The "something" means the whole Universe (known and unknown). It would include all the multiverses and such. It could be represented as the “reality” version of the set of all sets, which is itself debated. A better version of the whole Universe could be described with a Grothendieck universe, because it describes a hierarchy of infinities, each containing the one below.

The "nothing" means an absence of the whole Universe, not a particular void or emptiness in the whole Universe, but a nonexistent whole Universe.

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    Cf. The complete works of Heidegger... Commented Jul 21, 2011 at 14:04
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    'Nothing' might be a result of 'something'. There was always 'something' but this 'something' is not always the same. Sometimes it changes in to 'something' else. This means that the 'something else' is proceeded by its own nothingness You can project this little theory on to our own brain: The concept of 'nothingness' which is fabricated by the brain is nothing more than a result of the fact that it was not there a while ago when its particles looked different in time and space.
    – Youss
    Commented Apr 26, 2012 at 21:48
  • If there was the same amount of matter and antimatter in the Universe so that they could mutually annihilate together into absolutely nothing (this may require anti-energy, but let's pretend that's possible). Would you consider there is something in the Universe or just nothing unevenly distributed?
    – Trylks
    Commented Sep 19, 2013 at 9:40
  • I think something does not transform itself into nothing. Matter and antimatter as you call it may only transform into something else. The fact that we don't have the devices (yet) to detect this something else doesn't mean it is not there. Commented Oct 6, 2013 at 15:11
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    The question is impossible, You've assumed that there is Something rather than Nothing, and in metaphysics when we do this we are dead in the water. It's this reification of objects that causes all the problems. The impossibility of answering this question should tell us something but not many want to hear it.
    – user20253
    Commented Mar 1, 2018 at 13:08

28 Answers 28


We don't know.

There are some very valiant attempts to engage the question here, and many of them even explore concepts well worth exploring. But just because we live in such a complex, information-packed age doesn't mean we need to pretend we know things we don't. The oracle at Delphi said that Socrates was the wisest man in Athens simply because he realised that he knew nothing, and supposedly that one statement is responsible for the existence of Western philosophy in the first place. She had a pretty good point.

I've never heard a good reason offered for why there is a universe/multiverse instead of there not being one. I may one day hear such a reason, but I couldn't begin to imagine how it might proceed. Nor can I think of an ultimate reason why "me" began. This is contrast, of course, to the scientific observations and models I can build of how a big bang might have lead to stars, galaxies and planets, a human being might have evolved on one of them, how physics could give rise to consciousness, and so on. But as to why that entire business is busily, well, businessing--a complete mystery. Sometimes the most honest thing you can do is admit that. Is it really so hard to do?

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    A good answer. This is similar to anon's answer but in layman's terms. But even if we don't/can't know with 100% certainty, maybe we can list several possibilities? That's how I imagine the ideal answer. Commented Aug 23, 2011 at 19:36
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    Actually, a great answer. Most of the other answers here are really interesting and insightfull, but they don't tackle the question. The question lies in (or maybe outside) the limits of human reasoning, and simply trying to keep everything inside is not an answer.
    – Koeng
    Commented Oct 17, 2012 at 15:16
  • Matter and energy can not be created or destroyed according to Physics laws so assuming this can be applied back through ALL history does this imply there has always been matter and energy? So there has always been something....
    – user128932
    Commented Jul 13, 2014 at 7:09
  • Every explanation for why something has to exist would have to start with the assumption that something exists - we can't very well find prior principles to derive that fact from.
    – Brilliand
    Commented Jul 14, 2014 at 18:06
  • Actually, as Descartes pointed out, the argument itself does suffice for that. It's just that even taking the existence of something into account, there's no sufficient explanation for why that something exists. Commented Oct 25, 2015 at 9:36

Before anything else one should be aware of the instrument used to answer questions. That instrument is human language. While there is no guarantee that such a system of patterns is powerful and expressive enough to reason about the necessity of all that is, we can still examine what can we reasonably say and understand about this.

Let us begin by finding out the difference between Something and Nothing.

Obviously they are opposites - first word denotes the present state of affairs of all that is and the other one its negation. We can be fairly confident that right now Something is and Nothing is not.

So why is it this way? Could there be Nothing instead of Something? Turns out the answer is surprisingly simple and straightforward: if Nothing could be, then it would inevitably be Something - giving us a contradiction with our initial premises, thus demonstrating that Nothing cannot be.

In other words, there is Something because it cannot be otherwise - it is an inevitability that arises from the complete, utter and total incapacity of Nothing to exist as such.

