Let's start with what is the universe: the universe is everything that exists - galaxies, stars, planets, matter, energies, etc. So the universe is composed of atomic components and the energies between them. That means that our universe is composed entities "positioned" relatively to each other in some space.

Even if everything is relative and space is infinite, there aren't any bounds like the start or end of space. How can be this space in nothing? It is supposed to be in something, forming something like atoms are forming complex structures. But if it's in something then where is this something? So that would be infinite recursion and if this recursion ends somewhere it would be again nothing.

Do we exist? If we do, then where?

  • While the problem of an infinite universe is definitely an evocative one -- can you tell us a little more about the problem you're trying to solve? "Do we exist and where?" is very broad: what specific challenge are you encountering in your study of this issue in philosophy? What sort of answer might you be expecting and what might you have found out already?
    – Joseph Weissman
    Commented Jun 29, 2012 at 22:09
  • I decided to answer the question in a way that looks at the underlying material of your question, but that doesn't mesh perfectly with your question. I hope you don't mind. Commented Jul 2, 2012 at 16:01
  • If the universe is everything, than isn't it also everywhere?
    – philosodad
    Commented Jul 5, 2012 at 19:42
  • 1
    In one short sentence: Yes, "where" is the universe.
    – philosodad
    Commented Jul 6, 2012 at 22:11
  • 1
    Here [15 characters]
    – That Guy
    Commented Aug 8, 2014 at 1:02

7 Answers 7


This reminds me of an old zen statement that someone once told me. It is said about a bowl or a wheel (I have forgotten which: an empty bowl is a common koan subject, and wheels are even in the I Ching). I'll say it as if it were about a bowl. It is a dialogue, and it goes something like this:

What is it that makes a bowl useful?
A bowl can carry things, and we can eat or drink out of it.
So we like a bowl because it provides us with other things?
Well, no. A bowl doesn't actually provide anything that we don't first provide to the bowl.
And the things we provide to the bowl are all that we like about the bowl?
Well, no. A bowl is empty, capable of holding things.
So we like a bowl because of what is not there? Because the middle of a bowl is not bowl?
Yes. We like a bowl because of what is not there.

But more relevantly, there are some very nice cosmological questions all wrapped up into one bundle here. And we should look at some of them.

You say: Even if everything is relative and space is infinite, there aren't any bounds like the start or end of space. How can be this space in nothing?

Part of this comes down to the interpretation of what a 'bound' on 'space' is. One way of thinking about the universe is to think of it as a manifold. Some might say it is a 3-manifold, some might say it's a 4-manifold, and still others might say that it's a much higher-dimensional manifold with tightly curled dimensions. Let's not focus on that, but instead just on the idea that the universe might be interpreted as a manifold. What is a manifold? It's something that looks locally like 'normal space.' So the idea is that everywhere we go in space, we expect its shape to look roughly the same.

This leads us to a big debate in cosmology as to the shape of the universe. This is all physics so far. But I bring this up because I wanted to mention some of the leading ideas. In general relativity, which has a cosmological component, the shape of the universe is typically modelled on a particular exact solution to a set of Einstein's equations, called the Friedmann-Lemaitre-Robertson-Walker metric. Associated with this metric is a sign (positive, negative, or zero). It sounds to me like you are implicitly thinking of this sign as zero.

If it's zero, then the universe more or less 'extends forever' exactly like it looks locally. That is, if you were to have a set of infinite, straight axes, like an x, y, and z axis, and where to measure everything according to these axes, nothing bad would happen. While this is possible, as it is suspected that this cosmological constant is very small (source, e.g. here) even though the sign itself is unknown, it's not all that is thought possible.

In particular, if it were positive or negative, then things become very different. One suddenly tosses words around like a 'sperical manifold' or a 'hyperbolic manifold.' It becomes possible for there to be a universe that is infinite (in the sense that we can go on in any direction forever) yet bounded. When I say bounded here, it has a very particular meaning, but that's also a bit complicated. So we'll discuss it by means of example.

