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MrSpooky

Existence and Cosmology

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Yes, I know reading a philosophical paper is hard, but just take it step-by-step... DO NOT just skim it thinking you'll get the gist of it.

 

 

 

Cosmology: the scientific or philosophical field that deals with the origins of the universe.  We will address cosmology in the philosophical form.

 

Epistemology:  The philosophical study of knowledge.  It addresses such questions as "What is knowledge?" and "What is knowable?"

 

Metaphysics:  The study of reality.  It addresses such questions as "What IS?" as opposed to Epistemology, which asks "What is KNOWN?"  Due to the phenomenal/noumenal distinction that Kant outlined, much of modern philosophy, which focused on speculative metaphysics (such as Berkeley "proving" that there was no such thing as matter), shifted to more epistemic goals.  Most, if not all metaphysics in the postmodern era are carried out on an epistemic foundation.  As a result, the following proof has epistemic roots, not metaphysical.

 

Existence:  In this paper, it is synonymous with "NATURE."  The two terms will be used interchangably.  Existence/Nature is the body of all that is natural, knowable, and quantifiable.  Existence is the aggregate of all things and the physical limitations of all things.  In order to be natural, knowable, and quantifiable, an object must have determinate properties, and that means having limitations.

 

The Supernatural:  In this paper, it is synonymous in many ways with "GOD."  The two terms will be used interchangably. 

 

The Supernatural/God is the body of all that is NOT natural, knowable, and quantifiable.  Supernatural means "Beyond Nature," and as such the Supernatural does NOT have determinate properties, it has no limitations, and therefore is NOT knowable or quantifiable.  This term may seem somewhat general (I focus on The Supernatural rather than a supernatural BEING), but it is my wish to avoid any fallacy of excluded middle and to at the same time address the entire body of supernaturalism and supernatural causes.  Please note that by "unknowable/unquantifiable" I do NOT mean "What is not YET known/quantifiable," but "what CANNOT be known/quantifiable by definition."  Not knowing the limits of knowing is not the same as not knowing.

 

Unintelligible:  In philosophy, a very serious charge to levy against an idea.  An idea that is unintelligible is one that simply, absolutely "makes no sense," because it has made a blatant logical fallacy that entails critical self-contradiction, ignores significant qualitative data, or is not logically constructed.

 

*Note: I will be citing previous posts and works of mine, but I'll try to elaborate as best as possible.

 

 

 

This paper will address the question: "How do you explain existence?" This is the root of all philosophical cosmology.

 

 

 

Introduction: What is Philosophy?

 

First, it must be noted that before we can arrive at an appropriate answer, we must ask the appropriate question. A question well-asked is already half-answered, as the old adage goes. There have been many instances in the past where people have sought to conduct inquiries with poorly-phrased questions: the Salem Witch Trials were excellent examples.

 

(previous post) The prosecutors at the time didn't ask for a plea of innocence or guilt, but rather formulated their questions in ways that PRESUPPOSED the guilt of the accused. Instead of asking things such as "Did you or did you not consort with the Devil?" they asked "WHY did you consort with the Devil?" 

 

The precise reason this question is an intellectually bad one is that it presupposes the guilt of the accused. It missed out on a possible alternative: that the accused might NOT be guilty.

 

Thus, we conduct our inquiry of the question "How do you explain existence?" NOT by seeking an answer for this question, but by seeing if it is possible to ask the question without encountering an absurdity, fallacy, or contradiction.

 

The first thing to note is that nearly every sentence we utter has its presuppositions. One of the goals of philosophy, then, is to minimize those presuppositions (Ockham's Razor) or compare those presuppositions with others of similar construct to see if they make sense. If those presuppositions are false, we must discard the statement as false.

 

 

 

The Nature of Existence: Necessity and Contingency

 

There are two possible statements we may make about Existence:

 

1) Existence DOES NOT require an explanation (i.e. it is Necessary, it is a-priori, it is self-supporting)

2) Existence DOES require an explanation (i.e. it is Contingent, it is a-posteriori, it is NOT self-supporting)

 

Thus, the question "How do you explain existence?" PRESUPPOSES that Existence requires an explanation (it presupposes that Existence is Contingent). However, this alone does NOT establish that Existence is Necessary. Thus, we seem to be stuck at an impasse: there does not seem to be any way of determining whether existence is Necessary or whether it is Contingent.

 

Existence can be either Necessary or Contingent.

