This is my first post on the List. I find this topic fascinating and
I'm impressed with everyone's thoughts about it. I'm not sure if
you're aware of this, but it has been discussed on a few other
Norman Samish posted the following to the thread "Tipler Weighs In" on
May 16, 2005 at 9:24pm:
"I wonder if you and/or any other members on this list have an opinion
about the validity of an article at http://www.hedweb.com/nihilism/nihilfil.htm
. . ."
I would like to continue that discussion here on this thread, because
I believe the article Norman cites provides a satisfying answer the
question "Why does anything exist?," which is very closely related to
the question "Why is there something rather than nothing." The author
is David Pearce, who is an active British philosopher.
Here are some highlights of Pearce's answer: "In the Universe as a
whole, the conserved constants (electric charge, angular momentum,
mass-energy) add up to/cancel out to exactly zero. . . Yet why not,
say, 42, rather than 0? Well, if everything -- impossibly, I'm
guessing -- added up/cancelled out instead to 42, then 42 would have
to be accounted for. But if, in all, there is 0, i.e no (net)
properties whatsoever, then there just isn't anything substantive
which needs explaining. . . The whole of mathematics can, in
principle, be derived from the properties of the empty set, Ø" I think
this last sentence, if true, would support Tegmark's Mathematical
Universe Hypothesis, because if math is derivable from nothing (as
Pearce thinks) and physics is derivable from math (as Tegmark thinks)
and, then physics is derivable from nothing, and presto we have a
theory of everything/nothing.
I think Pearce's conclusion is the following: everything that exists
is a property of (or function of) the number zero (i.e., the empty
set, nothing). Let's call this idea Ontological Nihilism.
Russell Standish seems to endorse this idea in his book "Theory of
Nothing", which I'm reading. He formulates an equation for the amount
of complexity a system has, and says that "The complexity [i.e.,
information content] of the Everything is zero, just as it is of the
Nothing. The simplest set is the set of all possibilities, which is
the dual of the empty set." (pg. 40) He also suggests that Feynman
acknowledged something like Ontological Nihilism. In vol. 2 of his
lectures, Feynmann argued that the grand unified theory of physics
could be expressed as a function of the number zero; just rearrange
all physics equations so they equal zero, then add them all up. After
all, equations have to be balanced on both sides, right?
Personally, I find Ontological Nihilism a remarkably elegant,
scientific and satisfying answer to the question "Why is there
something instead of nothing" because it effectively dissolves the
question. What do you think?
Thanks in advance for your comments,
On Aug 8, 2:40 am, Roger <roger...@yahoo.com> wrote:
> Hi. I used to post to this list but haven't in a long time. I'm
> a biochemist but like to think about the question of "Why isthere
> something rather than nothing?" as a hobby. If you're interested,
> some of my ideas on this question and on "Why do things exist?",
> infinite sets and on the relationships of all this to mathematics and
> physics are at:
> An abstract of the "Why do things exist and Why istheresomething
> rather than nothing?" paper is below.
> Thank you in advance for any feedback you may have.
> Roger Granet
> In this paper, I propose solutions to the questions "Why do things
> exist?" and "Why istheresomething rather than nothing?" In regard
> to the first question, "Why do things exist?", it is argued that a
> thing exists if the contents of, or what is meant by, that thing are
> completely defined. A complete definition is equivalent to an edge or
> boundary defining what is contained within and giving “substance” and
> existence to the thing. In regard to the second question, "Why
> istheresomething rather than nothing?", "nothing", or non-existence, is
> first defined to mean: no energy, matter, volume, space, time,
> thoughts, concepts, mathematical truths, etc.; and no minds to think
> about this lack-of-all. It is then shown that this non-existence
> itself, not our mind's conception of non-existence, is the complete
> description, or definition, of what is present. That is, no energy,
> no matter, no volume, no space, no time, no thoughts, etc., in and of
> itself, describes, defines, or tells you, exactly what is present.
> Therefore, as a complete definition of what is present, "nothing", or
> non-existence, is actually an existent state. So, what has
> traditionally been thought of as "nothing", or non-existence, is, when
> seen from a different perspective, an existent state or "something".
> Said yet another way, non-existence can appear as either "nothing" or
> "something" depending on the perspective of the observer. Another
> argument is also presented that reaches this same conclusion.
> Finally, this reasoning is used to form a primitive model of the
> universe via what I refer to as "philosophical engineering".
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