So, the universe was created by the big bang. And the big bang was created by some stringy things, or branes or whatever. But what created those strings? And what created the thing that created them? And so on, and so on, or as I know it, the precursor problem.

Simple logic dictates that being cannot come into being. It would require being already being for anything to come into being.

Therefore, being has always been. Rendering the endless tower of theoretical cards redundant.

The same goes for existence - existence cannot come into existence if you don't already have existence to begin with, therefore existence can only exist eternally.

All this being the product of my own reasoning, I wonder what established mainstream philosophy has to say on the subject.


9 Answers 9


IMO a statement like

"being comes into being" has no meaning.

In the context of your question the verb "to be" is used as a synonym of "to exist", as a full verb. Your question considers existing things like the universe or "stringy things", i.e. elementary particles. All these things are physical objects. I agree that in the case of physical objects it is meaningful to ask how these objects started to exist.

In a second step, you reify the verb "to be", speaking about the reification "being". You now consider the noun "being" an object and ask how started "being of the object being". But being is not a physical object, it is the reification of a verb. Therefore, this type of question is not meaningful.

  • If you permit, this is pretty true; yet the OP might be implying metaphysical concept Being when saying being. Note they are leaning on word "creation". Being seen as a sort foundation of a thing which is, foundation of why it is what it is, certainly tastes a reification, to an extent.
    – ttnphns
    Commented Apr 29, 2018 at 9:46
  • Individual thoughts, interpretations of words, and social conventions are also not physical objects, yet they come into being. So there is something specious about this mode of argument.
    – user9166
    Commented Apr 29, 2018 at 16:37
  • @jobermark My point is that "being", the reification of a verb, does not come into being. Do we agree about this point? - Of course also non-physical objects can come into being; you give some examples.
    – Jo Wehler
    Commented Apr 29, 2018 at 16:54
  • OK, but your argument for why the reification of a verb does not come into being is that it is non-physical. So the reason you give is not really the reason. In some sense other verbs, like 'bonding' or more pointedly 'breathing' do have given points where they come into being -- before which they are not possible and could not happen, and the 'reification' of them could be said to start from that time. Being is different in a deeper way, which your logic here fails to capture. The basic notion is right, but something is still missing.
    – user9166
    Commented Apr 29, 2018 at 19:16
  • 1
    @jobermark I read the OP’s question as a question about physical objects; see his examples. Therefore I did not consider the question in which sense non-physical objects like ideas, mathematical objects, etc. exist. - I agree that we can also speak about the begin or end of actions. Although I would prefer to say „the action starts“ in comparison to „ the action comes into being“. - But in the statement „Being comes into being“ the first noun „Being“ seems to be of a different type than the noun „the action“ in the statement „The action comes into being“.
    – Jo Wehler
    Commented Apr 29, 2018 at 19:42

Kant argues that being does not have being -- it is not a property or state, it is simply the reality of a thing having properties and states. His argument is narrower than yours, but basically the same, and it goes farther.

If existence were a state, then nonexistence would be a state. Yet what can nonexistence be the state of? Such a thing would not exist...

Instead, non-existence is only really the state of an idea, and not of a thing, and it does not really mean non-existence, it means not describing anything. To think of it as a property of things is just a grammatical error of omitting 'quotes'. The idea of non-existence is applied, in reality to a sort of 'quoted' object, a description of a potential object, and determines whether that description has instances.

Existence is the opposite of non-existence, so it must also be a property of potential descriptions, and not of actual things.

We want to think of time as the continuum along which all things exist. But if being is not really something that things 'do', then time is just an elaborate convention, not a real thing. He calls this a 'form of intuition', a necessary part of every description, which is necessary because of the structure of animal minds, and not a real aspect of anything other than potential descriptions. Space is likewise not real, but only a mental model.

Things have relationships 'in time and space' because humans need to experience many things that are all combined into a single, inseparable reality as separate objects in order to comprehend them. But he theorizes that the separation is not necessary for more advanced forms of intelligence, or would not be the same for alien beings. Every being with a mind has a nature dictated by its forms of intuition, its 'autonomy' which allows it to know when its judgments will serve it well.

So Kant agrees that everything that is ultimately real must be eternal and absolute, but that we cannot address the eternal and absolute until we are able to put aside time and space, which we cannot do in the form we take.

We can only interpret the correlations that phenomenal (spatio-temporal) reality has with the underlying 'noumenal' reality, and we cannot build or rely on an understanding of those relationships themselves because they are in fact relationships between things that we experience, and things that we cannot comprehend. Instead, we are limited to recognizing patterns and combining them according to the forms of intuition that are built into us, like space and time, logic and judgment.