 

Thus, we will look towards the second main element of the question: the nature of an explanation.

 

 

 

The Nature of Explanations: An Epistemic Analysis

 

What EXACTLY is an explanation? What EXACTLY do we need in order to formulate an explanation? Why is it that some attempts at explaining an idea work and others don't?

 

Suppose a child (who knows nothing of physics) asks "What is a rainbow made out of?" and gets two possible responses...

 

1) A rainbow is a pattern of light made by the refraction of solar visible radiation so that its component wavelengths are separated into more or less discrete segments.

2) You've played with prisms, right? First, a prism creates a rainbow pattern by bending the light. This is because white light is made up of many many different colors. When you mix them together, you get white light. When white light is bent in special ways, like through a prism, the light is broken up into the multiple colors. The air contains a lot of little water particles after it rains, and this makes the sky act like a giant prism.

You see lines of colors because some colors are "bent" (like red) differently than others (like blue). This is like when six people get together to see how far each can run in ten seconds. Mr. Red runs slower than Mr. Green, who runs slower than Mr. Blue. When each person starts running at the same time, then stops after ten seconds, Mr. Red will be further back than Mr. Green. Mr. Green will be further back than Mr. Blue.

 

Which is intelligible to the child? Which will he understand? I trust that the child will be able to piece together some understanding of rainbow mechanics by listening carefully and attentively to the second example. It is more detailed, but detailed speech does not automatically entail something easily intelligible. In contrast to the first, the second example simplifies the language to something that the child should understand, referring to experiences the child may remember or imagine (such as the prism experience and the race analogy).

 

The child has a KNOWLEDGE BASE: a collection of experiences and ideas that he knows to be true and he refers to as "knowledge." The ONLY way anyone can explain something new to any effect is to appeal to an individual's knowledge base: take elements that the subject already knows to be true and arrange them in a particular manner (while adding some simple new basic concepts, which in themselves can be traced back to direct observations and ideas).

 

So, if I present an idea, such as “space is curved,” it would be unjustified to accept it as true without an explanation. All we have been given is an idea that sounds like more like science fiction than empirical fact.However, let us say I can provide a proof to someone who knows basic geometry and basic physics:

 

1) In Euclidian space, all triangles have angles that sum to 180 degrees. (basic geometry... the subject knows this)

2) A triangle in curved space would have angles that sum to more or less than 180 degrees. (basic geometry... the subject knows this. If not, I can draw a triangle on the skin of an orange, remove the skin, flatten it, and measure the angles out for him)

3) Light, made of massless particles, should be unaffected by gravity unless gravity bends space rather than acting as a simple force to pull things that have mass. (basic physics... the subject knows this)

4) Scientists took delicate measurements near a high gravitational field with three lasers, forming a triangle. (empirical testing... the subject can imagine this)

5) The triangle made by laser light had angles that did not sum to 180 degrees: the light must have been traveling along curved rather than linear space. (result: a new observation that the subject has just now heard. Suppose he can trust me on my expertise)

6) Therefore, space is curved. (conclusion: a new idea that the subject understands!)

 

Thus, what made the new idea "space is curved" understandable is an appeal to facts and ideas that the subject already understands (basic geometry and basic physics). I arranged some elements of geometry and physics together to set up a situation, described what happened in that situation, and arrived at the logical conclusion. However, if the subject did NOT know anything about basic geometry or basic physics, he would be left scratching his head because he doesn't understand why all triangles must have angles that add up to 180 degrees, or why light is made of massless particles. In that case, I'd have to teach him about basic geometry and basic physics, expanding the size of my proof slightly.

 

Thus, in order for something to be an Explanation, it MUST have a CONTEXT within which is can work... it MUST have a set of experiences, ideas, and events that one can refer to so that the idea presented is understandable.

 

I will repeat:

 

An explanation is a method of making an idea understandable by forming a conceptual bridge from our current context (the knowledge base and demonstrable ideas/events) to an idea.

 

Without a context, one simply cannot formulate an explanation. It is the intellectual equivalent of trying to walk across a chasm without a bridge, or swimming without a body of water to swim in.

 

 

 

The Relation to Existence

 

It is true that each individual human being functions within their own unique context. An artist cannot be expected to have the same knowledge base as a biologist, a physicist cannot be expected to have the same knowledge base as a poet, and vice versa. However, all of humanity functions within one single broad context: the entirety of Existence: that is, the body of all that is knowable, measureable, quantifiable, observable, and thus demonstrable.

