After having briefly explored the concept of "nothing" in yesterday's post, I thought: why not do the same for "something"? Or, to ask the age old question "why is there something rather than nothing?"
Let me start by saying that some questions may never be answered, and that's a good thing as far as I'm concerned. Countless stories deal with the concept of prescience, knowing the future, having every question answered about times yet to come, and they all end tragically. I believe that Dune describes it very well, as living in a state of eternal boredom, never being able to be surprised in a universe where everything is predetermined. There must be questions. Always. Or life isn't even worth living. Does that mean we stop looking for answers> No, of course not; it's the pleasure of finding things out that drives us and gives life much of its meaning. To quote Richard Feynman:
I have approximate answers and possible beliefs and different degrees of certainty about different things, but I'm not absolutely sure of anything, and many things I don't know anything about, such as whether it means anything to ask why we're here, and what the question might mean. I think about it a little bit, but if I can't figure it out, then I go on to something else. But I don't have to know an answer. I don't feel frightened by not knowing things, by being lost in a mysterious universe without having any purpose, which is the way it really is, as far as I can tell, possibly. It doesn't frighten me.
The ultimate questions we may never answer, like why are we here, what's the meaning of life, is there a meaning of life? And we must also remember that to ask "why" is a purely human thing to do. There's no "why" in nature or science. There's only "how." How did I come to be here? Well, my father and mother fell in love and... How did they come to be here> Well, their fathers and mothers fell in love and... The things and beings that exist, all have a cause; there's an infinite regress of causes and effects that explains everything there is. That is, until we arrive at The Beginning Of It All. The question then becomes; when is that beginning? Where in the timeline do we arrive at a thing that has no cause, and do we ever arrive there?
Religious people have a ready answer to that question: for them, God exists as the necessary being from which all else came. This doesn't answer the question we posed at the beginning: why is there something rather than nothing? God is a non-answer because God is something. It would be answering the question by saying that there's something because there's something, and that something is God. The same goes if we say that the universe is its own necessary being; it's simply not an answer to the question why there is something rather than nothing. "There just is" May be the only real answer, albeit a very unsatisfying one. But then I remember Richard Feynman and all the stories that deal with beings for whom there are no questions left to answer...
This really is a mind-boggling question, but one that's as much fun to ponder on as the concept of "nothing" itself. Below is linked a video by an amateur philosopher who I've followed for some years now, and I can highly recommend it to anyone who has some time left and is interested in diving deeper into this age old question. I enjoyed it a lot; I hope you will get something out of it as well ;-) And if you want to listen to the entire interview with Richard Feynman, you can find that here.
Why is there something rather than nothing? (All Roads Lead to Russell)
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