfocus says:

    F, Holt misses the point in all the name-dropping, and his portrayal of Leibniz and Christians simply fails. God + 0 –> World simply identifies that God is sole reality root, there is no primordial proto-cosmos that a demiurge incompetently tries to shape in imitation of the forms, for one example. Why does God exist simply points to the now familiar logic of being empty hole in our knowledge base. Ironically, it is precisely the focal question that allows us to see that we do need a NB world root, which leads us to see signs of the eternal power of God. That the world contains responsible, rational (not merely computational), free, morally governed creatures then points to the need to bridge is and ought in that world-root, pointing to key divine essential characteristics. Of course, most theists today have not pondered or been seriously taught on such matters of philosophical or even systematic theology. And yes, this is a gap I see in Grudem (though I like his work.) His dismissiveness of ontological reasoning without serious consideration on logic of being [particularly, modes of being] and where it points, is typical. His attempt to picture God as wondering where he came from is typical of the problem. And that’s just four minutes in. A mess, but not unexpected, today — I guess, lacking in the relevant base of philosophy of religion . . . sense: metaphysical study of the idea of God, best quick search def’n here. I can understand Feser’s complaint about wading in out of depth. Sad. KF

  11. 11
    MikeW says:

    The reason there is something rather than nothing is because there is only one possible state of nothingness, whereas there are infinitely many possible states of something. So the odds of nothingness are one divided by infinity = zero.

  12. 12
    kairosfocus says:

    MW, an interesting twist on dominant cluster of microstates in stat mech. Considered as having a probability distribution including utter non-being in reality, it makes for an interesting side-light. However, I suggest, we have an inside view: a world is, and per the properties of non-being — more exactly, the ABSENCE of such — were there ever utter no-thing, such would necessarily forever obtain. Yes, there would be no reality whatsoever, thus no actual world of any description. But that is just a framing on logic, leading to the modus tollens implication that as a world actually is, utter non-being has never been so. That is, something always has been, pointing to a necessary being root of reality. And yes, such a line of thought is passing strange in a philosophically impoverished age. KF

  13. 13
    EDTA says:

    Fasteddious @ 8,

    I have finished Holt’s book. For someone who claims to have a degree in philosophy, he makes an incredible number of mistakes in his logic. Of course he rules out theism almost out-of-hand, but his alternatives are riddled with bad logic, unjustified assumptions, non-sequiturs, equivocation and more.

    At least it was good critical thinking practice…

    MikeW @ 11,

    Does your argument assume that each possible alternative has equal probability? On what basis can we assign probabilities to the alternatives?

  14. 14
    kairosfocus says:

    EDTA, the Boltzmann approach did use the equiprobable limit (which is based on indifference), but the Gibbsian accommodates varying probabilities of microstates, also bleeding over into information metrics, – H = SUM on i of pi log pi, i being the ith possible state, i.e. we see a weighted sum process. However, the logic of there being a world, tied to the want of causal power of non-being means that we are definitively not in a world that started with utter non-being. Such an initial circumstance (language is being stretched here) would be unable to cause any world to emerge. Therefore, we freely conclude: as a world is, it necessarily had an adequate causal root, which had to always have been. Which, is a powerful result indeed, from asking just one key question: why is there something (at least one actual world), instead of [utter] no-thing? KF

    PS: On his TED talk, I am not surprised to hear your reaction. There is an obvious gap in our concept base regarding logic of being and it is leading into many needless errors of thought.

  15. 15
    kairosfocus says:

    F/N: Another in-the-wild case, here from SEP on God and other [candidate] necessary beings:

    consider the number four. If it depends on God for its existence, then the truth of Four exists depends counterfactually on the truth of the proposition God exists; if God exists were false, then Four exists would be false. According to the widely-accepted Lewis (1973) semantics for counterfactuals, any proposition is counterfactually implied by a necessarily false proposition. However, It is false that four exists is necessarily false, and thus counterfactually implies any proposition. So, it’s also true that if four didn’t exist, neither would God, and by (1) God depends on four for God’s existence. This dependence relationship is problematic; the dependence relation between God and abstracta should be asymmetrical if we are to understand the claim that God is the source of being for abstract objects.

    Check . . . mate?

    No.

    Again, we see a failure to recognise the ontological circumstances of God as root of reality. If God is not, no world whatsoever, no reality, is. Providing, only, that root of reality is God. And if there were no reality, utterly no-thing then of course no numbers etc. If not God, then not four, indeed and obviously, under such circumstances, if not four then not God, but the way this comes to be must be traced. On tracing, through the posed question, we see that why is there something rather than nothing is again pivotal.

    We are implicitly bringing in the background knowledge that a world is, and — absent pondering the question in the OP — it warps our understanding. In this case it seems there was a failure to understand that the reality or unreality of God is tantamount to the existing or non existing of reality, as God is the root. (Of course, if you feel there is another serious candidate world root, put it up and justify it per comparative difficulties _____ Where, too, as God is a serious candidate necessary being, his existence is either impossible [as a square circle is impossible] or else he is actual.)

    Fourness, of course is embedded in distinct identity of a possible world and so that a world is necessarily implicates four-ness. Let’s trace briefly: for a distinct possible world W to be distinct from near neighbour W’ it has to have some distinct attribute A, so we can see W as structured: W = {A|~A}. The ~A is actually in principle infinite as will be shortly shown as it includes the vast span of numbers. In this structure, the dichotomy is empty, manifesting nullity, A and ~A are simple and complex unities, the two together manifesting duality. So we have 0, 1, 2 already and per the von Neumann succession, N, as a number implicates the onward chain of its successors without limit:

    {} –> 0
    {0} –> 1
    {0,1} –> 2
    {0,1,2} –> 3
    . . .
    {0,1,2 . . . } –> w omega

    thence we define Z per additive inverses, then Q as rationals and R as taking in w-length convergent chains in power series [decimal numbers are compressed power series] leading to the irrationals that fill out the continuum. Beyond we similarly define C, hyperreals and surreals.

    Any possible world, including actual ones, necessarily, structurally implicates numbers. However, that pivots on at least one world being, thence, reality.

    Also, that a world is, implies and necessitates that something, the world root always was. the issue is of just what nature, as has been spoken to above. God is the best candidate.

    KF

  16. 16
    Brother Brian says:

    “There was never a Big Bang that produced something from nothing. It just seemed that way from mankind’s perspective,” Hawking

  17. 17
    kairosfocus says:

    BB, strawman target. No-one above has claimed the singularity as an absolute beginning. What is pointed out is that a claimed beginningless transfinite past runs into heat death thermodynamic challenges through the very meaning of heat; which directly leads to dissipation of energy concentrations. Next, that such a transfinite past claim implicitly seeks to span the transfinite in finite stage steps, a supertask. Third, I can add that there is actually no empirical support for an imagined, speculative past beyond the singularity; all such exercises are philosophical and as such every significant world view option has a legitimate right to sit to the table also. In this light, we are well warranted to point to a finite temporal-causal past and to note that the cosmological evidence we have does point to a very finite limit. Beyond, speculative multiverses should by rights overwhelmingly be Boltzmann brain type delusions or simulations etc. KF

  18. 18
    Brother Brian says:

    KF

    BB, strawman target.

    Ahh. The KF response to anything he can’t defend. Your entire argument is that you can’t get something from nothing. Hence, God. But that assumes that there has ever been nothingness. If nothingness has never existed, your argument falls flat. But, more perversely, you argue that God must fill this void. How is God exempt from never existing? Because it fits your narrative?

  19. 19
    Brother Brian says:

    I don’t mean to be critical, but if I was writing an OP about the need for a necessary being (AKA God) I wouldn’t lead with a video debate between Dawkins and a jailed pedophile Cardinal.

  20. 20
    kairosfocus says:

    BB,

    your attempted dismissive response is utterly unimpressive, especially as it seems you wish to double down on a falsehood about un-answered arguments when you full well know you have had answers, and that for cause I have no wish to see another discussion dragged down into the sewer. In the case above, you brought up an irrelevance as though it were in the thread above, which I pointed out. I then highlighted the anticipation of same in the OP, which reflects why a transfinite physical past cannot credibly be traversed in finite successive steps. Heat death is already decisive: energy concentrations will all decay in finite time, being driven by the inherent stochastic behaviour of micro-particle motions. The logical, structural problem is further decisive: the descent to now requires spanning a transfinite (implicit or explicit makes no difference) in finite steps. And, attempts to suggest that at any given finite remove k in the past it was already spanned beg the question. That such is now being resorted to, speaks volumes.

    As for oh you pivot on you cannot get something from nothing, you neatly glide over the WHY of the matter in silence, erecting yet another strawman suggestion that the point made is an arbitrary suggestion. Again, no-thing is non-being, properly. Such can have no causal powers, and therefore, were there ever utter nothing, we would have non-reality and no means to progress beyond that. There thus could never be a world. Such, pivots on the logic that absent relevant capability, no result.

    If you deny this, kindly provide empirical warrant and/or compelling logic that utter non-being can credibly or has actually caused anything ______, much less the emergence of at least one world _______ .

    Mr Dawkins and those he refers to are substituting a suggested something (effectively, a fluctuating quantum foam) and erroneously calling it nothing. A basic error. Then, their candidate turns out to not be credible.

    By the logic involved (which you cannot overthrow though you obviously wish to dismiss), that a world now is entails that something with adequate, relevant causal capability always was; pointing to independent, non-contingent, necessary being. There are various suggested candidates for such a NB root of reality, including as I briefly noted on. The further factor of an order of beings that are responsible, rational (not merely computational) and morally governed forces us to just one serious candidate.