 

Despite the difference in knowledge contexts between a physicist and an artist, the physicist can use experiments, math, and cite repeatable scientific observations to the artist to explain an established fact of physics. The artist can point to historical figures, describe the styles, and elaborate on the mechanics of the field to describe the established facts of art (if there are any such things). If the artist does not understand the math or physics, it is possible to expand the explanation slightly to shed some more light. However, the explanation will always end at a certain point of self-evident First Principles (such as Logic), axioms, or direct observations. This is simply as far as it can go. In no place is an explanation dependant on something unknowable, unquantifiable, or undemonstrable: such things describe the boundary of how far human knowledge can extend. The project of science and philosophy, then, is to expand the human context as far as it can go.

 

So, when it is asked to "explain existence," one is seeking to build a context for Existence... however, Existence is, by its very conceptual nature, the only thing that can provide ANY concept. I am not juggling terms, I am not mincing words: this is the very nature of Existence as measured in the previous section. Existence is the ground you use to start building a bridge to a new idea. It is the foundation you use to build a scaffold to reach a new truth. If you wish to explain a new idea, you point to events and patterns external to you in Existence. Existence is the epistemic and metaphysical primary.

 

This is the primary problem that makes the request to "explain existence" unintelligible... it takes the concept of "explanation" entirely out of the boundaries in which it functions intelligibly, the realm of contexts. It seeks to find an "explanation" for an idea (that is, Existence) without a context within which to work. It is like building a bridge without ground beneath your feet. The pieces falls apart before you can even start.

 

 

 

The Second Blow to The Cosmological Argument

 

We have already dealt a philosophical killing blow to Natural Theological cosmology. However, there is a second problem that must be still addressed to expand on this problem even further, and it lies not just in the nature of the problem itself, but also in the solution.

 

Remember that the Theist argues that since one cannot "explain existence" in natural terms, one must explain Existence through SUPERNATURAL terms (that is, God).

 

So what foundation EXACTLY does one stand on when he asks to "explain existence?" Remember: to ask for an explanation is to:

 

1) Presuppose that an explanation exists

2) Presuppose that a context for that explanation to work in exists

3) That explanation must piece together elemental ideas of the context in a new way and/or add new ideas to our current understanding from the context (see the "space is curved" proof if you need to again).

 

Therefore, a context bigger than natural Existence (and will therefore help provide an explanation for existence) is presupposed: The SUPERNATURAL.

 

But herein lies the second fatal flaw.

 

As you can see, The Supernatural is the necessary premise of the Theist's cosmological argument. This argument simply won't work without it. However, The Supernatural is also the Theist's conclusion.

 

We have arrived at a blatant circular argument.

 

This huge fallacy is all due to the Theist having manufactured his own problem to find a solution: he proposes his own problem (i.e. Existence needs an explanation) and dives in with his own solution (The Supernatural [God] did it). This has been the practice of natural theology ever since it was a glimmer in the eyes of theologians.

 

The Theist can only have a successful cosmological argument to prove a Supernatural cause as necessarily existing if he presupposes the Supernatural.

 

 

 

 

 

Thus, I submit to you the final, shortened argument we have gone through...

 

 

1. Existence can be either Necessary or Contingent.

2. An explanation is a method of making an idea understandable by forming a conceptual bridge from our current context (the knowledge base and demonstrable ideas/events) to an idea.

3. Asking to "explain existence" renders it impossible to have a context to provide an explanation: the very question is impossible, self-defeating, and unintelligible.

4. The problem is further exacerbated by the blatant circular argument of natural theology: The Theist can only have a successful cosmological argument to prove a Supernatural cause as necessarily existing if he presupposes the Supernatural.

 

From this result, we will draw our conclusion:

 

*Because the concept of Existence needing an explanation is unintelligible, Existence is NOT contingent. Therefore, Existence is Necessary. Existence does not need an explanation... it simply IS.

 

 

 

There it is. A bit abstract, just a touch complex, but overall an elegant, step-by-step solid proof by elimination that Existence does not need an explanation. It is not dogma, it is not "faith," just simple, solid logic and reasoning.

 

QED: Quod Erat Demonstrandum.

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Ah. Just so!

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Guest Timm001

I like your argument, and your style is excellent.

 

There is one problem, however, and it may come when you make of the fallacy of equivocation. Equating "existence" with "the existence of the Universe" is logically invalid, as the Universe is within the class of things that exist, not the other way around.

