Hi.  Yes, I am pretty much a materialist/physicalist.  When people say that 
there are these mathematical truths, platonic ideals, etc. that exist 
somewhere, I always say: Show me where they are.  Point them out now.  So, 
while nobody can disprove the existence of these things, we can't really do 
much with them either it seems to me.  There just more of the things people 
claim to exist but can provide no evidence for.  However, I admit that I can 
also never directly prove my ideas about what used to be called "non-existence" 
because no person or minds would be present there.  All we can do is use our 
unprovable, but hopefully logical, hypotheses to build internally consistent 
models that are consistent with known facts and that eventually can make 
testable predictions.   This is where I want to work towards because otherwise, 
it's all just talk.

    In regards to consciousness, I feel pretty much the same.  Consciousness is 
just the output of all the neurons, neural circuits, ion gradients, etc. in 
your brain.  Again, if it's something else, I'd say: Show me where this 
consciousness/mind is that's not in the brain. My views may be colored by my 
job as a biochemist, though.  But, I'm guessing that most people in science may 
feel this way.

    For trying to think of why there is something rather than nothing, I don't 
think there can be any postulated conscious observer other than some physical 
property intrinsic to whatever existent state we're considering.  Otherwise, 
that doesn't explain where the observer comes from.


>From: Bruno Marchal <>
>Sent: Thursday, September 22, 2011 1:02 PM
>Subject: Re: Why is there something rather than nothing?
>Your theory is still physicalism in disguise. You can't explain consciousness 
>from that.
>I will ask you what is your theory of consciousness, before giving more detail 
>on this.
>Your notion of 'nothing' is vague.
>You might dig a little bit on mathematical logic: it has been proved that if 
>you don't postulate the natural numbers, then you cannot derive the existence 
>of them. So, unless you defend a form of physical ultrafinitism, your theory 
>cannot account for the existence of 1, 2, 3, ... (and thus of digital machine 
>and their belief). Actually I don't think your theory can derive the number 1.
>A bit more below.
>> Jon,
>>    Hi.  Thanks for the feedback.  The empty set as the building block
>> of existence is exactly the point I as making in my original posting
>> that started this thread.  What you're referring to as the empty set,
>> I was referring to as how what has previously been called absolute
>> "non-existence" or "nothing" completely describes, or defines, the
>> entirety of what is present and is thus an existent state, or
>> something. This existent state of mine is what others would call the
>> empty set.   The reason this is worth thinking about is because just
>> saying that the empty set is the basis of existence doesn't explain
>> why that empty set is there in the first place.  This is what I was
>> trying to get at.  Additionally, there has to be some mechanism
>> inherent in this existent state previously referred to as absolute
>> "non-existence" (ie, the empty set) that allows it to replicate itself
>> and produce the universe, energy, etc. This is needed because it
>> appears that there's more to the universe than just a single empty
>> existent state and that things are moving around.  What I suggested in
>> the paper at my website was that:
>> 1. Assume what has previously been called "absolute non-existence".
>This is already unclear by itself. Words like "absolute", "non" and 
>"existence" assume a lot.
>> 2. This "absolute non-existence" itself, and not our mind's conception
>> of "non-existence", completely describes, or defines, the entirety of
>> what is there and is thus actually an existent state, or "something".
>Why? You need some observer of that "absolute non-existence" to get a 
>definition of what is there. You are using implicitly the reflection axiom of 
>set theory (at this stage you have already a theory equivalent with (N, +).
>> This complete definition is equivalent to an edge or boundary defining
>> what is present and thus giving "substance" or existence to the the
>> thing.
>In your mind only. You go from nothing to the empty set (which is not 
>nothing). At the meta level you go from { } to { { } }. So you are using again 
>the reflection principle (which is a very strong axiom). Without using some 
>explicit axioms, the passage from { } to { { } } needs some brain or universal 
>machine at the meta-level.
>> This complete definition, edge, or boundary is like the curly
>> braces around the empty set.
>Yes, but the ability to put a boundary around what we comprehend is a non 
>trivial mind mechanism. Brains (people) and Turing machine (the 1-person 
>linked to it) can do that, but not an empty set by itself. You are using a 
>rich metalevel to justify a less rich level, but your theory needs both the 
>level and the metalevel.
>> 3. Now, by the assumption in step 1, there is also "absolute non-
>> existence" all around the edge of the existent state formed in step
>> 2.   This "absolute non-existence" also completely describes, or
>> defines the entirety of what is there and is thus also an existent
>> state.  That is, the first existent state has reproduced itself.  I
>> think that the existenet state that is what has been previously called
>> "absolute non-existence" has the unique property of being able to
>> reproduce itself.
>It needs some mind or machine, to do the reflection.
>> 4. This process continues ad infinitum
>Where does that infinitum comes suddenly from? You are assuming the natural 
>numbers, like you assume the finite sets above (or equivalently the reflection 
>> in kind of a cellular automaton-
>> like process to form in a big bang-like expansion a larger set of
>> existent states - our universe.
>>    This is described in more detail in the paper at my website at:
>> There's also some more detail on how the above process can lead to the
>> presence of energy in the universe.
>You reinvent naïve set theory. It would help you to formalize your idea so 
>that you can compare it with others.
>>    Tegmark's assumption of a mathematical construct as the basis of
>> our existence doesn't explain where this construct comes from or how
>> it reproduces to form the universe.
>Without assuming the natural numbers, you just cannot get them.
>> Wheeler's idea that the
>> distinction between the observer and the observed could be the
>> mechanism of giving existence to non-existence could be fit into my
>> idea, I think, by saying that the observed is what has previously been
>> called "absolute non-existence", and the observer is the fact that
>> this "absolute non-existence" completely defines the entirety of what
>> is present
>It can't.
>Also, Wheeler's idea can be phenomenologically retrieved in the Everett 
>many-worlds view of the quantum, which itself can be extracted from arithmetic 
>if you assume that the brain works like a natural machine. Wheeler seems to 
>have come back to that multiverse idea.
>You might take benefits by using what people already agree on in this list. 
>Look at my answer to jon (nihil).
>> and is like the edge or boundary defining what is there.
>> Speculating even further, one could say that this edge or boundary is
>> the same as the strings/membranes that physicists think make up the
>> universe.
>>    Anyways, thanks again for restarting this thread!
>>                                                               Roger
>> On Sep 19, 2:27 am, nihil0 <> wrote:
>>> Hi everyone,
>>> 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
>>> Everything threads.
>>> 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
>>> . . ."
>>> 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,
>>> Jon
>>> On Aug 8, 2:40 am, Roger <> 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                                                               
>>>>                                                      (
>>>> Abstract:
>>>>    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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