I imagine that most philosophers, professional or amateur, must have some kind of personal philosophical view of their preferred ontology/metaphysic, even if it is incomplete. This is mine as an amateur (although the full version would fill a book), and I’d like to know what, if any, faults it has philosophically as an argument, as for me it answers both hard questions in a completely justified and rational fashion.
Sorry this is a long explanation, but it has to cover a lot of ground.
To arrive at a personally satisfying explanation of the questions
• Why is there anything at all? and
• How do we know it?
I have come up with two theories, Virtualism and Iconism, although maybe they are simply one theory.


The theory of Virtualism aims to provide an alternative view of Existence to that of Materialism, thereby answering Martin Heidegger’s (and others’) question “Why is there anything?”.

The Virtual World is ideal, in as much as it has roots in both Plato and Aristotle, and it could be said to be a world of facts, but I believe that this leads to too much unexplained separation between Virtual and Material, and that it is better understood as a world of relationships. Hence the need for a name other than Realism or Universals.

Relationships will be defined later, but for now it is important to state that relationships can only exist because of an iconic similarity between the nodes of the relationship and the objects that they relate to.

Unlike many philosophical theories this provides a rationale for the mechanism of the theory.


The theory of Iconism, integral to Virtualism, also aims to solve David Chalmers’ Hard Problem.
Iconism is an extension of Leibniz’ Principle of the Identity of Indiscernibles.

Max Black has argued against the identity of indiscernibles by counterexample. However, I say he makes a category error by considering hypothetical material objects, because by definition any material object must be different in location to any other material object – as per Pauli’s Exclusion Principle. Leibniz’ principle is clearly applicable to ideal objects rather than concrete objects which must always be discernible.

Iconism recognises both the identity of indiscernible facts, together with the near identity of nearly indiscernible facts. That is, the iconic status of an object is on a sliding scale in comparison to other objects.

Iconic identity forms the justification for Virtualism as a theory of relationships where it is the identity of the two nodes of the relationship that enable the relationship to be.

Transcending Our Universe

The current mainstream beliefs about Existence, space, and time, etc. were bootstrapped from the “foul rag and bone shop” of the pre-Relativity philosophies of Kant and Cantor, especially, but also a whole history of thinkers dating back to the year dot. This led to cultural assumptions finding their way into c20th thinking, affecting such concepts as God, Infinity, Time, and Space.

Even with the benefit of the Big Bang, which provides a beginning to time as we know it, and despite the frequency that all and sundry assert that it is not possible to go south from such a starting point, the actuality is that we can easily imagine a scenario of a multiverse, rather than a universe.

In terms of causality, there is no known reason why there should not be a transcendent time, a time that runs externally to the universe that we know. Within such a context any Big Bang causes may be imagined, yet Occam’s Razor suggests that it would be foolish to imagine, or accept, any explanations that themselves defy explanation.

The Impossibility of No Beginning

Once we are in the realm of Transcendent Time, we are in entirely philosophical territory, and one big question to address is the alternative to a beginning in Nothingness, and that is No Beginning at all, i.e. whatever preconditions were necessary had infinite age, or were unchanging. However, unchanging won’t wash because then there is no activity – being, it seems to me, requires a being of activity, not simply of static being. Infinite age is also problematic. An infinitely distant beginning, never reached by going backwards, implies that an actual infinite time has passed to reach any Now that you care to name, clearly an impossibility. It may be entirely possible to write down words that state such a thing to be possible, but it would not make it so.

Many philosophers have stressed the impossibility of Nothingness, but I have not seen an argument that says Nothingness is simply an unstable condition.

An Antidote to Solipsism

Descartes’ idea that only one’s own mind is sure to exist, has an antidote in any successful argument that answers the question “Why is there anything at all?” with a necessity, rather than an empirical answer from potentially unreliable sense data.

“Why is there anything at all?” has a starting point of Everything, which is too broad a position, and hence is no help. We need to turn the question on its head and ask, “What would be if there were nothing?”