    It is noteworthy that while you are dismissive and have tried various attempts to undermine the undeniable fact of our being under moral government (which includes, self-referentially, rationality) you have failed to put forth and justify on comparative difficulties another serious candidate. I leave the matter for the moment on the note that to be persuasive, your arguments are forced to rely on our acknowledgement and adherence to the duties that morally govern rationality. That self-referential incoherence itself speaks decisively.

    KF

    PS: I have not been aware of your claim, but whether or not it is so, it is irrelevant to the manifest something from nothing problem manifested by Mr Dawkins. That is what is material. Also, kindly note the actual lead, Heidegger’s actual remarks that put the question on the agenda.

  21. 21
    kairosfocus says:

    FYI-FTR: The answer given to attempts to undermine moral government (and to those that — even worse — suggest that Christians must become/are vigilantes), here: https://uncommondescent.com/atheism/fyi-ftr-the-answer-given-to-attempts-to-undermine-moral-government-and-to-those-that-even-worse-suggest-that-christians-must-become-are-vigilantes/

  22. 22
    jstanley01 says:

    I’ve long wondered why perfectly competent scientists insisted on an eternal universe in the face of the physics of heat death, science that a fourth-grader or younger can grasp. In light of KF’s cogent and highly interesting analysis, if I understand it correctly, it must be because the only other possible candidate to answer “why is there something?” was God.

    Thank Nothingness for the multiverse! “Whew, that was a close one.”

  23. 23
    ET says:

    I don’t mean to be critical, but if I was writing an OP about the need for a necessary being (AKA God) I wouldn’t lead with a video debate between Dawkins and a jailed pedophile Cardinal.

    Typical cowardly response. Don’t look at Dawkins making a complete fool of himself. Look at the other guy- for what, though? According to Brian what the Cardinal did was OK- part of nature. So Brian is also a hypocrite.

  24. 24
    kairosfocus says:

    JS01,

    Strictly, the consequences of utter non-being “only” point to a necessary being world root. A quasi-physical system runs into heat death and the problem of traversal of the infinite in finite stage steps. Finitely remote world root.

    Factor in, fine tuning fitted to C-chem aqueous medium life and including rational, morally governed creatures, and we see a serious job opening. Indeed, let me clip Herrick’s opening salvos in his reply to Parsons:

    https://infidels.org/library/modern/paul_herrick/parsons.html

    Parsons rightly notes that one way to answer his argument would be to establish the existence of an explanatory gap that has the following two features: (a) advancing science cannot in principle be expected to cross the gap; (b) the gap can be closed by a suitably formulated theistic hypothesis. In other words, an answer would be an aspect of the universe that science cannot be expected to explain in principle, but that is explained by theism. This would be “a gap for God that cannot be closed by the progress of science, a domain for divine activity in the world that advancing science cannot seal off, marginalize, or supplant with naturalistic explanations.” Exactly: what is needed is an aspect of the universe that can only be explained by supposing, on the basis of an inference to the best explanation, the existence of a Creator.

    Thus, in the rest of his paper Parsons supports his fourth premise by defending it against exactly this type of challenge. More specifically, he defends it against “one of the clearest statements of the [explanatory] case for a Creator, even given the progress and promise of physical cosmology”—namely, the explanatory argument for God’s existence presented by Roy Abraham Varghese in his Introduction to the volume Cosmos, Bios, and Theos.[3] If Varghese’s argument is successful, then the crucial fourth premise of Parsons’ argument is false, and we have a well-grounded reason to suppose that God exists—a reason that even the continued progress of science cannot undermine.

    Varghese’s argument is that there is at least one explanatory gap which theism closes (in a rationally compelling way) that atheism cannot possibly close, even given the continued progress of science or a completed and comprehensive grand unified theory of physics. And that is the explanatory gulf between (a) absolute nothingness and (b) the existence of a contingent, material universe. How do you get from (a) to (b)?

    When thinking about nothing, the following is worth keeping in mind: Parsons warns that “it is essential that we not hypostasize [the concept of nothing] and turn absolute Nothing into Something…. [for example by conceiving] of absolute Nothing as a sort of ghostly, empty, precosmic matrix—like the primordial chaos of Hesiod’s Theogony—that existed prior to the Big Bang.” He continues:

    Language bewitches us here. When we say things like “before the Big Bang there was nothing,” we seem to be naming something we call “Nothing” and asserting that it existed before the universe did. This way of speaking is pernicious. It creates the misleading picture that there was this empty Something—which we call by the name of “Nothing”—which somehow mysteriously gave birth to a universe. But this is wrong. The universe did not come from “Nothing.”

    In short, by “nothing” Parsons really and seriously means nothing.[4]

    If I may amplify the point: Cosmologists have explained, in scientific terms and in precise step-by-step detail, the physical reactions and transformations that took already existing matter from a uniform soup of elementary particles dominated by radiation (during the Quark-Lepton era) to the present state of the universe containing electrons “orbiting” atomic nuclei composed of protons and neutrons (both of which are in turn composed of quarks). However, nobody has any idea how to get (through scientifically explainable steps) from a state of pure, absolute, brute nothingness to matter existing.[5]

    Notice, the pattern?

    KF

  25. 25
    kairosfocus says:

    ET, I don’t know if the inescapability of moral government of our intellectual faculties is getting through, but it should. KF

  26. 26
    kairosfocus says:

    F/N: One of the jobs for this thread is to make a record that answers to key issues. Accordingly, it is relevant to further use Herrick’s response to Parsons (at least infidels dot org has hosted a response); here, on the idea that a temporal causal succession without a beginning needs no further explanation.

    Of course, we have already pointed out the heat death and traversal of the transfinite in finite stage steps problems. However, more is needed:

    First, says Parsons, Varghese’s question, “Why does it all exist?”, is odd when asked of an eternal universe given that:

    the universe is eternal, and given, as Varghese never denies, that each state of the universe is scientifically explicable in terms of the laws of nature and the previous states of the universe…. For instance, the reason that the universe at any given time contains just so much matter or energy and no more or less is explained in terms of the preceding states of the universe and the applicable conservation laws. In such an eternally existing universe, as opposed to one with a temporal origin, there is, by definition, no inexplicable initial state, but a seamless web of explicable states . . . .

    Fleshed out, Parsons’ reasoning would seem to be as follows:

    1 If the material universe has an endless (infinite) past with no beginning, then the present state of the universe can be sufficiently explained in terms of the laws of nature and the previous state of the universe, which in turn can in principle be sufficiently explained by reference to the laws of nature and the preceding state of the universe, and so on back in time, stage by stage, explanation by explanation, without end.

    2 If so, then there is no initial state of the universe left unexplained.

    3 Since there is no first state of the universe lacking an explanation, and since in principle no intermediate state of the universe lacks an explanation, it follows that no state of the universe is in principle unexplained: no state of the universe lacks an explanation.

    4 Therefore, Varghese’s question, “Why does the eternal universe as a whole exist?” is an odd one, since nothing in the universe, no individual part of the universe, lacks an explanation.

    In short: If each individual state of the universe at each moment in time has an explanation—known or unknown—in terms of previous states of the universe, it would be odd (or logically inappropriate) to ask why the whole sum total exists.

    This rests on Hume’s classic argument, but there are subtle, telling gaps. PH therefore responds:

    I was once convinced by Hume’s argument. However, I became unconvinced after reflecting for a long time on the following counterexample proposed by philosopher William Wainwright.[10] Suppose that you want an explanation for the fact that human beings exist, and imagine that you’re offered the following account. The history of human beings forms an ordered series stretching back in time, with each human being in the series caused to exist by a pair of parents who came into existence at an earlier time in the series, with each parent in turn caused to exist by a pair of parents who came into existence at an earlier time in the series, and so on back in time forever. So the series is just one person after another, brought into existence by two previous persons, with this process going back in time forever, with no beginning at all. In other words, the history of humanity is an infinite regression: the existence of each human being A in the series is explained by reference to two prior human beings B and C in the series, and the actions of B and C brought A into existence, with B and C each explained by reference to two prior human beings, D and E—and so on down the line.)

    Now, such a series is certainly logically possible—there is no logical contradiction in the idea. And it is certainly true that, on an infinite regression hypothesis, the existence of each and every individual human being in the series in principle has an explanation, known or unknown. [–> I am not so sure, once we introduce the implied spanning of an infinite span, on finite stage steps, as well there is the physical matter of heat death] That is, each human being in the series can in principle be explained by reference to two or more previously existing human beings in the series, so that no individual human being in the series lacks an explanation (of his or her existence). It is also the case that on the infinite regression hypothesis, there is no first human being in the series, so no first step in the series lacks an explanation. Thus, to paraphrase Parsons, each human being’s existence is explicable in terms of the laws of nature and the actions of previous persons, such that there is, by hypothesis, no inexplicable first person, and there are no inexplicable intermediate persons—just a “seamless web of explicable persons.”

    Nevertheless, there are two good reasons to maintain that the existence of such an infinite series as a whole would lack an explanation even if each individual member of the series in principle has one. First, although each human being (by hypothesis) has an explanation of his or her existence in terms of previous human beings in the series, so that no individual is lacking an explanation, it does not follow, by any recognized rule of deductive or inductive logic, that the existence of the series as a whole is thereby explained. To reason from the claim that each part of the series has an explanation to the conclusion that the whole series is thereby explained commits a composition fallacy. (In general, a composition fallacy occurs when someone reasons that since each part of a whole has a property p, it follows that the whole must have property p as well. For instance, “Since each individual member of the school basketball team is a good player, the team as a whole must be a good team.”) That is the first reason.

