On 19 Sep 2011, at 08:27, nihil0 wrote:
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,
We have of course already discussed this a lot.
In a nutshell, you cannot derive anything just from the empty set
alone: you need some mathematical principles or axioms, like the
comprehension and the reflection axioms. This leads to an axiomatic
set theory, which is nice but somehow too much powerful. But OK, set
theory is already a Löbian observer, and you can derive everything
from this, although you still need some definition, notably of the
internal observers. Assuming mechanism, to proceed in that direction,
then, as I have often explained, you get the derivation of everything
including a notion of "God" (truth), souls and the precise laws of
physics (but this is a sequence of hard number theoretical problems,
yet the conceptual solution already exist. Note that such a derivation
is not a derivation from nothing: it is a derivation from the empty
set + rich powerful axioms. I use traditionnally 0, successor,
addition, and multiplication (in this list), but the combinators +
application are quite handy for that task too.
Note also, that, contrary to what Tegmark defined, if mechanism is
correct, the physical universe is not a mathematical structure, but
more the border of something which can be made 99% into a mathematical
structure, together with a non reductible element, which is related to
the theological aspect of consciousness. The theory of everything
becomes the mind theory of the (universal) numbers, and physics
appears to be a sum or measure on all computations.
In that setting nothing and everything are equivalent dual notions,
but they makes sense only in some theory with some rules of
manipulation of the concept of nothing (like 0, or the empty set, or
the quantum vaccum: but this last one is assuming too much, and I have
provided an argument showing that we have to derived it from numbers
(or from combinators) if we want to be able to explain both the qualia
and the quanta. See my URL for proof of those statements if you are
In a nutshell: we have still to postulate some primitive elements.
Assuming the empty set + some rules, is equivalent with assuming all
the sets, or all the numbers. Once you have all the numbers (or all
the sets) you can derive the quanta and the qualia, by assuming the
mechanist hypothesis (or any of its multiple weakenings).
We cannot explain the numbers (or the sets) in any theory which does
not postulate them. This is well known by mathematical logicians. So
it looks like the numbers constitute an irreducible mystery.
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.
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
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-
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
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,
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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