"Nothing prevented existence" = "Existence was not prevented by anything." But 'prevention' cannot be predicated of 'existence' - it is a meaningless phrase - like baby talk containing recognizable words. The 'was not' and the 'by anything' don't change that fact.
It would be just as silly to issue the imperative, "Prevent existence." But nothing made Ted be silly that way.
Steve, are you claiming that you literally do not understand the phrase "There is no thing that prevented the universe from existing?" or "It is not the case that some thing prevented the universe from existing?"
Ted, I intended my remark about being silly as humorous. I thought that you having fun with words - having fun with the difficulties surrounding a word like "nothing." I was enjoying your posts on that. Perhaps I should have put a smiley face at the end of the sentence just to be sure my intent was clear. My apologies for what you took as an insult, it wasn't so intended.
Nothing prevented silliness from becoming an unwelcome topic. (actually, Steve could have prevented it - sorry) --------
p.s., I invite you to improve on my admittedly 'half-assed' attempt to raise the level of discourse - it isn't hypocritical, I really think it's an effort that will be rewarding not just for the forum, but for anyone that participates.
Ted, some combinations of words are like optical illusions - they fool us into thinking we are grasping a fact of reality. When I said that it made no sense to predicate "prevention" of "existence" - it was me saying that there must be a thing to do the preventing, which, as Bill pointed out is asking for something outside of existence. I know that you grasped that.
In your last post you used the word "universe" - this isn't an area where I have any expertise, but I've always used that word mean all that exists now. Where as "existence" includes all that has existed. I'll go on using "existence."
Now, strictly speaking your formulation of "nothing" prevented existence is accurate in a sense, but only on forbearance of a kind of stolen concept fallacy. If you can not predicate 'prevention,' of existence then it makes no sense to say you can as long as the preventer is a thing that doesn't exist. "Prevent" is a concept that cannot be applied to existence as a whole. You have to 'steal' the meaning of 'prevent' which includes that which does the preventing and that which is prevented. If someone prevents me from entering a room, I have a 'something' (that is capable of preventing) and some mechanism of preventing that is valid (perhaps a person stood in my way) and something that could be prevented (my entering the room). With your formulation, there is no possible preventer, no possible mechanism of prevention makes sense, and that which would have been prevented is everything (again, leaving nothing to do the preventing).
When someone says, "Nothing prevented Steve from entering the room," it makes sense because real life has lots of examples of things that could, mechanisms of prevention that would do that, and not entering the room is clearly a possibility.
The following three sentences are all grammatically correct and seem to make sense, but one would never use any of them but the first to avoid abusing the concept of "prevent. ----------------- The concept of prevention does not apply to existence. There is no thing that could prevent existence. Nothing prevents existence.
Steve, believe me, I understand the epistemology of arbitrary sentences. I just don't think it is arbitrary to say that it is the case that there is no thing that can prevent the existence of the universe. It's just as valid a sentence as saying there is no thing that is a square circle, Or no one can kill the king of France.
The fact that square circle is a contradiction does not mean that the sentence denying the contradiction is meaningless, false, arbitrary or nonsense. If it were, then every fals sentence would literally be nonsense.
Why, for example, would the sentence "nothing can prevent the universe from existing" be problematic? It is simply trivially true. I am not saying that there is a thing, a real concrete entity X, that can prevent the existence of the universe, and that it is the thing "nothing." That would be absurd.
The sentence gets its rhetorical kick from the mistake of reification. But the reification is in the minds of the people who ask what would cause the universe. You see that mistake, and object. But the mistake does not lie in the words - it lies in an interpretation of the words. So, without simply assuming that I am reifying nothing, answer the question put to you like you are on the stand and a judge tells you to answer the question put to you.
Do you deny that nothing can prevent the universe from existing?
Yes, I do. And hence, I affirm that nothing can prevent existence. That wasn't all that difficult, no need to answer a question with a question.
The matter is not trivial in a philosophical forum. It is the best rhetorical response to those who ask why the universe exists. It is true, pithy, and should, if the person asking you is paying attention, evoke a laugh of realization. You can always explain yourself, if they don't get the punchline. It works because only those who reify nothing are bothered by it.
From knocking in the combustion engine to thermonuclear explosions making supernovae to the density-to-pressure ratio of dark energy to the cosmic future, that is the course traced in this article by Ron Cowen in Science News (8/15/09).
The way Objectivism uses the term "universe," the answer is, there is no origin. "The universe" means the sum total of that which exists, and since nothing can come from nothing -- since causality presupposes existence (the existence of something to act as a cause) -- the universe could not have been created -- could not have had an origin. It is quite literally eternal.
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