A more formal version of the same argument can be found from @anon's answer.

In short: Something is because Nothing is not.

Or to quote "The Way Of Truth" by Parmenides: For never shall this prevail, that things that are not are.

  • An update in response to comment by OP

This is not circular reasoning. You are missing the point that we reason only through language which is a limited system of rules. Breaking a rule results in error.

The above question makes the error of assuming that non-being can be. It is self-contradictory. In the same way one can ask why is there no darkness in light or why is there no silence in sound.

Apparently you presume that if there is a word ("nothing"), then it must have an object, i.e. a correspondence with something beyond your own imagination. Not true!

Nothing is the opposite of Something, it does not and can not be.

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    @Saul: excellent answer, especially the addendum. Commented Aug 7, 2011 at 1:48
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    @Saul - You're playing word games. The question doesn't assume nothing is something in any meaningful way. The word "nothing" is indeed a noun, but it is understood by every sane person to be a mere placeholder. If that bothers you, then cut away the last three words of the question and we're off to the main argument. I don't understand the remainder of your response. Perhaps we've misunderstood one another. True nothingness is not impossible. It is only impossible for true nothingness to have been, so to speak. Thus we come to the question of the first (metaphysical) cause that always was.
    – danielm
    Commented Oct 14, 2012 at 22:53
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    @Saul"Your question makes the error of assuming that non-being can be. It's self-contradictory. Analogously absurd would be to ask why is there no darkness in light or why is there no silence in sound." You presume that non-being cannot be because...? Saying such nonsense as "Being is" is not self-referential, right? Or, seeing that it is, has no sense. So, "being is" is nonsense, which is another way of saying that the phrase has no meaning, no sense, and is referring to nothing. But wait, I thought saying "non-being [is]" is self-contradictory/ But, if "being is" refers to nothing, then
    – Jon
    Commented Oct 16, 2012 at 18:03
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    You nailed the issue: language. But that is exactly what is holding you from tackling the question. You are attached to the strutcture of the language, ignoring the meaning of the question. Simply rephrase: "There is something. Why is that the case?"
    – Koeng
    Commented Oct 17, 2012 at 15:04
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    @Saul To address the more logical part of your comment, you state that "there is Something because it cannot be otherwise - it is an inevitability that arises from the complete, utter and total incapacity of nothingness to exist". But for that you assume that the existence of reality is reflected in logic. Yes, if we assume that, you are right. But what reason do we have to assume that the ultimate existence of reality is defined by what we understand as logical? Did logic exist before the reality bounds to it and say "well, if it must be non-contradictory, then I must also exist"?
    – Koeng
    Commented Oct 17, 2012 at 16:31

Definition: We say X is logically impossible if it entails a contradiction, and logically possible otherwise.

Definition: Given a set of assumptions, a sufficient explanation for X is a demonstration that not-X is logically impossible within those assumptions.

Lemma: If not-X is logically possible within a set of assumptions, then there does not exist a sufficient explanation for X (via reductio ad absurdum).

Assumption: An absence of affairs is logically possible.

Conclusion: There is no sufficient explanation for why there is something rather than nothing.

  • Thank you for your logical proof. Your conclusion would then refute the I think then the whole Universe is axiom, and underline the antagonism nature of the 2 discussed states. Your answer is then: We can't know. By the way, by absence of affairs you mean nothingness? Commented Aug 23, 2011 at 17:33
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    @Geoffroy: Thanks, yes I mean nothing(ness), empty set, ontological void, what have you.
    – anon
    Commented Aug 23, 2011 at 17:42
  • But if there is a set of assumptions, there is something (namely that very set of assumptions) and thus there is not nothing. Therefore given any set of assumptions, you can conclude there is not nothing.
    – celtschk
    Commented Oct 21, 2012 at 13:43
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    @celtschk That sounds like magical thinking somehow. To investigate what an absence of affairs would entail, one does not postulate the existence of someone investigating that idea or holding that assumption (which would indeed be counterfactual to nothingness). Frankly, I feel absolute logic is transcendent in the sense that it does not "exist" in any particular world, because to say it "exists" is simply to say that it holds true or corresponds to possibility, which is not the same as our speaking of the "existence" of other things.
    – anon
    Commented Oct 21, 2012 at 16:45
  • (Sorry for digging up an old one) While it is agreeable that a statement like "absolute logic is transcendent of the non-logical" has a separate notion of existence, the assumption you state involves the concept of "affairs" or existence itself. That makes it more concrete than a statement in the domain of pure logic. Commented Mar 14, 2015 at 22:45

This is ultimately a meaningless question in light of logical positivism. One cannot ask questions which have no translation to observations, and in this case, one cannot ask "what would it be like if there were nothing?" Nor can we ask "what is the relative probability of something rather than nothing?" other than in the trivial sense of 100% certainty of something, because here it is.