    Second, and more importantly, it seems crystal clear, upon sustained reflection, that even if no one individual member in the series lacks an explanation, the following very general question about the series as a whole remains totally unanswered: “Why do human beings exist?” In other words, “Why does a past-eternal-series of humans as a whole exist?” Why is it not the case that no human beings ever existed? Or, to put it still another way: “Why does the inventory of all that actually exists include a (past-eternal) series of human beings?” Why not no human beings ever at all? (Note: I intend the question in a causal sense rather than a teleological one: I am asking for the cause of the series as a whole, not its purpose, end result, or telos.)

    One could also ask the more specific question: “Why does this past-eternal-series of humans as a whole exist?” Why not a different series of human beings, one with different members? Why does the inventory of all that actually exists include this (past-eternal) series of human beings, rather than some other (past-eternal) series of human beings? Now, don’t these questions remain live even if we suppose that the series is an unending infinite regression, with each member explained in terms of previous members of the series?

    It seems clear that the Hume-Parsons argument does not give us a good reason to accept the general principle that an infinite series as a whole is fully explained once we see that each individual member of the series has an individual explanation in terms of previous members of the series. Moreover, the principle is actually undermined by Wainwright’s compelling counterexample of an infinite regression of human beings. I conclude that Parsons does not show in his paper that a well-confirmed eternal universe theory would leave no question of existence unanswered.

    He then turns to the issue of a chain of temporally-causally connected contingent beings:

    When the contingent existence of A is offered as the explanatory ground for the contingently existing object B, then the existence of B is accounted for by saying that A caused B; but the contingently existing object A itself has not been given an explanation. In that case, the existence of B is not conclusively accounted for, and further explanation is called for—the existence of A needs an account . . . .

    To paraphrase BonJour’s argument: In such an explanatory chain, the explanation conferred at each step is inconclusive and provisional only, passing the explanatory buck back to previous steps in the chain on the presumption that a conclusive explanation exists somewhere else down the line. But then if the regression continues infinitely, all of the alleged explanations remain merely inconclusive and provisional: we can never say more than that the steps up to a particular stage would be completely explained if all of the others further back in the sequence are completely explained. If this is all that we can ever say in such a case—that all chains of explanation are infinite in this way, and that the only available account of contingent existence relies on explanation in terms of other contingent things—then we have the unpalatable result that contingent existence has no conclusive explanation.[12]

    So, indeed, there is a “something more” gap here.

    In effect, the quasi-physical, beyond the bang quantum foam sub-verse has been put on the table as effectively an implicit necessary being of eternal character adequate to account for our world. And such has been heavily promoted.

    But, it is inherently inadequate given heat death and temporal-causal succession of finite stages relative to a transfinite span. We are not dealing with abstracta like numbers, we have to account for energy concentration-driven temporal causal succession where the very same dynamic points to heat death in finite time, absent an actually infinite energy concentration that cannot be exhausted.

    Which last, sounds just a tad suspicious: an infinite root-source of energy and power that sustains reality. And, presumably, drives the creation of worlds within that wider reality.

    Let’s quote a certain book that those who propose such don’t like to hear from:

    Ac 17: 24 The God who created the world and everything in it, since He is Lord of heaven and earth, does not dwell in temples made with hands; 25 nor is He [e]served by human hands, as though He needed anything, because it is He who gives to all [people] life and breath and all things. . . . 28 For in Him we live and move and exist [that is, in Him we actually have our being] . . .

    Rom 1: 20 For ever since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through His workmanship [all His creation, the wonderful things that He has made], so that they [who fail to believe and trust in Him] are without excuse and without defense . . .

    Heb 1:2 . . . through [the Logos/Son, God] created the universe [that is, the universe as a space-time-matter continuum]. 3 The Son is the radiance and only expression of the glory of [our awesome] God [reflecting God’s [a]Shekinah glory, the Light-being, the brilliant light of the divine] . . . upholding and maintaining and propelling all things [the entire physical and spiritual universe] by His powerful word [carrying the universe along to its predetermined goal]. [AMP]

    As in, methinks the old divines [= theologians and writers] would have just cause to point to a suspicious parallel.

    KF

  27. 27
    kairosfocus says:

    PS: Don’t overlook the dog that will not bark. Notice, not one has been able to challenge the point that no-thing, properly is non-being. Further, while someone dismissively sneered at ” you cannot get something from nothing,” therre was silence when it was pointed out that that is not an arbitrary assumption but a conclusion. Nothing is non-being, and non-being has no causal powers [there is nothing there to cause anything to be or to happen!]. Were there ever utter non-being, i.e. no reality, such would forever obtain. So, as a world manifestly is, something always was, the world root reality. Which is patently an independent being, i.e. a necessary being. Which is distinct from the particular independent being we have in hand is God. God, here, is a candidate. Mix in a fine tuned world and responsible, rational, free, morally governed creatures and you need a NB that is inherently good, utterly wise and capable of being the creative source of a cosmos.

  28. 28
    Pater Kimbridge says:

    “Why is there something rather than nothing?”
    That’s the dumbest question humans have asked.
    It presupposes that “nothing” is the default state, and that “something” requires explanation.
    “Nothing” is actually the harder state to achieve. If you don’t believe me, go ahead and try to achieve it.

  29. 29
    ET says:

    Pater Kimbridge:

    It presupposes that “nothing” is the default state, and that “something” requires explanation.

    It presupposes there are those two states and “something” does require an explanation. Everything that exists requires an explanation.

    “Nothing” is actually the harder state to achieve. If you don’t believe me, go ahead and try to achieve it.

    THAT is just plain dumb. You cannot achieve nothingness in a universe of “something”.

    But I digress- evolutionism, ie the claim that life’s diversity owes its existence to blind and mindless processes, has achieved nothing. 😛

  30. 30
    kairosfocus says:

    PK,

    actually, the point is that given a going concern world with rational, responsible, morally governed creatures in it, there is a very plausible assumption, the weak form PSR:

    [PSR, weak (investigatory) form:] Of any particular thing A that is

    [. . . or (ii) is possible, or even (iii) is impossible],

    we may ask, why it is

    [. . . or (ii’) why it is possible, or (iii’) why it is impossible],

    and we may expect — or at least hope — to find a reasonable answer.

    That’s one jaw of our pincers.

    The second, being the logic of being that fits well with it (cf. OP).

    We can then get a solid grip on things.

    Here, the subject of inquiry is one that Heidegger saw as big and insightful — and note this is the title and lead of the OP:

    To philosophize is to ask “Why are there essents rather than nothing?” Really to ask this question signifies: a daring attempt to fathom this unfathomable question by disclosing what it summons us to ask, to push our questioning to the very end. Where such an attempt occurs there is philosophy. [ M. Heidegger, An Introduction to Metaphysics, Yale University Press, New Haven and London (1959), pp. 7-8.]

    Whose report do you think we should believe, yours or one of the greats, Heidegger?

    On exploring, first we see that nothing is no-thing, non-being. Were there ever utter nothing, we would have no reality whatsoever, so we can now contemplate an alternative to what we experience. That is already a very powerful result of pure reflection on being.

    But then also we see, non-being can have no causal capabilities.

    So, if there were ever utter non-being, such would always be the case. That is, that a world is, implies that something has always been there, which we can term a root of reality.

    Another very powerful result.

    Further to this, that root taken as a whole is credibly an independent or necessary being. NB’s, being present as part of the framework for any possible or actual world, and being independent of external enabling causal factors, A simple case is the number 2.

    Another very powerful result, we see that there is a root for any possible or actual world with causal capacity to account for it.

    Going on, our world has in it morally governed, rational (not merely computational) creatures, us. That further constrains the root of reality. We are credibly requiring an inherently good and utterly wise NB as root of reality, to account for moral government as that is where the IS-OUGHT gap can be bridged (hence, BTW, the sort of resistance above). Such starts with government of our rationality through duties to truth, right reason, prudence, justice etc. Indeed, these govern our exchanges in this thread.

    So, another powerful result, one that shifts the balance decisively against those who would suggest that moral government is delusional, and/or that it does not trace to a being that fills the required bill.

    Not bad for a stupid or dumb question.

    KF

  31. 31
    kairosfocus says:

    PS: Another aspect of NB’s is that they are mirror images of things impossible of being (IoB). Something is IoB when it cannot be, on pain of contradiction, here, core characteristics are implicated such as we find for a supposed square circle. NB’s, i/l/o circumstances are such that they must be, on pain of contradiction. It is at least worth the while to ponder that, absent a world-root NB –RNB, no world, i.e. utter non-being (UNB), no reality. The manifest presence of reality involving thinking, rational creatures then shows a global contradiction on suggested absence: a world, but UNB –> UNB . . . So, necessarily, a world is entails RNB: W –> RNB. That is, on the existence of thinking reality (undeniable: if deny, WHO is denying), N: W –> RNB and ~ UNB. The inescapable moral government of thinking reality then leads to the RNB being adequate to sustain such government. Since at least 360 BC in Plato’s The Laws Bk X, it has been known that evolutionary materialism is incapable of grounding such. A serious challenge to the institutionally dominant de facto anti-church of our time.