  • Except that properties cannot exist without existence too. And if we had to qualify it according to our understanding, I'd say it is not a property but a state. However, properties and states are abstract human concepts whereas existence refers to something that is universal. If something doesn't exist, neither do its properties. The state however is not associated to the object but to the universe, if something exists, then the universe is in a state that defines it. Being, existence, creation and eternity are special fundamental cases, unlike everything else comes later.
    – dtech
    Commented May 1, 2018 at 13:08
  • To exist means to affect and be affected by other things that exist. No concrete object comes into existence without it being an effect of an affect. This means that any potential non-existence will be permanent, as it cannot produce anything. And since we are all here, at least I am sure that I am, I am willing to assume this is not the case. Therefore for anything to exist we must have perpetual existence,
    – dtech
    Commented May 1, 2018 at 13:19
  • @dtech You take "Being" and "Existence" to be "things" in this universe. Yet they are categorical conceptions, born of the human mind they did not really exist until we started talking about them. These concepts are extrapolated to Before the Universe while they may very well be form another "universe": philosophy.stackexchange.com/q/53408/33787 and maybe philosophy.stackexchange.com/q/53238/33787
    – christo183
    Commented Nov 1, 2018 at 3:53
  • Did Kant give a reason why (existence were a state) entails (nonexistence would be a state)?
    – christo183
    Commented Nov 1, 2018 at 3:56
  • @christo183 He considers 'contrast' to be a Category (a la en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Category_(Kant)0 and categories turn predicates into other predicates
    – user9166
    Commented Nov 1, 2018 at 6:23

Most philosophy does not delve into how the universe as a whole, (or this planet in particular as an object), came into being.

Philosophy is mostly engaged with how we relate and perceive our existence and the connections that those perceptions may create. That is the 'being' part of philosophy. Functionally, we are creatures of magnificent adaptation. Human beings have learned not only live, but to thrive, on almost every natural environment on the planet.

So, "How does being come into being?" As soon as there is consciousness of being, there is being.

Aristotle created the initial metaphysical idea in Being Qua Being (Being On Being), Ontology. I prefer to consider it in modern terms as Qua Being Qua (On Being On). The difference is that, after many centuries, we are well trained from an early age focus on who we are in the world. The 'Qua' essence is what philosophies are now formulating as the abstract principals we bring 'into being'. People 'know' each other by 'how they be.

Short version; Philosophy will not be able to help you answer the questions of creation. It will assist you to look at what it means to be made from the dust of stars, and create your own poetry (and value) for that.

  • I suggest you begin with Aristotle and Plato first, to see the core tenants of Western Metaphysics and Philosophy. The ideas of modern philosophies you ask about will be easier to understand if you know the root ideas.
  • ` "How does being come into being?" As soon as there is consciousness of being, there is being. ` but how did consciousness come into being? Consciousness IMO comes at a much much later point.
    – dtech
    Commented Apr 28, 2018 at 12:16
  • @dtech I could argue, without evidence, that any non-reactive form of life has consciousness. That the connections of molecules that can initiate patterns of deliberate actions, form a conscious being. Commented Apr 28, 2018 at 12:42
  • 1
    But you still have to have at least something into existence so that it can facilitate some form of consciousness. Consciousness by definition requires perception, which requires sensory organs and mental capacity to interpret their signals. In short, it requires a vessel. A vessel has to come into being before consciousness comes into being, and even before that, a whole lot of things must come into being, including being itself. So you are addressing the issue at a much later point than the one I am targeting.
    – dtech
    Commented Apr 28, 2018 at 12:59
  • "Consciousness by definition requires perception, which requires sensory organs and mental capacity to interpret their signals" An apple tree has none of those organs, and yet it responds to it's environment and engages in making flowers that attract bees, and fruits that attract birds to help it propagate. How is that not consciousness? How do you know the Sun is not conscious? (Those are open questions) As humans, our humility comes from having a skull circumference of 54 to 57 centimeters, that wants answers to the entire universe, whose observable edge is 46.5 billion light-years. Commented Apr 28, 2018 at 17:43
  • I am pretty sure trees have sensors, they certainly don't react to external stimuli by magic. Plants have many senses - they sense light, they sense heat, they sense different minerals, they sense wind direction, ph levels and whatnot. I say "by definition" because that's the general consensus. Even if we lower the bar and extend consciousness to plants or even inanimate matter, you still have to have the object before you can attribute consciousness to it. The previous point remains valid even in a more abstract notion of consciousness.
    – dtech
    Commented Apr 28, 2018 at 18:02

There are two ways to look into the problem.

  1. Most philosophies assume one (or more) primal form of something, one of whose property is "existence". That thing(s) is(are) eternal or better uncaused. Rest of the things come into being when the rearrangement of that primal form (or derivatives thereof) into something that fulfills the definition of that thing. Like a fruit may come into being by transformation of a flower when the rearrangement of the constituents of the flower, lead to a thing that fits the definition of a fruit.

  2. The other way to look at it is to argue that "existence" itself always exists (for it is existence) and lends itself to other things so that they start existing.