It is very easy to fool your brain into asking nonsense questions. These are question which cannot be translated into sense impressions, whose answers have no bearing on the observations. Examples of these questions:

  • Do the He atoms in the sun support the Republican or Democratic candidate for US president?
  • Where is the number 7 located?
  • How much does Mac OSX software weigh?

Questions of this sort come up in physics all the time, and physicists have become exceptionally good at smelling when a question is nonsense:

  • What is the precise position of an electron in the ground state of an H atom?
  • Does the object thrown into a black hole really cross the horizon, or just get smeared out on the surface?
  • Are quarks actually particles, or do the hadrons simply appear as if they are made out of quarks?
  • Which is the true value of the photon propagator Feynman's or Landau's ( $g_{\mu\nu}\over k^2$ or ${g_{\mu\nu} - {k_\mu k_\nu\over k^2} \over k^2$)?

These questions are completely ridiculous, physics doesn't answer them and doesn't admit that they need an answer. There are tons more, and you find as many as you like the more you delve into physics. This comes up right at the start, with the question "where is the coordinate zero in the Cartesian coordinates of the world located, really?" But these questions can fool the brain into thinking they are real questions, so physicists, starting with Ernst Mach, developed positivism to deal with them.

Positivism says, whenever you ask a question, ask yourself the following:

  • Assuming the answer is this ot that, is there any effect on empirical observation? Do any sensory impressions change depending on the answer?
  • Does any chain of reasoning depend on the assumption of the answer? Can this reasoning always be translated to another assumption?

If the answer is no and yes respectively, then the question is meaningless.

The principle of positivism moots many questions, including that of "existence". If I have an cup, and it keeps all its attributes (visibility, water-holding, hardness,etc) but loses the property of "existence", how does it change? It obviously doesn't. So I can imagine that the cup is winking in and out of existence, and this does nothing to the empirical relations, so it does nothing at all to sense impression, and the question of existence is meaningless.

Carnap noted that the positivism has the effect of culling away many traditional philosophical questions:

  • If the world is deterministic, how can we have free will?
  • Where did the universe come from?
  • Why is there something rather than nothing?

These and many others, essentially all of classical philosophy, are mooted or answered by applying logical positivist principles. This is codified in Carnap's book on the nonsensical nature of metaphysics. In the 1950s this was considered revolutionary, but by the 1970s, philosopers missed the old questions, so they quietly killed positivism and buried Carnap.

The notion of positivism is alive and well in physics, past quantum mecanics at least, but going back much further. The positivism is the source of all the influential philosophy and most of the influential physics of the 20th century, and it really is impossible to go back.

Your question is meaningless in light of positivism, and has no answer, nor does it need an answer.

  • I think there is a good point in here somewhere, Ron. Carnap and his positivist view of logical semantics is interesting, but the relevant aspect of his positivism for this question is his separation of Internal and External questions. Consider: Propositional logic does not require that we stipulate object domains other than the truth values of sentences. Why, then, should we prefer a model that actually does use objects? It seems like that's a matter of practical expressibility, and hence an External question of theory choice, rather than one Internal to any particular philosophical theory.
    – Paul Ross
    Commented Oct 29, 2012 at 16:47
  • 1
    @PaulRoss: I don't prefer a model that uses object domains, I have no problem with using predicate domains only, it is equivalent. You can make a formal language with one noun, "thing", and then my cup on the table is "thing of a white cuplike nature which is on the thing-supporting thing with four legs". You can omit thing by making it implicit and make a predicate only language. It really makes no difference, and one should accept and celebrate this freedom. Only the relationship between the truth values of formal sentences, given the translation from formalism to formalism, is invariant.
    – Ron Maimon
    Commented Oct 29, 2012 at 16:51
  • Sure; I agree that the freedom for alternative mathematical frameworks for theories is a great virtue. This external ability to play around with the formal underpinning of our theories is one of the key strengths of Carnap's philosophy. The point relative to this particular question is to note that the "meaninglessness" to which Carnap would attribute the OP's question of "why there is something rather than nothing" is an internal one. Since, qua Scientific Realism, we work in an internal mode, the question is dissolved; but relativising to the Internal mode is the crucial step.
    – Paul Ross
    Commented Oct 29, 2012 at 17:01
  • @PaulRoss: It took me forever to understand you, because you used the word "internal" in a way I didn't recognize. You mean "it is meaningless in and of itself" when you say "internal" above. That is, you can't assign meaning to this question without a whole bunch of metaphysical speculations. Then the "internal mode" just means you aren't allowing answers to questions that are internally meaningless. Well duh. If they're meaningless, they're meaningless, and there's no two ways about it. You don't need to relativise, there is no other mode. Carnap is just saying what Mach found self-evident.
    – Ron Maimon
    Commented Oct 30, 2012 at 5:26
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    I agree with most of your answer, but why do you feel inclined to categorize "Are quarks actually particles, or do the hadrons simply appear as if they are made out of quarks?" as a nonsense question? (I'm a bit of a physicist too, and in particular, used to participate here.) Is it really in the same category as "Do the He atoms in the sun support the Republican or Democratic candidate for US president?", which is obvious nonsense. Former isn't that obvious to me. Can you clarify?
    – 299792458
    Commented Aug 24, 2014 at 4:50