Poincaré used to like to describe a hyperbolic geometry that's easy to visualize. Suppose we have a disk, and in the center of the disk we are a certain size. As we approach the edge of the disk, we shrink, and perhaps we shrink at the perfect rate so that, were we to hit the edge of the disk, we would have zero size. Then, walking towards the edge of the disk, we would never get there, in a sort of Xeno's Paradox. We keep getting smaller and smaller, and cover less and less apparent distance. Like below:

enter image description here

A nicer image from our good friend M.C. Escher:

enter image description here

Einstein spoke of a particular spherical manifold that had a similar characteristic. The fundamental similarity comes from the strange aspect of relativity that objects contract in length when they move very fast.
(This is a whole thing to consider in itself - there is a 'dumb' problem about fitting a ladder in a tower. Suppose you have a 1-roomed tower that's much taller than it is wide, so that a ladder won't just fit in the door. If we want to replace the lightbulb on the chandelier at the top, what do you do? Answer: point the ladder at the door and run really, really fast. You and the ladder will shrink, and you just need to be sure to rotate the ladder before you slow down.)

So what I'm getting at is that some have conceived of potential universes that are both infinite and bounded, in a certain sense. I hope you'll forgive me if I left a lot out - I just wanted to pull out certain ideas.

But this leads me to talk briefly about a second aspect of your question: The assumption that the universe is supposed to be in something. I was under the impression that you were referring to the universe as, well, everything. Then this is silly, and reduces to: if there is Everything, where is it? But conceivably you do not consider 'space' to be part of the 'universe' that you mentioned, because 'space' is 'empty,' right?

That's not how space is thought of in terms of the manifold-interpretation I was using above. In this, 'space' is more or less the manifold itself, while every atom, molecule, radiation, etc. are simply spots or regions in the manifold. So while I think that there are nice cosmological questions there, I don't think that they're properly formulated, perhaps. [For additional reading, you might start with the Theorema Egregium or Physical Cosmology, and follow links and references to your heart's content].

To end, I want to look away from mathematical physics or cosmology for a moment. Reading back on what I wrote, I get the impression that things are far more certain than they really are. Although we posit many things, we know very little (I don't want to get into Do we know whether we know something? or Claims that we know (virtually) nothing - can they be refuted?). I think a very nice, much more philosophical (in a modern sense) perspective starts with the Anthropic Principles.

Whoo! That's a lot longer than I was anticipating, and more technical than I had hoped. But the included ideas, those are what I wanted to get across. The popular science writer Jeremy Bernstein has a book that I've heard many good things about (though haven't read - but I like some of his other material, and his articles for the New Yorker), and it's very inexpensive. Restricting ourselves only to free things, I would start with the anthropic principle and see where I'm taken.

I hope this was an okay read.

  • 2
    It was a brilliant read! +1 Commented Jul 3, 2012 at 0:06
  • Btw, it was Zeno... [you possibly cross-thought with Xenocrates? :) ] Commented Jul 3, 2012 at 0:09
  • 2
    Wow. This deserves about a million upvotes. Unfortunately, I can only provide one. +1 Commented Jul 3, 2012 at 16:14
  • We like the bowl because of its function
    – nir
    Commented Aug 8, 2014 at 6:21
  • It is worth mentioning that when you live in the Poincare disk you do not notice that you are getting smaller or bigger. Because of the fact that everything around is shrinking with you (including your metering devices). Commented Dec 24, 2016 at 21:08

If Universe contains everything (I'll assume your definition), then it's meaningless to ask where is the Universe. It's like asking what's the color of pain.

It's true that "Universe is in nothing", but only if that's interpreted as "there is no x such that Universe is in x".

To ask where is to ask where in Universe.


Do we exist?

I exist, do you?

If we do, then where?

Within Existence where, by Existence, I mean the totality of all that is, was, and will be.