  32. 32
    kairosfocus says:

    F/N: Let’s continue looking at PH’s response to KP:

    Parsons’ second deflationary argument attempts to support a stronger claim, that the theist’s question (“Why does the series of things as a whole exist?”) is worse than odd: it is logically illegitimate, and therefore should not even be asked in the first place. First, argues Parsons, the theist’s question with respect to an eternal universe model breaks down into two distinct subquestions:

    (a) Why is there something (instead of nothing)?

    (b) Why this eternally existing universe (rather than some other)?

    The problem is that:

    [I]t is hard to see what motivates these questions. What is the further mystery we are trying to address when we keep asking why at this point? Why should it surprise us that there is a universe? Why should it surprise us that there is this universe?

    Parsons is claiming here that there is no reason at all why the existence of the universe should surprise or puzzle us, and consequently there is no need to look for a cause of the material universe as a whole, an explanation that would be deeper than anything a well-confirmed and completed physics could provide.

    Of course, as Parsons recognizes, the question of existence remains open for the theist, even in the face of an eternal universe hypothesis, because “there … conceivably could … have been nothing at all.” For the philosophical theist, it is the conceptual possibility of absolute nothingness that logically grounds the question, “Why is there anything at all?” Likewise, says Parsons, the question, “Why this universe rather than another?” remains for the theist because “there … conceivably could … have been … all sorts of other universes … instead of ours.” In other words, since we can coherently conceive of alternative possible worlds with different configurations of matter, different laws of nature, and even different types of matter, we are justified in asking the question: “Why does this universe (rather than another) exist?”

    Parsons’ response to the theist on these two arguments is interesting and, as far as I know, original:

    Of course, we can imagine that there might (i.e., conceivably could) have been nothing at all or that all sorts of other universes might have existed instead of ours, but this need not create any mystery. There are always innumerable imaginable possibilities whose failure to be realized creates no mystery at all. The moon could conceivably have been made of cheese, but it is no mystery that it isn’t. In general, it is no mystery why something does not exist unless, given our background knowledge, its existence was expected, or at least no more unexpected than what does exist. Nothing in our knowledge base supports the slightest expectation that the moon would be made of cheese. Nor do we have any basis for thinking that some other (ex hypothesi eternal) universe should have existed all along instead of ours. Therefore, it is hard to see how asking “Why doesn’t some other universe exist?” is very different from asking “Why don’t we have a moon made out of cheese?”

    9.1 The “Principle of Parsony”

    Parsons’ wording suggests the following principle of explanation, which I shall name the principle of Parsony:

    In general, the nonexistence of X is no mystery unless, given general background knowledge, its existence is either expected or is no more unexpected than what does exist (i.e., its existence is at least as expected as that which does exist).

    Now, since we have no rational basis for expecting the moon to have been made of green cheese, the principle of Parsony accounts nicely for the fact that the nonexistence of a cheese-moon is no mystery at all and needs no explanation.

    PH counters, first:

    But is the principle of Parsony true, or even plausible? Why should we accept it? What is the reason for thinking it true? Is there a noncircular, independent argument for it? Does the principle reflect our actual explanatory practices? First off, the principle of Parsony is certainly not necessarily true: its denial is not a contradiction or an impossibility. Neither is it self-evident. So it stands in need of substantiation or justification. Thus it is curious that Parsons offers no philosophical argument for it at all. But aside from this, the principle of Parsony simply does not match standard philosophical or scientific explanatory practices. Consider the four following counterexamples.

    One day in the physics lab, Susan, an undergraduate, overhears some grad students talking about the charm quark, c, and the fact that it has a 2/3 charge. Knowing nothing about quarks except that they are particles inside protons and neutrons, she asks: “Why does the charm quark have a 2/3 charge (rather than no charge at all, or rather than some other charge)?” Common sense suggests that Susan’s question is a perfectly reasonable one, even if (to paraphrase Parsons) nothing in her knowledge base supports the slightest quantitative expectation that the charge of the charm quark would be some other number, or that it would have no charge at all—and even if she has no background reason to expect that some other charge is “no more unexpected than” the actual 2/3 charge. In other words, it seems to me that Susan’s question is legitimate without the basis of expectations required by the principle of Parsony. . . . .

    Imagine Thales sitting on the dock at Miletus pondering the problem of the one and the many, the first distinctively philosophical question on record. Nothing in his experience justified a quantitative expectation of the sort required by Parsons that there would, or would not, exist one ultimate unity behind the apparent plurality of things. Yet he asked the question, and he gave an argument for the conclusion that he reached—the first distinctively philosophical argument ever recorded. Good question, but no Parsonian basis of expectations.

    In a class on medieval philosophy, a student learns that in approximately 1248 Thomas Aquinas walked from Italy to Paris to study under Albert the Great at the University of Paris. (When Aquinas arrived, Albert had already moved to a university in Germany, so Thomas walked all the way to Cologne to start his graduate work.) Without knowing how often people walked in those days, rather than rode a horse or donkey, and thus without any basis for making the required Parsonian estimates of probability, the student nevertheless asks: Why did he walk to Paris (rather than ride an animal, and rather than stay home)?

    In these and other realistic cases of explanatory practice, the underlying explanatory principle is not the principle of Parsony (POP), but instead seems to be what I shall name the daring inquiry principle (DIP):

    When confronted with the existence of some unexplained phenomenon X, it is reasonable to seek an explanation for X if we can coherently conceive of a state of affairs in which it would not be the case that X exists.

    Reflection on my proposed counterexamples supports, I submit, DIP over POP. In addition (and I believe this is a significant point), I submit that if anyone will reflect on the nature of intellectual history, it is DIP rather than POP that has driven a great deal of human intellectual inquiry over the past several thousand years, not just in philosophy, but in every field of academic thought. When you look back at the historic leaps of intellectual inquiry, DIP has been the driver, not POP.

    So why suppose the principle of Parsony is true? At least in Parsons’ paper, the principle is nothing more than an assertion.

    PH continues (well worth reading) but I find a short, more direct response is also interesting.

    I would suggest, that the “given background knowledge” approach loads in a lot, likely in part taken as brute givens or facts that one needs not inquire into. To which, the natural question is, why such a strange circumstance?

    Especially, as it seems to short-circuit the RIGHT of inquiry, the weak-form, investigatory PSR. That, frankly suggests an attempt to lock in a currently dominant worldview, evolutionary materialistic scientism. Furthermore, it is enough motivation to ask why not a conceivable and seemingly significant or at least potentially intellectually fruitful alternative. Particularly, given that the logic of being is already on the table with the possible worlds semantics.

    So, the very fact that we have dared to ask and investigate, yielding powerfully suggestive results speaks for itself.

    In that light, I ask in reply, why, then NOT ask, why is there something, rather than utter non-being?

    Is not potentially fruitful inquiry its own justification?

    KF

  33. 33
    kairosfocus says:

    F/N: Why has there been such a sharply dismissive reaction to the Heidegger question: why is there something, instead of nothing? I am particularly stirred by this, as we just saw how using the utterly uncontroversial principle of a right to investigate why and the logic of being framework yields some fairly interesting results.

    I suspect, frankly, that that is the problem. The results do not sit easily with evolutionary materialistic scientism, and those conditioned by that frame of thought may well perceive this as not well aligned with what — with strong “guild” support — they perceive as confidently known reality. So, it is puzzling or even frustrating.

    Perhaps, then, such should re-consider: could there be some fatal cracks in the evolutionary materialism framework, to begin with? Such as, self-falsifying self-referential incoherence as summarised by say Haldane?

    “It seems to me immensely unlikely that mind is a mere by-product of matter. For if my mental processes are determined wholly by the motions of atoms in my brain I have no reason to suppose that my beliefs are true. They may be sound chemically, but that does not make them sound logically. And hence I have no reason for supposing my brain to be composed of atoms. In order to escape from this necessity of sawing away the branch on which I am sitting, so to speak, I am compelled to believe that mind is not wholly conditioned by matter.” [“When I am dead,” in Possible Worlds: And Other Essays [1927], Chatto and Windus: London, 1932, reprint, p.209. (NB: DI Fellow, Nancy Pearcey brings this right up to date (HT: ENV) in a current book, Finding Truth.)]

    Next, the weak form, investigatory PSR is undeniably valid: when we meet some entity or hear of something like a unicorn that is not but seems possible or a square circle as an example of what cannot be, we can simply take boldness in hand and ask, why. To help with this why, we can consider sufficiently complete descriptions of possible or even actual states of affairs and the concept that candidate entities C may be in one or more or may never be in any such possible world W. Also, that some C’s may be in some but not all W’s or that some may be in all. Compare OP tabulation, we have possible vs impossible beings and contingent vs necessary beings. Of course, we may not figure out a given case, but that is different from trying.

    Others suggest brute givens or facts: inexplicables that just are so or are not and oppose that to stronger forms of a PSR that declare that any C that exists has a sufficient reason to exist. From my view, the weaker form sets up that if something is possible of being there is already a basic reason: its core characteristics are compossible and consistent with the plausible feasibility of a world W containing C, e.g. per genetic engineering within 100 years we should see unicorns. For sure, there is a potential market. Likewise, we see on distinct identity of a world, it must have a structure that warrants the panoply of numbers etc. Numbers are necessary, world framework beings — which is a clue to the astonishing power of Mathematics. (And yes, that is actually a start-point and anchor for my thinking, following Wigner’s astonishment.)