A hypothetical state of nothingness, I say, has no Space, no Time, no God. No Numbers. Nothing.
But defining nothing has to be even more explicit. It is not the nothing of a null set, because that kind of nothing requires the something of Set Theory. Nor can it be any other nothing that is defined in any system, or by any other thing.

However, I claim that this Null state would still be a state, albeit that there is nothing to it. It would be a true situation. Therefore, it would have a virtual existence as the totality of nothing. Not real as such, but true.

Virtual Objects

An example of a virtual thing is the unicorn. A unicorn approximates to the abstract of a horse or of a horse + a stuck-on horn, in much the same way that pi approximates to 3, or 3.14. Neither are exact, but as approximations, both are close. Neither of these originate in a concrete reality.

Centre of Gravity

Another example of a virtual thing is the centre of gravity of any bodies with mass. The bodies act together as if the whole mass were located at that centre of gravity. But it is obvious that the centre of gravity is not a concretely real thing in itself. It is not an additional part of the bodies, in as much as it adds nothing that can be physically identified in them. It has no mass itself, yet it is true, and behaves as if it has all the mass. What is more, it greatly affects the behaviour of each of its constituent masses. We may be able to calculate where it ought to be, but if we inspect the location closely, the very great likelihood is that all we find will be empty space.

Yes, the centre of gravity is the sum of all the parts, and all those parts will relate gravitationally to each other in a concrete manner, but they also all relate virtually to the centre of gravity.

The centre of gravity may appear to be the heart of a body, but the truth is that it is a property of the totality of a body. What is more, all such properties of totality are virtual. They do not physically exist as material objects, but crucially they inform the rules by which material objects are governed.

Colour Shifted into the Virtual

Colour is often cited as an example of the problem of universals. Yet we know that colour is a fact about the reflective nature of any concrete object. Cherries and rubies both reflect red, yet there is no redness in either the cherry or the ruby. If redness is anywhere it is in the photon that bounces from cherry or ruby into an eye.

Yet if we were to consider blue sapphires, we may conclude that the blueness could be redshifted out of the photon, to be replaced by redness. What is it that has come and gone? Merely a change in wavelength. But wavelength equates to energy, and we know that the closer we look at the photon the less precisely it has any energy at all. So it seems likely that these properties, facts about photons, reside in the totality of the photon, and hence are strictly virtual.

Ontology of Virtualism

The axiom of Virtualism, I say, is that all things (real or virtual) exist in relation to all other things, by relationships that are themselves real or virtual.

Definitions of Virtual?

  1. A virtual thing is by my definition, an abstract totality (at some level) of anything that may, or may not, have real world correlates. That is, an abstract thing that may, or may not, be a consequence of a process of abstraction from a real object. All things have such a virtual totality.
  2. Virtual objects cannot be located in time and space, although they may be about real objects located in space. This makes virtual objects eternal – once they are implied into existence they persist as a kind of “historical” fact.
  3. Each unique virtual object can only exist once, otherwise it is not unique but is another object, e.g. there is only a single virtual object corresponding to any integer. This is similar to, or the same as, Leibniz’ Principle of the Identity of Indiscernibles.
  4. A virtual thing must be defined in relation to other virtual things, by internal and/or external relationships.
  5. Virtual objects do not come into being as virtual objects, until such a point that they are implied into existence by necessity as a change, so 3 cannot exist before 2. This specifically forbids an actual infinity.
  6. An Icon is a virtual object that approximates to another virtual object, or to a real object. Icons may be quite precise, vague, or wildly inaccurate. The special case is when they are exact, which is the truth of identity.
  7. Because all things are fundamentally virtual, and because virtual things exist only once, all things have to behave in accord with applicable virtual objects.

