If the Big Bang model of the universe is correct, then that would mean the universe is finite in the past. Some may say that if there is no cause, this implies that the universe came from nothing.

But the notion of coming from nothing implies the existence of nothing before that something. But the notion of “before” doesn’t exist and is arguably meaningless if time itself “begins” during the Big Bang.

So can both of these concepts be in unison or does the universe being finite in the past imply that it still comes from nothing?

  • 2
    The "coming from nothing" does not imply existence of nothing, before or after, it only implies that one can nominalize predicates into nouns and string words into phrases in English. The two gifts of our elastic language. Is "not coming from anything" less tempting for drawing "inferences" from phrasing or should we go with something more mathematical? Btw, Big Bang models include the cyclic universe, where there is collapse of the previous iteration leading to the singularity, and the Hartle–Hawking no-boundary spacetime.
    – Conifold
    Nov 10, 2023 at 13:23
  • "Here be dragons"
    – Scott Rowe
    Nov 10, 2023 at 13:41
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    I cannot decide on the best reason to close this question. Overall, the cosmological nature of the universe and of time seems to belong to science and not philosophy. Overall science knows too little about the origin of the universe for philosophy to make useful statements. The only truth seems to be that simple models of time and space as have been used in philosophy are inadequate to describe the origin of the universe.
    – tkruse
    Nov 10, 2023 at 13:56
  • @tkruse Science is part of philosophy and speculating about different kinds of theories and comparing them based on theoretical virtues (which is all we can do given the mystery of the early universe) is part of philosophy. If it isn’t, you might as well consider any and all questions regarding what is real as not part of philosophy. Nov 10, 2023 at 15:10

3 Answers 3


For the logical possibilities, I would recommend looking into temporal logic, where we are free to posit timelines a priori that have beginnings and endings, are divided into instants or intervals, etc. Since the shape of time is so logically malleable, it seems possible to assert an uncaused finite timeline "just like that":

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More generally, the question of the cause of a timeline might seem misplaced if causation must be temporally conditioned to have substantive value (see Kant's analogies of experience, for example).


With apologies to Kristian lest my words repeat something already covered in his amazing answer, you might want to ponder the following.

  1. Something can be finite but not have a beginning, such as the surface of a sphere, to which there is no start and end.

  2. From my naive perspective, perhaps the Universe could come from nothing. There is a parallel with banking. If you have no money in your account, you can still create it by going overdrawn. You have a positive amount of money in your pocket, a negative amount in the bank, so the overall total is zero, but your positive amount is still useable for a time at least. Maybe the Universe is the result of a similar transaction, in which there is a negative Universe in the universe bank.

  3. Perhaps human minds are not yet (or ever) capable of conceiving what could be outside the Universe. What might have happened 'before' the Universe is analogous to what might be 'outside' it. Possibly neither concept makes any sense at all and we don't realise it. Perhaps it is like asking what's beyond the end of a circle.

Talk about 'before' the Universe and 'causes' of the Universe is necessarily speculative, because we cannot have complete faith in the assumption that human notions of time, cause, logic etc have any relevance other than in the context we know. We can hope they might, but I wouldn't bank on it.

  • +1 for the reminder in your final sentence "because we cannot have complete faith in the assumption that human notions of time, cause, logic etc have any relevance other than in the context we know."
    – Jo Wehler
    Nov 10, 2023 at 21:13

Paying tribute to other answers here, nothing and outside are human concepts that are limited by our current understanding. It may be that we are unable to conceive the extreme conditions at the singularity of creation, assuming it occurred. Our understanding of time is also limited, and temporal logic possibly removes the need for prior cause.

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