It is, I'm afraid, easy to ask questions that reveal a misconception of the terms used. One such question is "Where is the Universe?" Why not also ask "When is the Universe?"

The point is that notions of "where" and "when" genetically depend on the concept of Universe which refers to all there is. To ask where or when is the Universe is to attempt to relieve those notions of the context on which they crucially depend. But, you can't do that. Those notions don't stand alone without any other context.


Even if everything is relative and space is infinite, there aren't any bounds like the start or end of space. How can be this space in nothing?

If you agree that space is infinite (that it is unbounded), then the universe by definition cannot be in anything.

It is supposed to be in something, forming something like atoms are forming complex structures.

Why is it supposed to be in something? It is completely foreign to me how someone could even begin to propose such a notion.

But if it's in something then where is this something? So that would be infinite recursion and if this recursion ends somewhere it would be again nothing.

Again, if it (the universe) is within something else, then the universe is by definition not infinite and not bounded, conflicting with your first premise.

Do we exist? If we do, then where?

I'm not sure how you jumped from the universe to people, but either way, as with anything else in the universe position is determined by relations. "To the left of the car", "X feet above sea level", "Y meters in front of me", etc. There are an infinite ways to describe one's position and infinite degrees of accuracy for each description, so just pick one...


The question asserted two things:

  1. Asking, where is universe?
  2. Asking whether we are exist or not and where are we (if we are exist)?

Answering first question:

For a complete understanding about universe and its position, there are many theories for this question: universe is in us, universe is product of our mind, everyone has its own universe, holographic universe (universe is a consciousness hologram) and many more similar understanding. Each of these explanations assert an understanding of possible place for (or as) universe and us, so there won't be impossibility for us to exist, and it's an assertion to the question, where universe is.

But i have my own explanation related to this, and it help me much to see universe related to others and any possible consequences easier to understand as a reasonable framework. At least for now until someday there is an assertion that replace my point of view.

Allow me to explain this on different point of view. On my point of view. This is my understanding:

There is only one universe as myself, but there could be multiple universe inside myself. These universes are possibilities, but there is only huge universe as myself.

Compared to others, then there are more universes as many as themselves.

Where is universe?

Imagine these:

  • There is water, and from water we can see an ice. Single ice would be considered as a border of universe for myself. Inside an ice there is a little bit liquidity and it called my consciousness. Multiply it for any of us. So if there are billion people, then there are billion of a kind of ice.

  • What we perceive as living, it’s differentiation from one state to another state of liquidity in the middle of my own ice (this ice causes a sense of territory - I am not you). Universe is not the ice but it’s a part of possible differentiation of a state of liquidity in the middle of my ice.

  • If there is another observer directs his perceptions at the coordinates of the location, then at the speed of light or almost instantaneously, there would be" copy and paste 'of such material ("x") reflected to the universe of the observer, so that the observer will see the material ("x") with slightly different based on different points of view.

    • When you are touching your friend, then there is a changing of liquidity in the middle of your ice that give you perception there is you and your friend and you are trying to touch your friend. On another ice owned by your friend, there will be synchronized to your action, so if you succeed touched your friend, then inside your friend’s ice there will be a changing of liquidity that reflects your friend is being touched by you.
  • There is no causality (that can be observed empirically) inside your universe. Causality (that can be observed empirically) is between my universe and yours to control how something should be related. WE ARE ALL CONNECTED EACH OTHER.

Answering second question:

Please refer to infinite regression.

Through understanding that there is no infinite regression, it asserts there is uncaused cause.


  • Where is universe? Universe is within consciousness
  • We are exist. Where? Since there is nothing left behind and only an uncaused cause, then universe and ourselves are within an uncaused cause.

If you wish to see universe from the biggest point of view, please refer to this link What is universe?