    So, it seems we have a cracked foundation for the institutionally preferred naturalistic approach, even before we look at alternatives. Likewise, the two jaws of the pincer look good and seem to work.

    So, shouldn’t we be at least willing to consider the sort of answer they seem to have grabbed a hold of?

    Where, no, this is no “god of the ever shrinking gaps” argument.

    KF

  34. 34
    kairosfocus says:

    PS: PH continues his response to KP, taking up the PSR and Mackie’s argument:

    Parsons considers PSR, but only to repudiate it on the grounds already given by J. L. Mackie in his own critique of theism, The Miracle of Theism. In Mackie’s words, “[t]he principle of sufficient reason expresses a demand that things should be intelligible through and through…. [but] nothing justifies this demand and nothing supports the belief that it is satisfiable even in principle.”[16]

    But there is more. In a passage quoted by Parsons, Mackie argues for a much more radical (and potentially devastating) conclusion, namely: not only have theists provided no adequate justification for PSR, and not only have they not shown that it can, at least in principle, be satisfied, but PSR necessarily cannot be satisfied. If Mackie is right about this, then PSR is not merely unjustified, and it is not merely false; it is necessarily false. Mackie’s famous argument goes approximately as follows:

    1 It is a conceptual truth about explanation that every explanation contains an explanans considered brute for the purposes of the explanation, which is then employed to explain or account for the explanandum.
    2 Even if the explanans of one explanation is in turn explained by a deeper explanation (such that the explanans of the first explanation becomes the explanandum of the deeper explanation), the deeper explanation in turn will also start with an explanans considered brute for present purposes, which will in turn become the explanandum of a still deeper explanation, and so on back and back.
    3 It follows that no matter how far back our actual working explanations take us, the explanans furthest back must always be brutely factual (since being furthest back it is not explained in terms of a previous explanation).
    4 Thus, it is simply not possible that all things ever be explained through and through, leaving no brute facts whatsoever.
    5 Hence PSR cannot be satisfied.
    6 Therefore PSR cannot be true, it is necessarily false.

    [–> in effect, an appeal to infinite regress and characterisation of first plausibles as unexplained brute givens]

    Mackie quickly adds: “But there is no need to see this as unsatisfactory.”

    If Mackie is right, it is a conceptual truth about explanation that every explanation contains a part considered brute for the purposes of the explanation. This entails that every explanation must leave brute facts in its wake. Parsons concludes from this the ultimately inevitable bruteness of existence: brute facts must collect and remain forever unresolved at the base of any explanatory chain, like coffee grounds permanently caught in the drain trap of a sink. No escape from brute contingency will ever be possible, and the theistic hope for a conclusive explanation of the whole of reality is necessarily a vain hope.

    After quoting (and endorsing) Mackie’s argument, Parsons makes a telling comment:

    If we repudiate the PSR, then we will no longer automatically infer that the fact that something lacks an explanation means that it requires one. It might well be entirely reasonable for some logically contingent things just to be and to have no reason for their existence (my emphasis).

    The upshot: If Mackie’s argument is sound, brute (unexplained) facts will always be with us; they are an unavoidable facet of our contingent existence, an unconquerable mountain standing in the way of our explanatory powers.

    But is that the end of the story?

    One obvious point is that world-models are not unique and are not simply a linear regress. The principle of comparative difficulties across alternative worldviews then allows us to avoid imposition of a dominant view on excuse of inevitability of brute givens. That’s probably part of why you are uncomfortable already.

    PH responds, raising an extension of the self-evident truth principle, the self-explanatory explainer:

    Every explanation in science clearly contains an explanans that is brute for the purpose of the explanation. (And that means that science alone will never answer all questions of existence.) But it is not at all obvious or self-evident that this is true of all explanations, such as philosophical ones. Thus an argument is needed for the universal claim.[17]

    Consider one way in which the universal claim that all explanations must leave something completely brute in their wake might be false. Suppose there were an existentially self-subsuming explainer—an explainer of existences whose own explanatory field curves around to account for its own existence (and other existents explained in the explanandum). In that case, the hypothesized existence of the existentially self-subsuming explainer could serve as the explanation for the existence of a whole realm of things without leaving its own existence brute (and thus without leaving any irreducibly brute facts of existence in its wake). This idea may be summed up by saying that such an explainer would be a “self-explaining explainer.”

    We are considering a self-explaining explainer of existence only as a theoretical possibility at this point. I am not claiming that there is such a thing. My point is that such an explainer, although unlike anything ever encountered in physical or natural science, would be a counterexample to Mackie’s assertion—unbacked by argument—that all explanation leaves behind something brute in its wake. Wouldn’t it?

    Since nothing Mackie says rules out the theoretical possibility of an existentially self-explaining explainer, and since the concept is not on its face self-contradictory, it would seem to behoove the honest seeker of ultimate explanation to ask: Is such an explanation possible—an explanation of existence in terms of a self-explaining explainer, an explainer whose explanatory field leaves no purely brute existential facts in its wake?

    Of course, this is in part pointing to a necessary being world-root. Such an entity fits into a plausibly exhaustive framework, as a necessary being that is part of the framework for a world to exist, as an answer to adequate cause of a world with contingent entities, and as something which must be on pain of existential incoherence.

    That then leads to the question of a candidate, given that some contingent creatures in the world are rational (not merely computational) and are morally governed.

    We are back at the power of the issue on the table, why something rather than utter non-being.

    So, unsurprisingly, PH continues:

    There is a rather obvious candidate for self-subsuming explanation, namely, the type of explanation actually referred to in passing by Parsons himself:

    Clearly, the PSR entails that if the chain of sufficient reasons is not to extend ad infinitum, then all contingencies must ultimately be grounded in something that is, in some sense, necessary.

    I appreciate that Parsons at least mentions in passing the explanatory strategy of grounding the contingent in that which is necessary. Such “necessity grounded explanation” actually has a long and venerable provenance in the history of both philosophy and mathematics. I only wish he would have pursued the idea a little, for the trail does not grow cold. Rather, I shall argue, reasoning about it naturally leads to a fascinating and rationally satisfying solution to the ultimate problem of existence—a self-explaining explainer that logically entails philosophical theism. The investigation of self-subsuming explanation thus ends naturally in an explanatory argument for God’s existence.

    Food for thought.

    Notice, especially, how logic of being issues naturally emerge as pivotal.

    Hence, why it is ever more curious why this focus — ontology — is so unfamiliar to us.

  35. 35
    kairosfocus says:

    And yes, all of this seems to be truly fundamental for comparative difficulties and so is well worth thinking about on record here at UD.

  36. 36
    kairosfocus says:

    PPS: Notice, how PH then goes to necessary vs contingent entities, here, propositions describing states of affairs:

    A proper understanding of explanatory self-subsumption must begin with the distinction, central to logical theory, between that which is necessary and that which is merely contingent.[18]

    The ancient Greek philosophers were the first to give philosophical expression to this distinction—probably first drawn in an alethic context (with respect to truth and falsity). After philosophical reflection on the nature of mathematical proof, it seems likely that someone noticed a radical difference between the way in which a pure mathematical truth (such as the Pythagorean theorem) is true, and the way in which something mundane like “Thales has a beard” is true.

    The Pythagorean theorem is not only true, it is so rock-solidly true that it cannot even possibly be false; its denial is not even consistently conceivable or describable. Its truth is intrinsic, unloseable, essential. In ordinary language, if something cannot possibly be otherwise, we say that it is “necessary.” The word necessary means “cannot be otherwise.” Thus it was natural to call the Pythagorean theorem a “necessary” truth.

    Pythagorean theorem is a theorem of Euclidean (noncurved) geometry. It states that on a right triangle in a noncurved space, the square of the hypotenuse is always equal to the sum of the squares of the two other sides, where the hypotenuse is the side opposite the right angle.

    [–> Notice, how he extends the classical statement]

    By contrast, the proposition that Thales has a beard, though true, could have been false. There are consistently conceivable or describable circumstances in which it would have been false that he had a beard (for instance, if he had previously shaved it off). Thus, there are possible circumstances in which the proposition is true, and possible circumstances in which it is false; the truth or falsity of “Thales has a beard” is therefore dependent on which external circumstances happen to obtain. The proposition that Thales has a beard is thus neither intrinsically true to its core, nor intrinsically false to its core; it is neither true nor false essentially, or in its own right. You might say that it is a logical “flip-flopper,” capable of being either true or false depending on circumstances. It is therefore appropriate to call such a proposition contingently true, since in ordinary language “contingent” means “dependent.”

    Thus, in logical theory we say that a proposition is necessarily true if and only if it is true in all possible circumstances, and thus false in absolutely none. A necessary truth like Pythagorean theorem is therefore steadfast across all possible circumstances. One might say that it is so rock-bottomly true that it cannot even possibly not be true. It is intrinsically true, essentially true, if you will; true in its own right and not on account of something external that made it true. This is truth independent of all circumstance.

    A proposition is contingently true if and only if it is true in some possible circumstances and false in others; thus its truth is dependent on which circumstances obtain and which do not. It is made true (or false) by external circumstances.

    We are already seeing the concept of possible worlds, with necessary and contingent vs impossible states of affairs. So, no, it’s not just KF’s idiosyncratic musings standing on a soapbox in some corner at Hyde Park, this is a longstanding and powerful issue. Indeed, we may recall, it has been entrenched in the apparatus of modal logic.

