Can something come out of nothing or not? Why?

  • In our current state of affairs it is safe and reasonable to assume something exists - be it a universe, pure conciousness, illusion or other designations. If some readers nevertheless claim something does not exist right now, then this question effectively becomes meaningless to them but for us "cogito ergo sum" should suffice.

    So, let us (justifiably) assume right now something exists.

    Therefore, when this something (as a whole) cannot come from nothing, then something must have always existed and cannot have a beginning. Is that entity the Universe or the Creator, is a different topic and a different question.

    However, when this something can come from nothing, then this something (the whole of reality) might not have always existed and thus can have a beginning. Is that entity the Universe or something else, is also a different topic and a different question.

    And here lies the apparent contradiction: between the widely-accepted axiom that something cannot come from nothing and between the present scientific view that whatever there is, it must have had some kind of an absolute beginning.

    Why is it a contradiction? Well, when something cannot come from nothing, then where did our reality come from? If it can't come from nothing, then either (the fundamental) reality itself is eternal, or it emerged from something eternal. The only way for our present reality to have an ultimate beginning is when something can in fact come from nothing. Otherwise everything requires something else prior to it, thus mandating that something must have always existed.

    So, which way is it? Can something come out of nothing or not?

    Just thinking out loud here. I formalize "something can come from nothing" as ∃x∄y(x COMES FROM y), or "there is some thing x such that there is no thing y that x comes from. The negation is ∀x∃y(x comes from y).

    It's not clear what the notions of "appearing" and "beginning" are in this context. When you write "something just might have appeared into existence and can have a beginning", it seems you are presupposing an existence in which that something wasn't there. If you think carefully about this, you'll see that, assuming "something coming from nothing" is coherent, that something cannot "appear" nor have a "beginning". After all, for such a something, there would no time when it *didn't* exist.

    @DavidH - As far as I know, there is no such thing as a set of all sets. When talking about existence in general, how can we suffice with a simple set?

    @AlfredCentauri - Then it does not make any sense to talk about a beginning or causes of the universe either because in that case there aren't any.

    If there was the same amount of matter and antimatter in the Universe so that they could mutually annihilate together into absolutely nothing (this may require anti-energy, but let's pretend that's possible). Would you consider there is something in the Universe or just nothing unevenly distributed?

    @Trylks - The energy released from such a hypothetical annihilation is conserved as it has nowhere to disappear. It does not matter whether there are protons, antiprotons or photons, a universe is still a universe.

    (this may require anti-energy, but let's pretend that's possible)

    @Trylks - No. There is no anti-energy as such because energy is an abstract notion whereas matter and antimatter are concrete. You can read more about it at PhysLink. I simply referred to what Einstein said: "Energy cannot be created or destroyed, it can only be changed from one form to another."

    but let's pretend that's possible

    @Trylks - This question is about ontological truths, not fiction.

    Thought experiments can shed some light on ontological truths. Also your assumption that energy is conserved as it has nowhere to disappear is fictional and wrong, it cannot be conserved if there is nothing to conserve it. It would be faster for ontological knowledge to simply consider final possibilities instead of making wrong assumptions on every intermediate step in the reasoning. Think of it as an alpha-beta search or local search. Otherwise, one single wrong assumption will have you exploring the wrong tree for ever. One wrong assumption can be "there is something". Good luck.

    @Trylks - Of course there is something, the observer of "cogito ergo sum" at minimum. When one declares "there is something" to be false then one is either ignorant, insane or engaging in a lie. Your thought experiment is simply inapplicable here as this question does not address something inside the Universe, it addresses the Universe itself in its totality.

    Or maybe that person is considering a different definition for something and nothing. You say my thought experiment is inapplicable but you provide no reasons for that, my thought experiment refers to the Universe itself in its totality.

    @Trylks - No it does not refer to totality, your comment reads `consider there is something **in** the Universe`. That is why it is inapplicable. When your desire is to operate under non-standard or historically uncommon definitions then post a separate question into this website as this question already has some basic definitions, a topic and they are not going to change.

    The contents of the Universe and the Universe are the same thing, I was using your words to make understanding more simple to you, but they are equivalent.

    @Trylks - No they are not when you write about `nothing unevenly distributed` in the same sentence. Totality is not isomorphic to a distribution as there is no reference system for it to occur in. Look, I appreciate your effort here but the answer Mozibur Ullah wrote already provided the information and references I was looking for. As far as I am concerned, you are free to leave it at that. You are also free to post an answer covering both cases for your thought experiment. But when it comes to the question, there is really nothing to add anymore.

    I don't speak about isomorphism but the equivalence that there is when the reference system is *relative* to the totality.

    @Trylks - I do speak about isomorphism because without isomorphism two things are in fact different, meaning your thought experiment does not refer to totality as I have already noted. Totality is totality, there is nothing relative to it. Stop pretending you have something useful to add when in fact you do not. Your comments serve no useful purpose here and have turned into plain trolling. Save yourself the trouble and just leave it at that.

    why Saul do you say "either something can in fact come from nothing or otherwise something must have always existed. It is one or the other, but not both." This sounds arrogant. I do however really like the explanation by gnasher729. You also say "the main goal..was not to speculate anything" and yet do you not see that is just what you are doing?

