Do Heidegger and some of his readers know why there is something rather than nothing? There seems to the suggestion in the SEP that he may explain why, but it's unclear in what way the argument can be rewritten, and surely (I'm thinking) if it's propositional knowledge it can be rewritten by someone, and understood, even if the explanation is very lengthy indeed.

Can we answer "that's the meaning of Being" and shift the question back to "what is the meaning of Being", or is that an inadequate gloss of his work?

  • and rewritten not by saying 'Being' or referring back to the text to paraphrase every movement it makes haha – another_name Apr 21 at 12:32
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    ## Why is there something rather than nothing? ## Because nothingness is not real. Literally isn't real. So if it isn't real, then it's an abstract concept. Whereas 'something' (matter) is real, therefore unlike nothingness it exists (is). – Bread Apr 21 at 22:30
  • The first step would probably be to read Heidegger's "What is Metaphysics?" – transitionsynthesis Apr 22 at 2:07
  • i have, just not recently @transitionsynthesis – another_name Apr 22 at 17:03
  • My answer shouldn't have been converted to a comment, because it is the only rational answer to the question. Sometimes the simplest answers are the best answers. It had been upvoted, too. – Bread Apr 22 at 21:15

Why is there something rather than nothing?

Because nothingness is not real. Literally isn't real.

So if it isn't real, then it's an abstract concept.

Whereas 'something' (matter) is real, therefore unlike nothingness it exists (is).


It should be obvious by now, that I consider Heidegger's remarks on the subject of "nothingness" to be meaningless, confusing nonsense. I think my explanation is much more logical. And Louis Kattsoff, in his book Logic and the Nature of Reality (1967) presents a rational explanation that is very similar but even simpler than mine:

The key lies in the word become. In a sense this is unfortunate because it throws us against one of the very difficult problems in philosophy -- the meaning of the word 'becomes' or the nature of becoming. This is a problem that philosophers from Thales to Whitehead have found full of riddles that seemed to defy solution. Reflection may indicate that the word 'become' is not quite appropriate here, at least in one of its senses. Contrast the expression, "a child becomes a man" with "what was not...comes to be."

The former expresses a continuous, flowing process involving a chain of causes and effects; whereas the latter only expresses an effect for which there can be no cause.

But it is [impossible] to say that what was not [i.e. nothing or nothingness] comes to be what is, in the same way. [Nothingness] cannot be said to be remolded or to evolve into anything.

This appears...to be true even if we create by the capitalization of nothing into Nothing a quasi-substance Nothing.

In other words, even if we imagine that Nothingness is something.

  • off topic, but i thought you might like this – another_name Apr 23 at 10:34
  • That's wild old video, :D Btw, I am an occasional "reader" of Heiddeger, and I respect his work. I plan (later today) to add some philosophical reference(s) here, to back up my reasoning. I've already found one with which Heiddeger may or may not have agreed; nevertheless, with a little luck I might be able to establish some link to him for you. – Bread Apr 23 at 11:14
  • ya fashions change, i just liked the phrase "is he in hell, nobody can tell" – another_name Apr 25 at 0:56
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    Whither shall I go from thy spirit? or whither shall I flee from thy presence? If I ascend up into heaven, thou art there: if I make my bed in hell, behold, thou art there...If I say, Surely the darkness shall cover me; even the night shall be light about me. Yea, the darkness hides not from thee; but the night shines as the day: the darkness and the light are both alike to thee...I will praise thee; for I am fearfully and wonderfully made: marvelous are thy works; and that, my soul knows right well. – Bread Apr 25 at 1:57

Consider this toy model. Flip a coin an infinite number of times (it's a toy model, so anything is possible).

Define nothing as completely random , no correlation, no simple rule to generate the sequence of heads/tails, nothing that makes sense

Define something as non random, for example an infinite sequence of heads would be uncharacteristic , and many others.

Due to our limited human ability to process only finite amounts of information, we can realistically talk only about finite sequences of results within our toy model, and for any finite sequence, we can find a structural, constructing, explanatory rule that would generate it. That's something, isn't it , surely it's not nothing, according to our definitions.

A somehow similar situation appears in physics, the Wheeler - DeWitt equation (in quantum gravity) is timeless. The reemergence of time needs decoherence , and is related only to limited subsystems of the whole system.

Anyway, going back to our toy model, our perception of something , rather than nothing is a consequence of our limited ability to process only finite amounts of information , in finite time.

Just a thought.

  • It would seem that our limited ability comes prior to this something or nothing that we perceive. It would be a something so then why does that ability exists? – Frank Hubeny Apr 24 at 20:09
  • We have to define " something " and " nothing" in term of our categories of thought and perception of the world around us, otherwise we cannot answer the question. My point is that the distinction between " something " and " nothing " is a " stubbornly persistent illusion " , to paraphrase Einstein when referring to our perception of time. – Cristian Dumitrescu Apr 25 at 5:18
  • Unfortunately, I have to oppose any pre-scientific perspective on this matter, so in fact I do not follow Heidegger here, you're right, I do not answer the exact question asked. I'm trying to answer a question that has an answer regardless of whether us, humans, exist or not. – Cristian Dumitrescu Apr 25 at 6:01

The New Ontological Proof

Here is why there is Something and not Nothing. Consider. Possibilities necessarily exist, do they not? Even if there were nothing and not something, something would still be a possibility, would it not? Therefore possibilities necessarily exist. Getting a bit away from Heidegger (whom I don't think really does answer the question, at least not ontologically) and taking a page (actually several) from David Lewis's "On the Plurality of Worlds". Possible worlds in fact exist, though my only quibble with this is as follows. Possibilities come into "full" existence only when they are chosen (because they continually and infinitely branch) and are thereby "realized". It is this whole process of realizing possibilities that we call "time". (And Heidegger did call his magnum opus "Being and Time", closely relating the two.) But in any case, Q.E.D.

  • nice idea, but a bit special / unique – another_name Apr 25 at 0:51
  • "It's so special." -- Dana Carvey's "Church Lady" – William Pennat Apr 27 at 0:23

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