Can a sound argument be given that the universe always existed, that whatever past time, there was existence? I mean an argument good whatever the stage of scientific knowledge of the universe.
How about this one from Parmenides concerning the One, but applied to the universe?
. . . What coming to be of it will you seek? In what way, whence, did [it] grow? Neither from what-is-not shall I allow You to say or think; for it is not to be said or thought That [it] is not. And what need could have impelled it to grow Later or sooner, if it began from nothing?
The Way of Truth (Fragment 8, 6-10), David Gallop, translator.
That is the warmup. Here is the argument:
Existence exists. Existence is identity. Furthermore, if no existence at all, no identity at all. Then if all of existence came into existence, it could not do so in a specific way. Such a coming into existence would be without identity, without existence.
(This argument is in accord with Bill's #1 and #11.)
PS (And it is in accord with everything in my #9.)
It depends on how you define "always." Certain mathematical models of the big bang show that as in a black hole, time comes to a "stop" as one approaches the big bang singularity. This could be taken as meaning that existence took virtually forever to "get started" because relative time in the beginning of the bi ban was so slow.
But the idea that existence always existed as if time were not relative is not coherent with our current physical understanding of the universe. For example, it is estimated that most spiral galaxies have rotated about 15 times since the big bang, given that they rotate so slowly, being so large.
Someone who argued that the universe always existed would have a hard time explaining how the galaxies have rotated an infinite number of times - it just doesn't fit with any reasonable cosmological theories or with the idea of general relativity.
Also, if space were not expanding and the universe were infinite in age, then the sky should be white hot in all directions because all the light from distant stars would have had time to heat the heavens to such a degree.
Indeed, the sky does glow in all directions, but at about 4 degrees above zero in the radio spectrum. This is the left over heat a period shortly after the big bang which has been stretched and red shifted so far that it is close to blackness so far as humans are concerned.
As for Parmenides, It seems like an early attempt at higher-level dimensional mathematics couched in poetic rather than mathematic terms. One could possibly imagine the Eleatic arrow paradox, that an arrow could never arrive because first it would have to go half the distance, then 1/4, 1/8...and so on. Just reverse this and imagine it starting to move from 1/infinity to 1/half infinity and so on. This is not strictly valid, but gives one's mind a way to visualize the earliest moments of time.
Stephen Hawking talks about there not necessarily being any space-time singularity at the beginning of the big bang in his popular works. But I am not qualified to explain the math. In any case, there is no consensus view, and it is always possible that future discoveries and conceptualizations will make our current discussions seem like debates about the four humours.
Existence Exists Because There was Nothing to Prevent it.
There is no consensus. "Arose" is a temporal term, and in the specific words you used, you would probably only see such a claim on the cover of Discover or Scientific American. "Arose" implies some prexistent existence. Do you understand higher level dimensions? If so, this does allow an conception of a finite yet unbounded universe. In essence, if we were flat beings living on the surface of a huge sphere, we would experience "space" as lovcally flat, and no matter how far we travelled, we would never reach an edge. Eventually, we might return to our starting point. And the area of the sphere would be finite, but there would be no edgge to our spherical universe. Add a few more dimensions and you can make an analogy between our world of thrre spatial and one temporal dimension - but our brains are not wired to handle this visually* I am not a mathematician myself, so I would have a hard time explaining any of the cosmological models with which I am familiar. I do know that a steady-state model is not widely accepted. Most scientists argue about how the Big Bang can be understood. Some would like to view the Big Bang as a cyclical event, with alternating bangs and crunches - yet there does not seem to be enough matter in the known universe ever to halt it from expanding. Some argue that the Big Bang is at the other end of a tunnel from a black hole in some other universe but this is, of course, a regress. Many hold that the universe was a quantuum fluctuation that expanded from itself. Some hold that there must be a negative-energy universe parallel to ours so that the overall energy sums to zero as in the virtual particle flux of the vacuum (see Hawking radiation). The multiverse idea exists in infinite variations, each theory splitting into an infinite number of new theories with each quantum event. As with it is said with Rabbis, the number of opinions exceeds the number of scholars studying the issue.
I personally see the matter as premature. String theory is speculative, we do not have enough experimental power in particle colliders to go as far as the imaginations of particle physicists have.
At this point, I am still happy with the "axiom" that existence exists because there was nothing to prevent it.
*Recent experiments using virtual reality goggles have supposedly allowed people to learn to directly visualize four dimensional space. Perhaps some as-yet-unborn Einstein raised with such a system as a game will answer what seem like inexplicable dilemmas to us poor limited three-dimensional thinkers. Here is a YouTube video on the hypercube or tesseract - the fourth dimensional analog of the three dimensional cube.