    @user10923 - You must be new here. This site is about ideas, not feelings or opinions. When something cannot come from nothing, then where did our reality come from? If it can't come from nothing, then either reality itself is eternal, or it emerged from something eternal. The only way for reality to have an ultimate beginning is when something can in fact come from nothing. Otherwise everything requires something else prior to it, thus mandating that something must have always existed. So it really is either one or the other. The question was, which way is it. Nothing more, nothing less.

    @saul: User 10923 is right. Your premise is wrong. The problem is your concept of nothing is too simplisitic.

    @TheDoctor -- Merely claiming somebody is right does not necessarily make them so. What is simplistic here is your personal understanding of the concept you are trying to attribute to me for some reason. This question already has an accepted answer that was written by Mozibur Ullah. I recommend that you read it, especially the comment thread.

    It is NOT reasonable to assume anything, and certainly not that something exists. If it existed it would have had to come into existence ex nihilo, which is a logically absurd idea.. Buddhism is clear, nothing really exists or ever really happens. It would be very 'unphilosophical' to assume that this is not the case rather than make an effort to prove it, and you would be faced with the endless paradoxes and dilemmas caused by this assumption, of which ex nihilo creation is just one. . .

    @PeterJ -- There is no reason for you to engage in a discussion that does not really exist. Analogously, in your interpretation, the supposed paradoxes and dilemmas are completely irrelevant as they simply do not exist. So from strictly a logical viewpoint your argument is self-contradictory. I also disagree with your premise that philosophy is mostly about proving something. It is not. The purpose of philosophy is to reach greater insight to life and reality but as long as the mind making the inquiry is of limited capacity, the depth and quality of the insight will remain limited as well.

    Negative mass-energy is a very real possibility; we have recently discovered a particle with 'negative mass' in the sense that it responds to very small perturbances in its position by pushing back against the applied force instead of beginning to move. Also, you have simply asserted that people who disagree with you are wrong or insane, which is a pretty hilarious logical fallacy imo.

  • One argument is that time itself has a beginning. And thus the universe can be eternal, in the sense of being existant at all times. One could also argue that time must have a beginning, for how can an infinite amount of time elapse for it to be now (this is one half of a pair of arguments by Kant - his antinomies - with which he argues that a certain concept is beyond human reason to establish).

    This still leaves begging the question what 'happened' before time began. Although naively this question looks nonsensical since we no longer have time - for then what can before mean - it still has sense in a speculative & imaginative sense. The only rational sense it seems that one can pose such questions.

    In fact, certain speculative cosmologies of the Big Bang implicitly allow something to be exist before the big bang. For example, the universe began as a quantum fluctuation; one must ask in what sense physical laws exist before there is a space & time as traditionally understood. For the assertion to make sense at least this much must be true.

    The argument that something cannot come out of nothing is a metaphysical one that goes back to at least Parmenides, if not earlier. In fact in the phenomenal world things always have beginnings and endings. For example, I have my hand open & then I close it: a fist has appeared and an open palm has disappeared, but of course what has remained constant between this, is my hand.

    If something comes out of nothing then by what agency has it happened? from whence did it come from? If we postulate some fundamental physical law that allows something to come out of nothing, then nothing+physical laws, is not in fact nothing.

    Are we not then forced to conclude that *something* must have always existed or in other words, there is something eternal?

    well, that was Parmenides conclusion.

    How about Kant? Did he refute what Parmenides concluded?

    Not quite, he said it was beyond the remit of reason to determine the answer to that particular question.

    Interesting .. but did Kant offer any justification as to why this particular question is beyond the remit of reason?

    In simple terms, he said that it was reasonable to say both that time had a beginning and that it did not. Thus being contradictory - or what he calls an antinomy - he says that the question is beyond our capacity to actually answer. On the whole, his project was to describe the limits of reason, and the conditions that made knowledge possible in a profound sense; he made consciousness complicit in our understanding of time and space, these are conditions which allow us to make sense of the world.

    _In fact in the phenomenal world things always have beginnings and endings._ But this idea is only an illusion created by our limited human point of view. It is an anthropocentric concept. We, humans, only understand limited concepts (with beginnings & ends, because of our limited brains) then the Univese MUST be in the same way: limited. The sun seems to be turning around our Earth Then it MUST be. I can only see (even with powerful devices) a limited area around me Then the Universe MUST have a limit. I can't see smaller than an atom then I declare the atom MUST be the smallest particle etc.

    @CALA: The atom is in fact defined as that which can't be divided into parts. One can suppose the reverse of this, that in fact all things have parts - that is everything is infinitely divisible.

    Much of the arguments surrouding the big bang do not argue there was "nothing" before the big bang, but that anything before the big bang is unmeasurable. (and even that has trouble)

    synthing language from Moz and from Michael Shermer maybe *"something"* is less unstable than *"nothing"*. like reality has lotsa states, all but one are *something* or 'nother. only one state, out of a zillion or more, is *nothing*. whenever *nothing* exists, quantum fluctuation happens and **poof**! you have *something*! like a Big Bang. very unlikely that the following state is back to *nothing*. the union of all states of *something* is a stickier state of being than is *nothing*. once you're *something*, pretty hard going back to *nothing*.

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Content dated before 7/24/2021 11:53 AM