I think a typical answer to that question is the Anthropic Principle: if there was nothing instead of something, then we wouldn't be here to ask the question. So, even if the odds of something to nothing is one in a trillion, we're always going to be in the universe with something rather than the one with nothing. (This still leaves open the question as to why the odds wouldn't be zero in a trillion, however.)

Additional answers to this question (none of which are particularly satisfying), include:

  • An argument by Leibniz involving something similar to the Anthropic Principle combined with reductio ad absurdum
  • Why not?
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    @Geoffroy CALA: It isn't really avoiding it. There has to be something for you to ask the question. It is however pointing out that maybe it is The Wrong Question (tm). Reformulate it to "How did the universe come into existence" instead, and you get a better question. The answer still is "We have no idea, and we most likely will never have any idea". Commented Jul 20, 2011 at 13:20
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    @Geoffroy CALA: No, I don't want to reformulate it, I'm just pointing out that you ask the wrong question. If you ask another one you might get a more useful answer. And that is not avoiding it. The question has been answered. You don't like the answer, but that's hardly my fault. Commented Jul 20, 2011 at 19:00
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    -1: If you came home one day and saw your house floating twenty feet in the air, would you tell yourself: "This is because if it were otherwise, I wouldn't be seeing a floating house - but I am, so here it is." This is not an explanation! The question is not asking how we know there is something (which is what this is actually answering), it is asking why there is something rather than nothing.
    – anon
    Commented Aug 21, 2011 at 23:19
  • 1
    @anon: You're not understanding the anthropic principle. Whether house is floating does determine whether you can ask why your house is floating. Whether you exist determines uniquely whether you can ask why you exist. Consider this: the odds of getting 20 heads in a row are approximately one in a million. However, if ten million people flipped a coin 20 times, you would expect that several of them would get heads 20 times in a row. Now, if you only looked at the end result (not understanding how those people were selected), you'd be amazed that several people got 20 heads in a row. Commented Aug 22, 2011 at 21:52
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    I'm aware of the anthropic principle, @Ben, and it does not apply. There is no stochastic process determining whether there is something versus nothing, because that process itself would be something - hence there is no a priori reason to expect something to exist. You present a false analogy: an explanation demonstrates why X is the case rather than alternatives, whereas ten million people flipping coins will produce said alternatives en masse. The various runs of coin flips coexist as states of affairs, while "nothing exists" and "something exists" can't be simultaneously true.
    – anon
    Commented Aug 23, 2011 at 0:18

Douglas Adams said:

A guy said to me, 'yes, but the whole theory of evolution is based on a tautology: that which survives, survives' This is tautological, therefore it doesn't mean anything.

I thought about that for a while and it finally occurred to me that a tautology is something that if it means nothing, not only that no information has gone into it but that no consequence has come out of it.

So, we may have accidentally stumbled upon the ultimate answer; it's the only thing, the only force, arguably the most powerful of which we are aware, which requires no other input, no other support from any other place, is self evident, hence tautological, but nevertheless astonishingly powerful in its effects. It's hard to find anything that corresponds to that and I therefore put it at the beginning of one of my books. I reduced it to what I thought were the bare essentials, which are very similar to the ones you came up with earlier, which were:

  • anything that happens, happens
  • anything that in happening causes something else to happen, causes something else to happen
  • anything that in happening causes itself to happen again, happens again

In fact you don't even need the second two because they flow from the first one, which is self-evident and there's nothing else you need to say; everything else flows from that.