  • The second paragraph ("that there is universe..."), to the extent that I can make sense of it, is a very poor argument for the thesis that space is infinite (if that's what it's arguing for).
    – Schiphol
    Commented Jul 1, 2012 at 1:35
  • That's not my argument, that's my understanding from any point of view to this question, please refresh, i already marked with //begin ~ end//
    – Seremonia
    Commented Jul 1, 2012 at 1:42
  • you mean that the passage between "begin" and "end" is common ground to anyone approaching this question, or something like that?
    – Schiphol
    Commented Jul 1, 2012 at 1:45
  • 1
    I'm sorry, I'm not following. If you think the question is ambiguous, you should state that clearly in your answer, lay out the two (or more) alternative understandings of the question, and work from there.
    – Schiphol
    Commented Jul 1, 2012 at 2:25
  • This forum allowed us to do downvoting without any explanation, but downvoting without essential objection was away from the purpose of philosophy, to achieve wisdom (since there is no improving each others on downvoting without proper objection). Argumentation about universe is debatable, therefore downvoting must be followed with fixed assertion. Because our concern in philosophy is not only downvoting or upvoting, but rather improving each other. Please, provide your fair & targeted objection. :)
    – Seremonia
    Commented Jul 16, 2012 at 21:09

Note: I won't be considering time as a dimension in my arguments below.

Assumption: This universe is not the only universe.

If the above assumption is true, then this 3D universe exist within the 4D multiverse, which has one more dimension than this universe, a dimension that separates this universe from infinitely many other universes. The same arguments can be used to argue that the multiverse exists within the 5D space, and so on.


Imagine a 2D person named Bob living in a 2D world. From his perspective, the universe is infinite. Bob asks the question: "where does this universe exist?", to which the answer is: "it exists in the 3D world that contains his 2D world and an infinite number of other 2D worlds". However Bob won't be able to visualize that, the same way that we can't visualize the 4D multiverse.

Now, regarding the question "is our universe the only universe?", Neil deGrasse Tyson said the something along the lines of this:

Humans thought Earth is the only Planet, that turned out to be wrong. Humans thought our solar system is the only one, that turned out to be wrong. Humans then thought our galaxy is the only one. Then we discovered there are a countless number of galaxies. Is our universe the only one? Statistics seems to be against that idea.

Sorry, English is not my first language.

  • The Neil deGrasse Tyson point is facetious. Allow me to reductio ad absurdum that. You think you're the only intelligence using your body. Considering that people turned out to be wrong on so much else, we have every reason to believe you have an intelligent alien parasite.
    – virmaior
    Commented Aug 8, 2014 at 0:20
  • @virmaior, I don't know about alien parasites, but the degree to which bacteria colonies can be responsible for biochemical changes in humans and their behaviour is not easily discarded as a collapse into absurdity. If collective intentional action that acts rationally is sufficient for intelligence, you might need to pick a better reductio.
    – Paul Ross
    Commented Aug 8, 2014 at 7:41
  • I'm not saying Neil is right, I'm just getting his point across. I'm a rookie at "philosophy" and it seems that proving any statement is very very hard if not impossible, please take my answer with a grain of salt as it's just an idea I'd like to share. Commented Aug 8, 2014 at 15:46
  • @virmaior Also Neil's point is that humans have a tendency of regarding the place they exist within (Earth, this solar system, and the Milky Way galaxy) as the only one, which has always been wrong in the past, so it seems odd that we continue to assume we live in the only universe. Commented Aug 8, 2014 at 15:55
  • @PaulRoss, I'm not really sure why you're missing the reductio here. Tyson's claim is that at each level of scale we've been mistaken in believing we're the only X. Without additional premises, that's a terrible argument. Thus, the reductio has equal validity.
    – virmaior
    Commented Aug 9, 2014 at 2:11

Different people have proposed different answers to this question:

  • One standard answer is "suspended in a featureless void."
  • Bishop Berkeley answered in the mind of God (paraphrased).
  • Nick Bostrom said simulated on a cosmic computer (also paraphrased).
  • Other thinkers would characterize those both as the same answer.

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