Does this syllogism prove that matter is eternal. If NO, then where does it fall short? regards

P1: Something cannot come from nothing. P2: Our universe exists, and is made up something. P3: This something (that makes up the universe) was never at any point, nothing.

(Because if it was at one point nothing, it could never become something, because you can't get something from nothing)

P4: If the something (that makes up the universe) was never at any point nothing that means it’s always been something. P5: If the something (that makes up the universe) has always been something, it’s eternal.

(This something has always been in existence. Perhaps not in its current form, but in some form)

P6: If our universe is made up of eternal material, the universe itself is eternal.

Therefore: Our universe is eternal

  • This certainly doesn't show that matter is eternal.
    – Veedrac
    Commented Mar 16, 2018 at 0:45
  • i'm also fairly sure you can't sweep the causality issue under the rug by making it eternal anyway.
    – Veedrac
    Commented Mar 16, 2018 at 0:46
  • 1
    This is not anything close to a standard categorical syllogism. This is not part of metaphysics either. This is written as a science person would write. Logic requires a conclusion for every two premises. You simply list premises to get to one conclusion. What is the conclusion from premises 1 & 2? Then 3&4? You should not leave it to the reader. You have to show the work and then that work would be evaluated for flaws, fallacies, etc. even with all true premise an argument can be rejected because of poor form. Arguments have FORM & some forms are good while others are bad.
    – Logikal
    Commented Mar 16, 2018 at 2:44
  • "If the something (that makes up the universe) has always been something, it’s eternal". Does "eternal" mean extending indefinitely into the past? Because P1 does not prevent something from turning into nothing. And why does something have to be matter? Something else, more spiritual, could have degenerated into matter, for example. Moreover, according to Christians, God created matter from nothing, so P1 is false.
    – Conifold
    Commented Dec 30, 2018 at 9:55
  • It seems to me your argument is sound. The problem lies in your second premise. You assume the universe is metaphysically-real (irreducible) and that it is made of something that is metaphysically-real. This creates the intractable riddle of 'Something-Nothing' and how one comes from the other. There is no solution to this riddle, which is why it so ancient, other than to drop this premise and assume something like the Perennial philosophy is true (for which nothing really exists as an independent 'thing'). . .
    – user20253
    Commented Dec 30, 2018 at 13:03

2 Answers 2


What is "nothing"?

Before you start, you have to define what "nothing" is.

The problem you have — and where the syllogism falls apart — is that we as humans have never seen a "nothing". We have never witnessed the absence of space, of time, of gravity, the laws of nature, and all the other things that make up the physical world. We have no way of describing this "nothing". Even if you were to describe a perfect vacuum, even to the point of being devoid of particle radiation, that is not a "nothing" since it would still be subject to the laws of nature. The four fundamental forces would still be valid in that vacuum. We really cannot wrap our primitive minds around something that has no time, no space, and no laws of nature as we know them.

The collective human knowledge only knows our tiny and young neighbourhood that is the finite and observable universe, 14 billion years old and — to the best of our knowledge — 554 billion light years in size, at the most. Currently the biggest space we can observe is "only" 554 billion light years across, and "only" 14 billion years old.

I would compare our situation with the allegory of the cave. Our cave is the universe; our physical reality. And until we can step outside of that, we cannot say what the shadows of the allegory — which in our case are matter, time, the fundamental forces, the laws of nature, everything that we consider to be real — actually stem from.

What is outside of this? We do not know. What was before this time? We do not know. We do not even know if the concepts of "outside" and "before" are meaningful and/or applicable when regarding the known universe. So we cannot say anything about the nature of the "nothing" that our universe came from, and therefore we also cannot say that something cannot come from this "nothing".

So no, your syllogism does not prove that matter is eternal, because you cannot prove P1, because you do not know what "nothing" is. And when you do not know what "nothing" is, you cannot prove that something cannot come from it.

  • 1
    Nice application of the simile of the cave. - The number "554" light years for the spatial size of the cosmos does not seem correct to me.
    – Jo Wehler
    Commented Mar 16, 2018 at 8:31
  • @JoWehler Thank you, a "billion" had fallen out.
    – MichaelK
    Commented Mar 16, 2018 at 8:31
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    +1 I was thinking of answering this by saying we don't know what "something" is, but I like your approach questioning what "nothing" is. Commented Mar 19, 2018 at 13:38
  • 1
    @FrankHubeny Thank you. I credit Matt Dillahunty and his Atheist Experience co-hosts for bringing that argument to my attention.
    – MichaelK
    Commented Mar 19, 2018 at 13:46
  • 1
    The answer relies on you knowing the subject content of the premises. Many mathematical people state logic is strictly about form and validity. Your answer goes against this perception. The issue is your answer is outside of mathematical logic because more than validity is involved. I liked your answer but the mathematical people shouldn't.
    – Logikal
    Commented Mar 19, 2018 at 16:14

Does this syllogism prove that matter is eternal. If NO, then where does it fall short?

At least two core, mutually independent issues invalidate the rationale you outline. One has to do with the questionable veracity of P1, and the other is the mistaken extrapolation to the future in P5 notwithstanding that hitherto you had only talked about the past (P1, P3, and P4) or the present (P2).

The other answer addressed P1 from an empirical or somewhat physical approach. The drawback of that approach is that the same argument would improperly negate many other concepts on grounds that no one has ever perceived them. Consider the number one or the addition: We certainly see their representations or symbols ('1' and '+', respectively), and by manipulating both concepts we develop thoughts, calculations, and proofs. However, neither we have ever seen the number|operation itself nor have we ever grasped --let alone in isolation-- the essence of addition as a concept on its own.

P1 pretty much paraphrases one direction of one of Epicurus's most important assumptions. He characterized Creation as an impossibility, arguing that the transitions to and from the states of not-being and being would result in a generalized instability and a constant switching from the being state back to the not-being state. To my knowledge, though, Epicurus never actually proved the validity of his conjecture, nor did he substantiate it much further than along these lines. Thus, the entire rationale is uncertain because it stems from an unverified --if not unverifiable-- premise.

The second issue is the improper extrapolation to the future. P1, P3, and P4 are expressed only in terms of the past (or with a connotation thereof): "come from", "was never at any point", "it's always been something", respectively. Next, the rationale unjustifiably leaps by characterizing the [universe] material as eternal (and, impliedly, endless), without substantiating whatsoever why something that "has always been something" will necessarily continue to exist [in one form or another] forever. At least Epicurus's questionable assumption negates the transition from either state to the other, whereas P1 only negates the transition from not-being to being (leaving the other direction unaddressed).

One mathematical equivalent of the aforementioned, mistaken extrapolation is the incorrect presumption that if an interval has no lower bound, then it has no upper bound either.

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