  37. 37
    kairosfocus says:

    PPPS: Let’s take another bite, the issue of contingent being, as PH continues. Yes, we need to hammer home:

    It is not that much of a leap from a recognition of two modes of truth—the contingent and the necessary—to the thought that there might be two corresponding modes of existence or being as well. Here is one way into the distinction. Begin with the existence of any ordinary thing around you, for instance: a rock, a tree, a lake, a mountain, a planet, a bird, a fellow human being, or even a molecule, an atom, or a subatomic particle such as a quark. Next, think about the many conditions that are required if that thing is to remain in existence. For example, suppose you are thinking of a human being. Certainly oxygen, food, water, and temperatures within a certain range are required if a human being is to remain in existence. Suppose that you picked a lake. Surely a lake depends for its existence on numerous geological preconditions, and so on.

    Now think about the many conditions that would end the existence of the item you picked. For example, all human life would end if oxygen ceased to exist, all lakes would dry up if the temperature did not stay within certain limits, and so on. Even an ordinary atom or molecule will go out of existence under certain circumstances, and the typical subatomic particle is toast if it encounters its antiparticle. The existence of each of the ordinary material things around us is constantly threatened at every moment by various external circumstances, any one of which could end its existence at any time.

    Next consider beginnings of existence. Conditions must be just right if any one of these ordinary things is to even come into existence. A lake won’t even form unless the temperature is above a certain minimum. A human baby won’t be born if food, water, and oxygen are not first available for the mother. An island won’t pop up unless certain necessary geologic preconditions are just right. And so on.

    So you could say that, for ourselves and for the ordinary material things around us, existence hangs by a thread. Existence is for us a precarious, insecure affair, constantly under the threat of nonbeing. This is truly “existence on the edge.” For this reason, the adjective contingent (signifying dependency) is certainly an appropriate one for the type of existence we share with the ordinary material or physical things around us—a type of existence that is radically dependent on external conditions from start to finish, and at every turn.

    Thus we get the strict definition of a contingent entity or being: there are possible circumstances in which it would exist, and possible circumstances in which it would not exist. To which it is seems logical to add: If certain conditions had not first existed, then it would never have come into existence; and if certain conditions fail to obtain, its existence is toast, snuffed out like a candle in the rain.

    Equally then, we may fruitfully contemplate a candidate entity C that is not dependent on antecedent on/off enabling factors: if possible, such a C would always be present in any possible world. That is, it is naturally understood — explained — as part of what makes worlds feasible. It is part of the world framework.

    That’s what a necessary being is.

    And in that context, we may contemplate such a candidate R that has in it adequate causal capacity to be the source of any actualised world. We may even consider such a candidate world root as able to contemplate all possible worlds and to give effect to such as it chooses. We see here a maximally knowing and capable candidate being.

    Where, as it is obviously possible to have rational, morally governed creatures in some possible worlds, we may contemplate R as having also capacity to ground morality, requiring inherent goodness and utter wisdom.

    Yes, we are finding the outlines of a very familiar candidate necessary world root being emerge from the morning mists.

  38. 38
    kairosfocus says:

    F/N: Likely, some would pose, what causes such a world-root entity? Such, however reflects unfamiliarity with distinct modes of being and non being.

    Cause and/or absence of such is indeed relevant to the case of a contingent being such as a fire. But that does not exhaust all ways of being, e.g. we have seen how two-ness and the panoply of numbers are inherent to any distinct possible world. That is, we start from a going concern world and recognise that various distinct possible states of affairs might or do obtain, and from this see that the mere possibility of a distinct state implies the presence of numbers in such a world. Thus numbers are necessarily present in any actualised world.

    A big result, including that numbers neither began nor can they cease, they are framework to there being a world. Such are necessary not contingent beings. Their explanation is that they are inherent to the framework of any possible world. Where — as the OP points out (and the discussion above) — utter non-being has no causal powers so were there ever utter nothing, that would forever obtain. As a world is, something necessarily always was. The issue is which candidate, not whether such is so. And, such a root of reality, as independent, is a necessary being. It cannot not-be, here on pain of, there would be no world, when manifestly there is.

    Where, too, unfamiliarity does not imply lack of explanation. Our education has robbed us of familiarity with logic of being and the necessity of say numbers, but that can be remedied. The sense of strangeness will then evaporate. Providing, one trusts the power of logic — not a given in today’s world, sadly.

    But actualisation of a world itself calls for an independent root of being with adequate capability, i.e. we see here another type of necessary being that is indeed framework to any world but also has ability to be the root and source from which any actual worlds spring. Including our own. (Recall, NB’s are automatically present in ANY possible or actual world by virtue of being aspects of its framework. As that includes numbers, we are talking of infinitely many such entities, indeed uncountably infinitely many as we may see from number theory.)

    So, again, the issue is not what causes such a NB, but which candidate is successful. Where, for that, the further undeniable facts of our rationality (beyond mere computation) and our moral government — starting with duties to truth, right reason, prudence, sound conscience, justice etc — are part of what is to be explained. Where, BTW, attempts to deny such duties are self-undermining as all arguments implicitly appeal to such duties.

    Post Hume, as long since seen, such a bridging of IS and OUGHT (another big issue that many evolutionary materialism advocates, tellingly, find irritating) can only be done at world-root, thus must be an integral aspect of the nature of the reality-source. The prime reality, then, is inherently good and utterly wise as part of necessity of being. Which begins to take a familiar shape.

    So, we can come to see that what causes such prime reality is a mis-directed question. Indeed, prime reality ultimately causes whatever has been caused to exist as a world. Starting from a going concern world as rational, morally governed, inquiring creatures, we find that we need such a prime reality. So, it should not be a surprise that that has been discussed immemorial.

    KF

  39. 39
    kairosfocus says:

    F/N: In answering Richard Carrier, Paul Herrick actually put a modal, cosmological, inference to prime reality as best explanation argument on the table. Note, first, contrasted clips:

    https://infidels.org/library/modern/paul_herrick/contra.html

    No necessary being can explain existence; contingency is not an illusion, an appearance which can be dissipated; it is absolute; and consequently perfectly gratuitous. Everything is gratuitous, that park, this town, and myself. When you realize that, it turns your stomach over and everything starts floating about.
    — John-Paul Sartre, Nausea (1938), p. 188

    That there is a contingent being actually existing has to be discovered by experience, and the proposition that there is a contingent being is certainly not an analytic proposition, though once you know, I should maintain, that there is a contingent being, it follows of necessity that there is a necessary being.
    — Father Joseph Copleston, debate with Bertrand Russell, BBC Radio (1948)

    Of course, we are back at necessity vs contingency of being. An easy way to see this is to start with necessary truths, truths such as 2 + 3 = 5 that must obtain in any possible world. Where, the simplest, most powerful, best warranted understanding of truth is that it is the accurate description of reality. That is, per Aristotle in Metaphysics 1011b, truth says of what is that it is; and of what is not that it is not. The is-ness implies being, whether concrete or tangible or abstract. And yes, I am openly accepting numbers as real albeit abstract entities that are embedded in worlds or contemplated by rational minds. Computational substrates simply manipulate the former, they are by no means actually freely rational.

    With that under our belt, let’s see PH’s skeletal argument:

    . . . whether or not the latest inflationary Big Bang model is the correct account of the birth of the universe, the mere fact that this model appears to be logically coherent is sufficient to ground the claim that matter is contingent. Since (a) the current model is a coherent scientific theory which posits that matter had a beginning in time, and thus (b) it is reasonable to suppose that it is at least possible that matter had a beginning in time, (c) it is therefore reasonable to suppose that matter is contingent–for anything that could have come into existence in time is contingent . . . .

    By the modal grounding principle, it just won’t do to explain one part of the material universe in terms of some more fundamental material part. For that would only explain the contingent in terms of the contingent, leaving the explanatory regress at rock bottom poised precariously upon a mere contingency–and thus ultimately ungrounded and rationally incomplete. To stop with the contingent is to stop thinking too soon. Only if the regress terminates in a metaphysically necessary ground of being can it reach a rationally acceptable end.

    Incidentally, since a purely scientific explanation must always refer to or invoke only entities and laws that are part of the material universe, i.e., objects that exist within the whole, it follows that any scientific explanation merely explains one contingent part of the material universe in terms of another contingent part. Thus, it follows (by the modal grounding principle) that no purely scientific explanation can ever end the cosmological explanatory regress in a rationally acceptable way. In other words, from a philosophical view, and supposing the modal grounding principle, a purely scientific explanation of the universe “stops too soon.”

    Given this, it looks like the only rationally acceptable end to the cosmological regress, and thus the only rationally acceptable explanation for the existence of the contingent universe, would be a metaphysically necessary ground of being. Thus a theistic IBE:

    1 A vast contingent universe exists.
    2 The only rationally acceptable explanation for the existence of this enormous entity or collection of entities is theism, i.e., the claim that a metaphysically necessary ground of being exists and is responsible for the existence of the universe. (Following Ockham’s razor, we postulate the bare minimum needed to explain the phenomenon, which in this case means positing just one necessary being; to posit any larger number would be to invoke unnecessary explanatory entities.)
    3 Therefore, it is reasonable to suppose that a necessary being exists and is responsible for the existence of the universe.

    I interpret this as a modal cosmological argument. Of course, strictly speaking, a further argument is needed if one is constructing a philosophical case for theism, namely, an argument attributing characteristics of divinity to the necessary being and thus showing why this is a theistic argument. For example, after he concludes his famous Five Ways, Aquinas goes on to give a separate argument for the conclusion that the First Mover must have the characteristics traditionally ascribed to God.