  • I don't see much difference between the two. Just different labels. The eternal thing is existence. There are only a few things that cannot begin as they are their own precursors - being, existence, creation, and there is also eternity, which cannot even have itself as a precursor. All those most likely refer to that one thing.
    – dtech
    Commented Apr 28, 2018 at 16:55
  • The question is "is existence a thing or a property of a thing". I refer you to Anselm's Ontological Argument for God's existence and objections of it (specifically the one by Immanuel Kant).
    – IsThatTrue
    Commented Apr 28, 2018 at 17:06
  • A property is a kind of thing :) I get what you mean tho.
    – dtech
    Commented Apr 28, 2018 at 17:12

The answer that Aristotle have is that being comes from non-being; non-being is not nothing, but merely potentially being; when it is actual, it is being.

This theory was prompted by his theory of change and motion, which in turn was prompted by the questions that Parmenides and Zeno uncovered on change and motion.

What relevance does this have for contemporary notions of being? Well, our most best accepted theory of matter is QM. And here, what is actual, and therefore graspable, that is measurable, was once potential. To put it in more physically conventional terms: the wave function of a system is a potential which evolves according to a law and collapses randomly on measurement to a value in its spectrum, and this is the actual value measured.


How does being come into being? How does existence come into existence?

You presuppose one thing here. You say being/existence come into it. But what is the ground behind it?

From my point the question itself is not valid. Our mind and, probably, universe is constrained by some rules. And you may understand these constraints by looking the difference between our language and our thoughts.

Our languages has a hugr amount of words and there are dictionaries showing their meaning. But then, let we look for definition of "definition". We will use the words used there, look for their definition and so on up until infinity. This problem may be solved only if we have some basis, words that do not require definition. But how do we understand their meaning? Through common sense, of course. Now you may see that language is much less expressive and more constrained than our mind.

But our minds themselves are costrained. We think in yes/no logic. We use notions to think. But like language is weaker than mind, our mind is weaker than what you call "existence". And it may turn out so that our logic does not work for the whole existence.

You may see analogy in mathematics. Mathematics uses some axioms (constraints) to work. It is said without constraints it is nothing to think of. And same might apply to existence. For sure, there are no reasons to say everything has constraints. Thus, constraints are not universal and our words, our notions and logic do not apply there. But if so, we cannot say anything about unconstrained part of existence. We cannot even call it somehow. And can't say it comes into itself.

So, your mistake is to apply our constrained logic to unconstrained. And your question loses it's senses.


You can find similar idea in the Bagavad Gita also.

See: https://www.holy-bhagavad-gita.org/chapter/2/verse/16

BG 2.16: Of the transient there is no endurance, and of the eternal there is no cessation. This has verily been observed by the seers of the truth, after studying the nature of both.

Explanation is given in the link. When the delusion ends one can realize that beingness...that existence...as you reasoned that there must be a possibility. [It is incomparable. It is beyond reasoning.]

  • The thing is that they believe universe (such as ours with spherical planets) is the only one and infinite and eternal one. Then you agree with such reasoning.
    – rus9384
    Commented Apr 29, 2018 at 20:17
  • @rus9384: The delusion of universe must also end. Then only we realize the belief was wrong. I mean, the end of all kinds of misconceptions. Commented Apr 30, 2018 at 2:53
  • I think the problem is that all people are too assertive in their thoights. But, at least, you say current state of world is state of delusion.
    – rus9384
    Commented Apr 30, 2018 at 8:02
  • Why did you limited by saying current state? You could say--past, present and future. Actually these are the words of great men lived many many years ago. Many man who are living now also say so. One who knows only the things we perceive, will certainly say that it is stupidity. Commented Apr 30, 2018 at 16:27
  • I did not say "only". That's your words. I said present state without mentioning others. But you may extrapolate it to past and future since drastic changes do not happen in one moment.
    – rus9384
    Commented Apr 30, 2018 at 20:41

So, the universe was created by the big bang.

No. The big bang was, to the best of our current knowledge, the beginning of the universe. But it didn't create the universe. Whether the universe was created at all is a completely different question that is not answered by the big bang theory. All we can say is that it's earliest moment (probably) was the big bang.

Simple logic dictates that being cannot come into being.

So what is this simple logic? Because I don't see it. Indeed, I'm not even completely sure what that sentence actually means.


Even though you are using different terminology, you are essentially asking what has been asked before:

1 - What created the universe (everything)?
2 - What created the creator of the universe?

You also state that "simple logic dictates that since something can not come out of nothing, it requires something to exist, for anything to come into being/exist."

If you believe in a "supreme being," the answers are very simple.
1 - The supreme being created the universe (everything).
2 - The supreme being always existed (with no beginning and no end). This is the one and only exception to the "simple logic."

If you don't, then there is a "bigger" universe that always existed and our universe is only a small part of it. So,
1 - our universe came out of the bigger universe, and
2 - the "bigger" universe has always existed.

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