 

Theists do not seek to explain existence by appealing to God, they seek to explain the existence of the Universe by appealing to God. The Universe - as far as we can tell - is a contingent entity, because no contradiciton would be created were it to pop out of existence tomorrow. However, existence itself - as you have said - may in fact be necessary. This is precisely what Theists claim when they say that God does not need an explanation for His existence, but that He simply exists. A contradiction is created by saying that a necessarily existent being does not exist, but not by saying that a contingently existing Universe does not exist.

 

The kalaam cosmological argument for God's existence seeks to infer God as the best explanation for the existence of the Universe, not for existence itself. When people ask "How do you explain existence?" they typically mean "How do you explain the existence of the Universe?" Hence the problem with equivocation.

 

Good post though, very thoughtful.

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Timm, EXACTLY how do you differentiate Existence from the Universe? Explain more thoroughly.

 

I understand that the Universe in some circles refers to the material universe: however, this is not what my argument addresses. Existence is the natural metaphysical body that encapsulates everything: it is the metaphysical body that the material Universe sprang from.

 

EDIT: Unless you can explain more thoroughly in your post, it seems as if your argument retreats from metaphysical-philosophical cosmology to scientific cosmology (i.e. how/why does the material universe exist?).

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Guest Timm001

MrSpooky,

 

I will answer your question after a brief outline of my response.

 

I observe in your post two potential occurrences:

 

1) A fundamental misunderstanding of the Kalam cosmological argument

2) A misunderstanding of common terminology

 

I will say that it is possible for both of these to take place, that is, they are not exclusive. Which of these I am able to demonstrate has yet to be seen, and surely you will have an opinion on that.

 

To proceed, I believe it necessary to clarify a few of my own statements in light of your characterization of my post. The only two arguments I offered were that you (1) equated the “Universe” with “Existence” or – more precisely - “All of existence” in your post by assuming that you had dealt a blow to natural theology, more specifically the body of cosmological arguments, and that you (2) made this mistake via the informal fallacy of equivocation. By thinking that you had “philosophically” killed the cosmological argument (I will assume the Kalam argument because it is the most popularly spoken of) through illustrating that “existence” does not need an explanation, I believe that you confused “existence” with “the existence of the Universe,” which is what theists are attempting to give a causal account for through the Kalam argument. If you have shown that existence does not need an explanation, the theist might agree with you, because this is not what the kalam argument seeks to demonstrate. Rather, it argues that the existence of the universe needs an explanation. Hence, when you say that you have killed the cosmological argument by showing that existence does not require an explanation, your usage of the word “existence” potentially equivocates regarding the meaning of the word, thinking you had also dealt a blow to the claim that the existence of the universe requires an explanation. The two terms do not refer to the concept, therefore defeating one does not defeat the other.

 

Now I will answer your question:

I could differentiate between the existence of the Universe and existence itself by a simple listing of those things which I believe to exist:

1) God

2) The Universe

3) Existence itself

 

The relationship between the Universe and existence might be illustrated by an analogy. I exist within the Universe, but I am not the Universe itself. Likewise, the Universe exists within the aggregate of other things that exist (whether material or immaterial), but it is not existence itself. Nor is it the entirety of all that exists. Note that the above analogy is intended to communicate the relationship between things that exist and existence, not one which speaks to the metaphysical necessity of myself, the Universe, or existence.

 

Lastly, I am not entirely certain what you mean by saying that an argument that I have made “retreats” to scientific cosmology, because science has little – if any – to say on the nature of necessity and contingency.

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To proceed, I believe it necessary to clarify a few of my own statements in light of your characterization of my post.  The only two arguments I offered were that you (1) equated the “Universe” with “Existence” or – more precisely  - “All of existence” in your post by assuming that you had dealt a blow to natural theology, more specifically the body of cosmological arguments, and that you (2) made this mistake via the informal fallacy of equivocation.  By thinking that you had “philosophically” killed the cosmological argument (I will assume the Kalam argument because it is the most popularly spoken of) through illustrating that “existence” does not need an explanation, I believe that you confused “existence” with “the existence of the Universe,” which is what theists are attempting to give a causal account for through the Kalam argument.  If you have shown that existence does not need an explanation, the theist might agree with you, because this is not what the kalam argument seeks to demonstrate.  Rather, it argues that the existence of the universe needs an explanation.  Hence, when you say that you have killed the cosmological argument by showing that existence does not require an explanation, your usage of the word “existence” potentially equivocates regarding the meaning of the word, thinking you had also dealt a blow to the claim that the existence of the universe requires an explanation.  The two terms do not refer to the concept, therefore defeating one does not defeat the other.