    Thus, after presenting a modal cosmological argument, a philosophical theist needs to argue further that (a) the necessary being must, insofar as it is necessary, have an existence apart from the material universe since (b) the universe is contingent, not necessary. And an argument would also be wanted for the claim that the necessary being is personal in the sense of possessing knowledge, reason, and a will. With such secondary arguments added, the theist, it seems to me, has a strong philosophical case.

    Of course, for every philosophical argument, questions arise, along with objections and counterarguments. (This statement may be the only exceptionless yet true and nontrivial generalization concerning the philosophical enterprise!)

    He goes on to discuss the grounding principle:

    Suppose a philosophical regress ends in something contingent, call it C. By its very nature, C has the possibility of nonexistence; that is, among the set of all logically possible states of affairs, there is the possibility that C does not exist. (Following Plantinga, I mean possibility in the broadest sense.) For if there was no possibility of C’s nonexistence, then C would be necessary, not contingent.

    But the possibility of C’s nonexistence logically grounds the question “Why does C exist?” And if C is contingent, the explanation of C’s existence will refer to external circumstances or entities that caused C to exist. (Thus, if someone asks why that large tree over there exists, the explanation will refer to a seed that took root some 50 years ago, and if someone asks why that seed existed, the explanation will refer to a tree that existed before it, and so on.) The explanation of C cannot be completely internal to C; otherwise, C would be ontologically independent and thus necessary, not contingent.

    If a philosophical regress bottoms out in something purely contingent, then live questions pertaining to existence at the bottom level of being will remain unanswered (since the final step in the regress will, by its intrinsic nature, raise questions that could only be answered by appeal to a deeper level). Thus, no purely contingent entity can ever serve as an adequate “regress brake” or rationally acceptable final explanation.

    Cutting to the chase scene, contingent chains must rest on necessity if they are to be satisfactory. As we saw above, that obtains even for a presumed transfinite chain. And, transfinite succession of stages is itself dubious.

    So, we are looking at the credible necessity of a causally adequate world root.

    KF

    PS: Objections, later.

  40. 40
    kairosfocus says:

    F/N: Let’s see:

    in response to an argument from design, Carrier writes:

    But there is a third option that Mr. Walker omits, for intelligent creation is not the only possible cause for order. The universe may be a necessary thing–that is, it was not produced by chance or design, but could not have not existed, and could not have been any different than it is.

    In other words, in place of the theist’s necessary being (God), Carrier would simply posit that the material universe is itself the necessary being.

    This is problematic on several levels, but immediately shows that Carrier realises the need for a necessary being world root. PH comments:

    First, it is completely ad hoc: There is absolutely nothing about the material universe that seems in the least bit metaphysically necessary, and Carrier offers no independent, positive, theoretical reason to support positing the necessity of the universe. Absent an independent reason for attributing necessity to the cosmos, the hypothesis of a necessary universe is for Carrier nothing more than a way to avoid an unwanted (theistic) conclusion.

    Second, there are strong theoretical reasons to suppose that the necessary being at the end of the cosmological explanatory regress, if such a being were to exist, would have to be metaphysically simple, i.e., noncomposite. For instance, it would seem that any composite being depends for its existence on its parts, or on the condition that its parts stay together, which would make it contingent rather than necessary.

    Moreover, any composite being, by its intrinsic nature, inevitably raises further questions. How did its parts come together? Why those parts and not others? Why that many parts and not some other number? What holds the parts together? That the above questions logically arise in the case of any composite entity suggests that nothing composite can serve as a rationally satisfying regress stopper. Therefore, since the physical universe is composed of something like 10^56 protons and like numbers of electrons, photons, and other subatomic particles, and since the whole system is governed by an enormously complex set of mathematical laws of nature, the material universe hardly has the look of a metaphysical simple. Thus there are strong philosophical reasons, independent of theism, to suppose that the material universe is not itself a necessary being.

    Furthermore, there are scientific reasons to suppose that the physical universe is contingent. As I have already observed, current cosmology tells us that the physical universe began to exist a finite time ago.

    Of course, the sub-verse with fluctuations is a way to try to get around a beginning, and to allow for contingency in this particular sub-cosmos. Empirical warrant, nil. Likewise, heat death and transfinite traverse. The Boltzmann brain as far more likely fluctuation, and more. Yes, too, there is a contrived air about such speculations.

    PH reports another, from a reviewer:

    The reviewer’s objection is not only very powerful, but also very penetrating, cutting to the heart of the matter while opening up new philosophical issues that are interesting and illuminating in their own right. I shall slightly paraphrase the reviewer’s argument as follows.

    The modal grounding principle is essential to this paper’s argument: “No explanatory regress ending in a purely contingent state of affairs is rationally satisfying.” However, it is a small step from acceptance of this principle to the conclusion that there are no contingent states of affairs. If all contingent states of affairs are “grounded” in a necessary being or a necessary state of affairs, such that the “grounding” is itself necessary (e.g., if a necessary being’s act of creation is itself always necessary), then there are no contingent states of affairs. Thus, if the universe is explanatorily grounded in a necessary being, then it follows that–if there are to be any contingent states of affairs at all–the act of creation itself can only be contingent. But if the act of creation is itself contingent, then there exists at least one brute (unexplained) contingency. Therefore, the modal grounding principle is false: unless we suppose that everything is necessary, we cannot reasonably deny the existence of at least some brute contingency. Carrier’s line of thought therefore survives unscathed: Given that we must have brute contingency, why not rest with the (brutely contingent) origin of the physical universe? In other words, why take the unnecessary additional step of hypothesizing brutely contingent creative preferences in some postulated necessary being?

    Essentially, the reviewer poses a dilemma for the theist: Either the act of creation is necessary, in which case the theist must deny the contingency of the universe (since what follows from the necessary is itself necessary), or else the act of creation is contingent, in which case the theist is ultimately left with brute contingency, and any appeal to a necessary being accomplishes nothing. Either way, the modal cosmological argument fails by losing an essential premise–namely, the modal grounding principle.

    But of course, a person is inherently volitional and we get high contingency through choice, not chance. (Indeed, look more closely at the fluctuation model and you will see an appeal to sheer chance.)

    In short, it is dubious to deny contingency or seek to undermine it.

    PH responds:

    while it may be a “very small step” from the modal grounding principle to the claim that there are no contingent states of affairs, it is a step that the theist need not (and does not) take. As the reviewer observes, if a necessary being’s act of creation is itself necessary, then there are no contingent states of affairs. Classical theism recognizes and accepts this point, which is partly why the tradition has held that the act of creation was not itself necessary. However, the theist’s admission that the act of creation was itself non-necessary does not entail that the theist (like the atheist) is saddled with brute or unexplained contingency. More specifically, it does not entail that the theist is stuck “hypothesizing brutely contingent creative preferences in some postulated necessary being.” Here is why.

    Classical theism hypothesizes that God’s decision to create a (material) universe was free in the sense that it was both uncaused and not logically necessary. It follows from this that the existence of the universe is metaphysically contingent: the universe would not have existed had things (in the broadest possible sense) been sufficiently different. However, it does not follow from this that the existence of the universe is, for the theist, a brute or unexplained fact. The theist can explain the existence of the universe by relating it, via explanatory relations we already understand, to a necessary feature of the divine nature–namely, that God is an essentially loving being . . . . In everyday life, one “why” question sometimes leads to another, which leads to another, and so on, generating an explanatory regress. It is perfectly reasonable, and it can be intellectually satisfying, to end such an explanatory regress with reference to the free choice of an agent, provided that the choice is informed and morally autonomous; and if that condition is met, then the choice, as an act of origination, is not brute (although it is contingent). In the end, when all is said and done, that Ann and Bob ultimately chose to marry, that their choice was fully informed and morally autonomous, and that they married out of love, ends the regress of questions by grounding it in an intellectually satisfying and reasonable stopping point. Granted, it is a contingent fact that they chose to marry, but it is not, on that account, a brute fact. A brute contingent fact has no explanation, whereas a free, morally autonomous act of the type under consideration does have an explanation, albeit one that is not deterministic. Love, as a motive, can make an action intelligible without making it metaphysically necessary.

    In short, love is creative and giving, thus a loving being will freely create. That such a being could act otherwise does not turn the action into a brute given.

    A key point.

    KF

  41. 41
    kairosfocus says:

    F/N: Let us continue our “in-the-wild” exploration, here a Robert Adler BBC article (as representing what we might find in high-prestige media):

    [BBC:] Why is there something rather than nothing?
    By Robert Adler
    6 November 2014

    People have wrestled with the mystery of why the universe exists for thousands of years. Pretty much every ancient culture came up with its own creation story – most of them leaving the matter in the hands of the gods – and philosophers have written reams on the subject. But science has had little to say about this ultimate question.

    However, in recent years a few physicists and cosmologists have started to tackle it. They point out that we now have an understanding of the history of the universe, and of the physical laws that describe how it works. That information, they say, should give us a clue about how and why the cosmos exists.

    Their admittedly controversial answer is that the entire universe, from the fireball of the Big Bang to the star-studded cosmos we now inhabit, popped into existence from nothing at all. It had to happen, they say, because “nothing” is inherently unstable.

    This idea may sound bizarre, or just another fanciful creation story. But the physicists argue that it follows naturally from science’s two most powerful and successful theories: quantum mechanics and general relativity . . . .