Definitions of Relationship

  1. A relationship is a connection between two things: subject and object.
  2. Relationships come about as a process of change.
  3. The manner of the relationship is consequential of what it is about subject and object that connects them.
  4. An elementary relationship is always virtual, i.e. there is nothing to it except the iconic similarity between subject and object. The subject contains some or all of what the object is.
  5. Virtual relationships are implied into existence by the iconic similarity between subject and object, in part or in whole.
  6. The more complete the icons, the more true is the relationship.
  7. Virtual relationships may be implied by a subject, and as a consequence imply an object into existence.
  8. When no interpreting mechanism is possible, the parts in common between subject and object cannot be encoded. This forbids encoding.
  9. Internal relationships make a compound object.
  10. The compound object has a totality (to some degree) that necessarily is virtual. That is, it adds nothing to the internal relationships except the relationships from the parts to this totality.
  11. A true relationship is one that is reciprocated, i.e. it is objective, not just subjective.
  12. A real relationship is one that is mediated by a third party. The third-man has an iconic sameness with the subject and an iconic sameness with the object, and a manner.
  13. A relationship of meaning is a relationship to a totality (at some level).
  14. Any relationship where the subject contains an iconic representation of the object, carries a modicum of awareness of object by subject.
  15. All possible relationship combinations are defined in the abstract by the Mandala.

The Mandala is a visual representation of every possible combination of relationship types, based on being virtual or real, and on being subjective or objective. Hence on the four basic relationship types.

The Mandala can be seen as my avatar.

Existence from Nothing

Because of the observations of the Ontology of Virtualism, it is a necessary consequence of the unstable state of Nothingness that there would be implied into virtual existence a totality of the null state, that also being a state must relate to its own nothingness with a virtual null relationship. That is, both subject and object of this relationship would be null, and the manner of the relationship would be a virtual identity “to be”.

All this virtual truth is really is a virtual statement that nothing is nothing. But the nature of the virtual is simply to be the implied truth about a thing (real or virtual), hence there is no question but that Nothingness implies this virtual truth into Existence as being.

It is a very lowly starting point, but because not being implies being (as a virtual relationship), being also implies other being, and that implies all integers, one by one, in an unbounded sequence that can never reach a conclusion.

Each implied virtual relationship, that comes into Existence, is a change. So, any sequence of change can be taken as a yardstick against which other change will necessarily imply a virtual relationship.

To Be and not To Be - Integers and Truth

The relationship between being and not being implies 2 from 1. Within the virtual object 2 there is a virtual pointer that both points to 1 and is 1. Also, once 2 is implied into existence, the virtual object 1 has grown by the addition of a pointer that is the virtual object 2 and points to the virtual object 2. This makes the relationship between 1 and 2 reciprocal and hence one of truth. This process must continue to imply an unbounded sequence of integers, and much else besides.

From Eternity to Here

I would have included some wild and unjustified ideas for how the virtual can lead to the appearance of our universe. Particularly because I liked the heading. But it would be too much of a distraction and show my limited grasp of Physics. Suffice to say that the Big Bang singularity is itself a virtual object as it is both timeless and spaceless.

The crucial difference between Eternity and Here is that here there is a complete set of mediated relationships that define space and time as virtual consequences of those relationships. Here there is also an incomplete set of mediated relationships that shine a light on Here, as well as there being a whole bunch of other stuff.


Concretely real relationships are objectively real in themselves, so a set of relationships such as manifest gravity and space is necessarily complete, as per Ernst Mach’s explanation of inertia, or space would be full of anomalies. They define space as a virtual consequence of all gravitational relationships, hence there is no leeway to accommodate any new such relationships.

Objectively real objects stand in increasing virtual relationship to the moment of the Big Bang, and this creates the illusion of passing time, although actually each change is itself a timeless event.

For instance, the photons passing through Thomas Young’s 1803 demonstration of diffraction, are each a change that to the photon is timeless, the whole transition from emission, passing through one slit or the other, and absorption by an electron at the screen, are all one single gestalt. This explains the mystery of quantum entanglement because the passage of the two entangled particles are similarly one timeless gestalt, so “spooky action at a distance” is simply an illusion. This quantum mystery is probably the single biggest nail in the coffin of Time.