 

All you're doing is inserting God into it, when a singularity could have caused itself, as QM suggests.

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Timm, my post was referring to the Contingency Argument, not the Kalam Cosmological Argument, which is best characterized by the Russell-Copelston debate in which Copelston asked "Why Existence rather than Nonexistence?" However, I will address your points.

 

This is my rebuttal to your rebuttal: if you allow for Existence as a context within which the Universe can exist (I assume you mean the "substance" that is the universe encapsulated within Existence) you allow for the possibility that the Universe can be evaluated within the context of Existence, as mentioned before,

 

"In this paper, it is synonymous with "NATURE." The two terms will be used interchangably. Existence/Nature is the body of all that is natural, knowable, and quantifiable."

 

If Existence is the descriptive ontology of the Universe (which you seem to allow), the Universe can be analyzed within the context of Existence. The problem then simply reduces to a scientific matter: "CAN the Universe be explained given the descriptive ontology of Existence?" and if so, "HOW did the Universe come to be given the descriptive ontology of Existence?"

 

As a result, like I said before, the matter simply then reduces to a matter of scientific cosmology: Big Bang theory and all that. In such an instance, even if scientific cosmology is for now insufficient, whatever cosmological argument pops up then runs into a God of Gaps fallacy.

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The theists assume the primacy of consciousness when they say that God created the universe or that "nothing" could exist. So even statements like "God exists" beg the question, because statements of existence imply the primacy of existence. Existence is an absolute : you can't deny it one moment and affirm it the next.

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Wow, what a timely thread.

 

Please check me out on this if you can.

 

On another board I made a similar, if not inarticulate argument (unlike Spookys) that we do not live in a dreamworld of "a brain sitting in a hatbox in my closet." If I remember correctly, this is pure solipsism. And I am pretty sure that this is a strong skeptical position which only refutes itself because we were relating concepts about the nature of existence back in forth between each other. In other words, language – two to tango.

 

However, what's to stop someone from stating it only seems like that. That even language and learning is part of the dreamscape too? Wouldn't his be tantamount of one "universal" mind playing a game of basketball by using his hands as two teams and his fingers as players on the schoolyard court?

 

My thought in answering that charge is that, is, if everything is part of the dreamscape, then the argument for itself is in serious trouble because it denies its very existence. Kinda like stating: "This sentence does not exist. How can you make such a statement coherently if you're basically refuting your own existence?

 

Also, I associated this dreamscape madness with the cozy god of the gaps argument. Functionally, I thought, it's a type an ad hoc, contra-argument.

 

01. The universe is created from a person's dreamscape.

02. The universe was created by God.

 

Comments, my hatbox friends?

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Quicksand, you got the gist of it. Solipsism in its extreme form is self-refuting. In its weaker form (the "brain in a vat" kind), the skeptical claim can be reduced to the ontological claim of a "higher reality". And that higher reality is therefore scientifically verifiable. Since we have no such evidence so far, we have no grounds to make such a claim.

 

Christianity is a skeptical claim of the weaker form, in that it believes that the universe is the subjective creation of a god. This implies that, unlike the "brain in the vat" situation, everything material is subjective, which is self-refuting. The Christian's only possible answer at this point is to say that God is unchanging, but this is an equivocation which is irrelevant to the argument.

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Hehe, I remember Bertrand Russell once mentioned that he recieved a letter from a woman who was a logician. She wrote telling him that she was a solipsist, and was so impressed with the idea of solipsism that she was surprised "there aren't any others."

 

Bertrand Russell, recognizing that she was a logician, mentioned, "this surprise surprised me."

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It always surprises me how mad nihilists get when I put them on ignore. Shouldn't they just imagine me paying attention to them ?

 

On the other hand, I see no reason to have any respect for someone who doesn't believe I exist. It's a very dictatorial way to think, if you think about it : why have qualms about killing someone who doesn't exist ? Of course, it's also contradictory, but... you know.

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Hey, Mr. S! I love your hot new avatar.

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*crowd parts for Ficino, the philosophy major*

 

Aweeeeeee thankee. Ish cute and freakishly funny in how over-the-top suggestive it is. ^________^

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