    Quantum mechanics tells us that there is no such thing as empty space. Even the most perfect vacuum is actually filled by a roiling cloud of particles and antiparticles, which flare into existence and almost instantaneously fade back into nothingness.

    These so-called virtual particles don’t last long enough to be observed directly, but we know they exist by their effects . . . . [W]hen quantum theory is applied to space [–> note, we are now dealing with cosmology informed by extensions of Einstein’s General Theory of Relativity over the past century] at the smallest possible scale, space itself becomes unstable. Rather than remaining perfectly smooth and continuous, space and time destabilize, churning and frothing into a foam of space-time bubbles.

    In other words, little bubbles of space and time can form spontaneously. “If space and time are quantized, they can fluctuate,” says Lawrence Krauss at Arizona State University in Tempe. “So you can create virtual space-times just as you can create virtual particles.”

    What’s more, if it’s possible for these bubbles to form, you can guarantee that they will. “In quantum physics, if something is not forbidden, it necessarily happens with some non-zero probability,” says Alexander Vilenkin of Tufts University in Boston, Massachusetts . . . . So it’s not just particles and antiparticles that can snap in and out of nothingness: bubbles of space-time can do the same. Still, it seems like a big leap from an infinitesimal space-time bubble to a massive universe that hosts 100 billion galaxies. Surely, even if a bubble formed, it would be doomed to disappear again in the blink of an eye?

    Actually, it is possible for the bubble to survive. But for that we need another trick: cosmic inflation . . . . a fraction of a second after the Big Bang, the quantum-sized bubble of space expanded stupendously fast. In an incredibly brief moment, it went from being smaller than the nucleus of an atom to the size of a grain of sand. When the expansion finally slowed, the force field that had powered it was transformed into the matter and energy that fill the universe today. Guth calls inflation “the ultimate free lunch”.

    This is of course an expanded form of Dr Dawkins’ assertions in the OP above, where he made such heavy weather over the difference between something and a genuine no-thing. Thus, it falls victim to precisely the same inadvertent bait-switch fallacy that we already saw. In effect, it proposes a quasi-physical, speculative sub-universe that provides a space-time, energy-rich context for inflationary bubbles to form and toss up sub-cosmi such as ours, allegedly. With, of course, the sub-verse lurking as the implicitly claimed, brute fact necessary being world-root. Never mind, heat death, traversal of the transfinite past in finite stage steps, the overwhelmingly more likely event of a deluded Boltzmann brain or even a comm coll term assignment to run a world simulation (and play at being god) etc as issues. And of course, don’t ponder the significance of fine tuning of our cosmos fitting it for C-chem aqueous medium life or how we get beyond dynamic-stochastic computation on substrates to genuine rational freedom and moral government of our intellectual life through inescapable duties to truth, to right reason, to prudence, to sound conscience, to neighbourliness, to justice, etc.

    In short,in this “tell it to grandma” form, we are right back at the challenge: which candidate to be the necessary being world-root is the best explanation. Philosophy done while wearing a lab coat is still philosophy, and a relativity- and quantum- influenced space-time domain prone to instabilities and formation of inflation-prone bubbles — despite erroneous, misleading labels — is not a genuine no-thing.

    So, absent an infinite reservoir of energy, absent a credible means to traverse a transfinite causally successive past in finite-duration stages (“years” for convenience), absent a good explanation for a fine-tuned world at so deeply isolated an operating point as the observed cosmos is, and absent a good explanation for mind under moral government, we should not be overly disturbed by such philosophising while wearing a lab coat and filling chalkboards with quantum and relativity calculations.

    An Arxiv pre-print by Sean Caroll provides another, similar perspective, as at June 18, 2018:

    Why Is There Something, Rather Than Nothing?
    Sean M. Carroll

    Science and philosophy are concerned with asking how things are, and why they are the
    way they are. It therefore seems natural to take the next step and ask why things are at all
    – why the universe exists, or why there is something rather than nothing [1, 2].

    Ancient philosophers didn’t focus too much on what Heidegger [3] called the “funda-
    mental question of metaphysics” and Gr¨unbaum [4] has dubbed the “Primordial Existential
    Question.” It was Leibniz, in the eighteenth century, who ?rst explicitly asked “Why is there
    something rather than nothing?” in the context of discussing his Principle of Su?cient Rea-
    son (“nothing is without a ground or reason why it is”) [5]. By way of an answer, Leibniz
    appealed to what has become a popular strategy: God is the reason the universe exists, but
    God’s existence is its own reason, since God exists necessarily. (There is a parallel with Aris-
    totle’s much earlier invocation of an unmoved mover, responsible for motion in the universe
    without itself being moved by anything else [6].)

    Subsequent thinkers were less impressed by this move. Hume [7] explicitly dismissed the
    idea of a necessary being, and both he [8] and Kant [9] doubted that the intellectual tools
    we have developed to understand the world of experience could sensibly be extended to an
    explanation for existence itself. In their inimitable styles, Bertrand Russell [10] shrugged o?
    the question with “I should say that the universe is just there, and that’s all,” while Ludwig
    Wittgenstein [11] suggested there were some things about which we should remain silent:
    “It is not how things are in the world that is mystical, but that it exists.” More recently,
    Par?t [12] argued for a middle ground between this kind of “Brute Fact” view and the idea
    that the universe is necessary, by suggesting that one or more features of our universe may
    pick it out as somehow special, even if they don’t imply necessity . . . .

    One place where science has exerted an impact on the question is in our definitions of
    “something” and “nothing.” . . . . We can then distinguish between two issues:
    1. Why is there stu?? Why is there anything inside the universe, rather than just empty
    space?
    2. Why is there space at all? Why is there anything we would recognize as “a universe”?
    For the ?rst question, the relevant notion of “nothing” is “empty space,” while for the second
    it is the non-existence of reality altogether. Clearly it’s the second question that most people
    have in mind when they ask why there is something rather than nothing, but answers to
    the ?rst question (which are much easier to imagine obtaining) have often been passed o?
    as relevant to the second.

    This has the merit that it is more balanced and informed, recognising that no-thing should mean precisely that. Further on, he brings up:

    Relativity requires that we move to quantum ?eld theory, which is a
    particular version of quantum mechanics in which the classical variables that are quantized
    to give a wave function are a set of ?eld values throughout space, rather than positions or
    momenta of individual particles (see Section 5 of this volume). The allowed states of the
    theory include a “vacuum,” de?ned as the lowest-energy state, and excited states describing
    collections of particles. But the notion of the vacuum is subtle, as “empty space” isn’t quite
    the same as “nothing there.” Even in the emptiest lowest-energy state, there are still ?eld
    degrees of freedom at every point in space, in a particular quantum con?guration. These
    degrees of freedom are highly entangled with each other, and can be probed by measurement
    devices. For example, the Unruh e?ect describes the phenomenon by which an accelerated
    observer in the vacuum will detect a thermal bath of particles [23]. Even more impressively,
    the Reeh-Schleider theorem establishes that any global quantum state of the system as a
    whole can be reached (to arbitrary precision) by starting with the vacuum and acting with
    some operator con?ned to a small region of space [24]. In other words, because ?eld degrees
    of freedom in different regions of space are entangled in the vacuum, operating on the ones
    in any particular region can effectively produce any possible state of the theory . . . .

    Cosmological evolution plausibly involves a transition from a
    symmetric vacuum state, free of particles, to a collection of particles in a background given
    by a lower-energy vacuum. In some models, this evolution could dynamically favor matter
    over antimatter, helping to explain the current asymmetry in our observed universe. Such
    a scenario has given rise to the pithy saying that there is something rather than nothing
    because “nothing is unstable” [26, 27], if we allow ourselves the freedom to de?ne “nothing”
    as “a symmetric false-vacuum state.” This has nothing at all to do with the origin of the
    universe itself, and certainly nothing to do with why there is a quantum wave function in
    the ?rst place.

    In the context of creation of something from nothing, we must also face the issue of
    “quantum ?uctuations.” . . . .

    The best we can say is that our current incomplete understanding of quantum gravity
    is fully compatible with both the possibility that the universe has lasted forever, and that
    it had a ?rst moment in time.

    He then goes on, to his own key unsupported claim:

    The Wheeler-DeWitt equation has therefore been used as the basis for models in which the universe has an
    earliest moment of time [41, 42]. Sometimes, such universes are said to “come into existence
    out of nothing.” This is a misleading way of putting it, as it implies a temporal process that
    begins with nothing and ends with the universe. But if the universe doesn’t exist, there is no
    time, and hence there are no processes
    . [–> hence, BTW, my reluctance to extend time indefinitely] It is better, instead, to reserve temporal vocabulary
    for that portion of reality over which time actually exists. The question is not whether a
    universe could pop into existence out of nothingness, but whether a universe with a beginning
    can be entirely described by an appropriate set of laws of physics without the help of any
    external cause. The answer is that, by itself, the existence of an earliest moment to time is
    no obstacle to describing the physical universe in completely consistent, self-contained terms.
    There is therefore no requirement, at least as far as physics is concerned, that existence have
    an identi?able cause independent of physical reality, whether the universe stretches in?nitely
    far back in time or only a ?nite interval.

    In short, oops, he begs the question. This happens by jumping between analysis of a cosmos of some form as a going concern and the root reality causally adequate to ground a world.

    So, clearly, the question on the table from the OP on is vital.

    And we have seen where it leads, on very plausible tools of thought.

    Heidegger is right on the pivotal nature of this question.

    KF

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