So, I think we have in our grasp here a fundamental, ultimate truth, against which there is no gain-saying. It was spotted by the guy who said this is a tautology. Yes, it is, but it's a unique tautology in that it requires no information to go in but an infinite amount of information comes out of it. So I think that it is arguably therefore the prime cause of everything in the Universe. Big claim, but I feel I'm talking to a sympathetic audience.

To my mind what D.A. was getting at is that the origin-of-life question is the same as the origin-of-everything question: in both cases it seems counter-intuitive that stable systems can bootstrap themselves into existence. And that maybe these questions have the same answer: natural selection. Lee Smolin discussed his evolving universes idea with Richard Dawkins (who was a good friend of D.A.) here.

In both the origin-of-life and the origin-of-everything there were earlier proto forms that were very ropey and odd and inefficient and not what we think of as an actual universe/lifeform at all. Things like matter and indeed causality are highly-evolved end-products under this hypothesis.

  • 2
    My first thought about answering this question was just to write 42. but that was not long enough.
    – Chad
    Commented Jul 20, 2011 at 17:11
  • ...and then again, some of us find colossal contentment with truisms merely because they were true Commented Jul 20, 2011 at 17:37
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    @Chad: "In the beginning the Universe was created. This has made a lot of people very angry and has been widely regarded as a bad move." Commented Jul 20, 2011 at 17:45
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    The Universe might be the ultimate tautology, in more than one way. Example: Big Bang, stars appear, planets appear, life appears, life evolves, conscious beings appear and evolve, expand and reach extraordinary levels of knowledge and power, maybe involving something akin to a cosmic Singularity (as close to a secular concept of God as is possible), eventually learn to control space and time - and reach back in time all the way, triggering the Big Bang. In fact, I believe this is the simplest explanation of all. Commented Jul 21, 2011 at 0:32
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    I do like the idea of evolving Universe. But in order to evolve, it needs some materials to begin with. With the "nothing" case, there is no materials at all. Commented Aug 5, 2011 at 16:07

What do you mean by "why"?

Do you mean "how did 'things' come to be?". That is a scientific question, and can be attacked by gathering and interpreting data (like what the physicists do).

If you mean, "what is a justification (a proof) that there is something (and not nothing)?", then the justification is that if there were nothing, you wouldn't be able to formulate such a question.

I think such a question is more figuratively motivated, a searching for psychological satisfaction in the consciousness of one's own consciousness, the existence of one's own thoughts. The answer to that, of resolving that tension, is to just get used to it.

  • 1
    By "how did things come to be", you assume there must have been a beginning, why? About the second reformulation, I don't need it because I already accept the axiom that something really exist by this reasonningm: I think then the Universe is. Finally, you're right that this question serve a purpose in some psychological effects it has on us. Some ignore the question, others wants to reformulate it, deny it, Commented Jul 27, 2011 at 20:22
  • @Geoffroy: To point 1, I don't think there is that assumption, only that things do exist now (which you also accept) and that there is a scientific process for finding out -something- about how some things some into being if they do at all (possibly discovering that they -always- existed). Can you elaborate on what you intend by 'why' if it doesn't match well any of three I suggested?
    – Mitch
    Commented Jul 27, 2011 at 20:37
  • But I think this question leads to a world of valid interrogations and moreover, this question helps to answer several important questions; by imagining what could be a non-existent Universe, we realize how queer our actual Something is but only if we can subtract ourselves (humanity) from the equation. Commented Jul 27, 2011 at 20:45
  • I am gonna try to be more explicit about the why: This is not a anthropocentric why so it is very close to your first "how did things come to be', just replace the past tense by present tense as with: How do things can be? Commented Jul 27, 2011 at 20:52

It seems to me that the term nothingness can't even be defined. So, how can you say something is not nothing if you don't even know what nothing is.

But, as soon as you define nothing as a subset of U or partition any part of U to make room for nothing, then you have thereby defined nothing and defined it as separate from U. You then know what nothing is.

  • 2
    You are right when you say it's complicated to define both something and nothing. Maybe this is the key to solve or at least clarify this particular problem. Commented Aug 14, 2011 at 19:59

Nothing is a word. That something exists can be verified by observation. Taking a word like existence (as in existence of everything), and then negating it, does not necessarily produce a meaningful concept. There is no meaning to the nonexistence of everything. In this case, it really makes no sense outside the context of our language's grammar and lexicon. It's just a word that refers to no observable facts (to NULL in a certain respect).