Relativity as envisioned by Albert Einstein would not [under Virtualism] be seen to show time dilation, but rather a dilation in the rate of change. For instance, in the Twins Paradox both twins start at the same Now, and meet again at a later Now. Viewed in the context of only change being actual, there is only one Now, and acceleration has slowed the rate of change of one twin, but only as measured against the slightly unreal truth of virtual time.

Total Recall of Consciousness

It is not just physical objects [objective reality] that have a totality. The mind [subjective reality] also has its own totality. The properties of the total mind derive from such brain activity as form icons, and each icon is a totality in itself, as a mental object, rather than a physical object. Together, the physical activity of the brain and the mental activity of the brain, form a large part of the self.

But the self extends to the totality of the body, and everything that is the self contributes to the layers that are the totalities of the history of the self, and every totality can be in any kind of relationship with any other totality.

The big difference with the brain’s production of thoughts is the massive interconnectivity that means that the icons of those thoughts are massively amplified. The amplification occurs because of the very many totalities that a created by the brain forming the thoughts that constitute mind.

That connectivity leads to a natural tendency for one thought to be followed by some associated thought, unless interrupted by sense data, memory, or physical disruption. The course of thought association as a natural causality is very much more flexible than the causalities of concrete reality because the connections of mind are so much less complete than those of objective reality.

Just as the centre of gravity is nowhere to be found in any physical object, the centre of consciousness is nowhere to be found in the subjective reality of the self. The centre of consciousness is a moveable feast, it is not in any of the icons, as these are mind, not consciousness. Rather, the objects of self, as totalities, are in a relationship of awareness with the eternal totality of the preceding self, the self that has gone before. That is, all of the relationships of mind that make the leap to consciousness, are of the virtual kind that have made the two-way connection that is truth, and which necessarily is added to the totality of the individual that is eternal.

Mass may form a centre of gravity, thoughts may form a centre of consciousness, but in both cases it is the virtual totalities that direct the movement of each individual mass or thought. The completeness of mass as a phenomena makes the cause and effect indistinguishable, but with mind there is an incompleteness, hence a volatility, that allows the senses and the memory to influence the course of thought, and memory is simply that conscious connection to the totality of preceding self operating in reverse, it being a two-way street.


Without the totality of previous consciousness, disappearing into the virtual pas as quickly as it forms, there would be no relationship of consciousness, rather the icons would be unfocused and we would have a zombie mind. But there has to be a totality to the icons, and it is the potential for this totality to form an objective relationship with any earlier totality that forms the continuous totality of the self.

What Do You Think?

So, Virtualism and Iconism, what do you think? Do they answer the Hard Problems? Maybe the explanations here are necessarily skimpy, but do you think that the fundamental ideas hold water, or do they leak like a sieve, and why?

  • 1
    Thanks for your thoughts, but this isn't really the forum for this sort of very general writing. Maybe you could look to a magazine or journal?
    – Paul Ross
    Aug 23, 2020 at 11:02
  • 2
    I concur with Paul Ross. At the same time this lengthy document is yet another demonstration of how clinging to any form of 'Idealism', no matter how it is defined, results in the need to 'create' impossibly complex and incomprehensible abstract structures. One small yet vital step towards clarification would be to recognize the difference among: Time, Duration and Eternity. Time is a real experience but human limited. Duration is an open ended unquantifiable amalgam between time and Eternity. Eternity subsumes both yet bears no recognizable relation to time or duration. Clear as mud, eh?
    – user37981
    Aug 23, 2020 at 15:21
  • In more simple terms, this forum is to ask about existing theories and writings of published philosophers as can be found in libraries. It is unsuitable for the production and publishing of new theories and writing, and not useful for contemporary thinkers to promote themselves or their ideas.
    – tkruse
    Aug 24, 2020 at 0:33


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