The only video games I ever played were Pong, Adventure and QYX (or was that Qix?) and the first version of Sim City. I never enjoyed Asteroids, Space Invaders, Pac Man, or anything more recent. I was a popular DM, we used to spend the weekends listening to Led Zeppelin, Rush and Yes and playing D&D until it was time to make the pizza run before Doctor Who started at 1130PM Saturday Night. Then came the obligatory Stanley Kubric, Hitchcock or Monty Python Movie and the persecution of the few Christians in our clique by the majority Objectivists. Persecution usually consisted of being forced to sit in the comfy chair. But once I told a guy that I was not going to stop at his house, just slow down to 10mph, and that he should pray and leap. Before I realized the poor kid was out the door and rolling down the thoroughfare. I hadn't been at all serious and was mortally embarrassed. Luckily, his Guardian Angel prevented any broken bones. But the kid was a pastor's son and got in trouble for letting himself be tempted by the devil.
Here is another Tesseract Rotation. Keep in mind that all angles are 90 degrees, all surfaces are squares, and all solids are undeformed cubes, and all areas and volumes are constant.. The apparent deformations are an artifact of our third dimensional perspective.
Existence Exists Because There was Nothing to Prevent it - Ted Kerr.
I don't think that's correct. Prevention pertains to an act of becoming, and the universe didn't "become"; it didn't originate at some point in time. It exists, period. It doesn't exist "because there was nothing to prevent it."
But that would be a contradiction to imply Non-existence exists by the fact that the core to the definition of non-existence is that it does not exist. Therefore, non-existence can never exist? Umm... I think I just had a brain cramp...
Reminds me of something funny I came across the other day:
Plato was discoursing on his theory of ideas and, pointing to the cups on the table before him, said while there are many cups in the world, there is only one 'idea' of a cup, and this cupness precedes the existence of all particular cups.
"I can see the cup on the table," interupted Diogenes, "but I can't see the 'cupness'".
"That's because you have the eyes to see the cup," said Plato, "but", tapping his head with his forefinger, "you don't have the intellect with which to comprehend 'cupness'."
Diogenes walked up to the table, examined a cup and, looking inside, asked, "Is it empty?"
"Where is the 'emptiness' which precedes this empty cup?" asked Diogenes.
Plato allowed himself a few moments to collect his thoughts, but Diogenes reached over and, tapping Plato's head with his finger, said "I think you will find here is the 'emptiness'."
Bill, I said that existence exists because nothing (no thing) prevented it. You denied this. By the law of the excluded middle, this means that you believe that something (some thing) did prevent it. It's either or. (You have presumably made the mistake of confusing nothing with a thing.) Or maybe you really do believe that something prevented existence form existing?
Roger, you didn't deny my statement, you denied your own paraphrase. Any sentence can be paraphrased to add a copula. "No thing prevents the universe from existing" is the clearest statement in my mind, and it must either be true or false. But one could also say "No thing is able to prevent existence."
Please deny "No thing prevents the universe from existing" or "No thing is able to prevent existence" without paraphrasing.
I do not see how this can be done without contradiction.
(BTW, I'm not sure what you mean by the parallel universe remark. The notion is not mine, and parallel universes would still be part of existence.)
"Existence Exists Because There was Nothing to Prevent it." -Ted Kerr.
Ted, you wrote,
Nothing prevents existence from existing
Bill, I said that existence exists because nothing (no thing) prevented it. You denied this. By the law of the excluded middle, this means that you believe that something (some thing) did prevent it.
No, it doesn't! Jiminy Christmas, go take a course in logic, Ted. For all your erudition, your illogic is showing. :-) With respect to propositions, the law of excluded middle simply says: either P or not-P, but not both. With that in mind, let's consider your original proposition:
P: Existence exists because there was nothing to prevent it.
The negation of that proposition is: "It is not the case that P."
~P: It is not the case that "Existence exists because there was nothing to prevent it."
This is not the same as saying, "Something prevented it from existing." How you could have gotten that out of what I wrote, I have no idea.
Your original proposition that "Existence exists because there was nothing to prevent it" is false, because it is not the case that existence exists for any particular reason, e.g., for the reason that there was nothing to prevent it, or for any other reason. Existence exists, period; end of story.
(You have presumably made the mistake of confusing nothing with a thing.) Or maybe you really do believe that something prevented existence form existing?
First, I meant no insult, so my apologies for my lack of diplomacy. But I do not think you are engaging me generously, and I do think that your prior post treated nothing as an existent. That being said, I'll gladly abandon that first formulation on the grounds that the term "because" is problematic.
Given that I myself don't deny that existence exists, and given that I myself have no objections to Rand's ontology on any grounds, but am simply interested in these formulations as responses to those who do ask why existence exists, or who ask why there isn't nothing, I am asking that you and Roger or whoever should wish play with me on this. I am not interested in giving or receiving smackdowns.
So: "Nothing prevents existence." True or false?
If false, does this not imply that something prevents existence? A contradiction in terms?
If true, then is this not a valid rhetorical response to those who ask why existence exists? Does my point become clear? Of course it is not an explanation in the sense of an explanation from prior causes. But it is a valid response, is it not?
On the assumption that my goals and motives are clear, I await a generous reading and a benevolent exchange.
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