If you limit the context of the original concept of existence to a certain thing, or collection of things, then it becomes a statement of fact. That statement necessarily must have an inverse. If I state I wear a purple shirt, then either there is a purple shirt on my torso or there is not. So to say there does not exist that shirt is still a meaningful statement. One or the other statement is true, but not both. I cannot disentangle the word existence from meaningful facts without delving into absurdity. The moment you do that with any words, you end up with ridiculous statements that, though they may sound deep or illuminating, lack all meaning. They are just statements without any connection to the world outside of our own thoughts.

  • Yes, I understand that logically, the word nothing (in the context) is an absurdity. But does this means that nothingness (of the whole Universe) is definitely an impossibility, just because of a semantic argument? I mean, can we prove such a big fundamental physics statement (nothing does not exist) just with a semantic argument? Commented Aug 11, 2011 at 11:54
  • By nothing does not exist I really meant nothingness could not exist instead of something Commented Aug 23, 2011 at 17:44

This sort of question reminds me of an article I read about Einstein's theories on light (sorry, can't re-find the source). Back in early 19s, there were serious debates on light in order to understand if it was matter of if it was waves.

Newton's experimentations show light has matter-like properties but Max Planck's show wave-like properties. Who's right ? ... no-one known until Einstein came up with the hypothesis of light being both wave and matter.

Perhaps this situation is similare and the answer is : there are both present. Maybe there is a duality of both somethingness and emptyness whithin the same univers (or multivers). Our current model of reality tells us there is somthingness, but since human have a tendency to develop model-dependent realities (Stephen Hawking - The Grand Design), probabilities of "being right" with our current model of somethingness are very low, almost impossible.

In Breif, my answer to "why there is somethingness instead of nothing?" is "because somethingness fits better with our current understanding of univers" ... It will fit until a new model of reality comes up and enlarge our understanding to introduce emptyness in it. Those new models of reality are normally brought by fundamental scientific discoveries.

  • Thanks for your answer. Maybe you are right when you say they are both present, it's an idea I had already thought, but I could not be certain of its validity. My (debatable) idea was that maybe this question was invalid (as Louzer's answer) but only because our Universe is not in fact a TRUE something nor a TRUE nothing. Maybe a true something Universe would mean a infinitely dense Universe and a nothing Universe would mean a Zero density Universe. When our Universe is in fact something in between with a actual real (number) density. This notion is highly experimental! Commented Aug 5, 2011 at 18:18
  • 3
    Nitpick: Part of your physics explanation is incorrect. You say that "Einstein came up with the hypothesis of light being both wave and matter." Well, not really. That's called "wave-particle duality" in physics circles, and Einstein rejected that theory. Louis de Broglie is probably better credited as the "inventor" of the wave-particle duality thesis. Commented Aug 19, 2011 at 11:31
  • I am not a physics expert, so thanks for the note. The whole Einstein reference was more to point out that we trend to split concepts that can ultimatelly coexist. It's simply the use of an AND instead of a XOR in the philosophical-questionning process.
    – ChrisEve
    Commented Aug 24, 2011 at 14:39

My answer to the question of "Why is there something rather than nothing involves first providing a reason for why anything exists and then showing that what has traditionally been called "nothing" meets this reasoning and therefore really isn't "nothing" but actually exists.

In regard to the question of "Why do things exist?", I suggest that a thing exists if the contents of, or what is meant by, that thing are completely defined. A complete definition is equivalent to an edge or boundary defining what is contained within and giving "substance" and existence to the thing.

In regard to the question of "Why is there something rather than nothing?", "nothing", or "non-existence" is first defined to mean: no energy, matter, volume, space, time, thoughts, concepts, mathematical truths, etc.; and no minds to think about this lack-of-all. Next, I propose that this "non-existence" itself, and not our mind's conception of non-existence, in and of itself completely describes or defines the entirety of all that is present. Therefore, as a complete definition of what is present, what has traditionally been called "nothing", or "non-existence", is actually an existent state. That is, what has traditionally been called "nothing" is, when seen from a different perspective, an existent state or "something".

Another way to reach this same conclusion is by saying that in regard to the question of "Why is there something rather than nothing?", there are two choices for answering this question:

A. "Something" has always been here.

B. "Something" has not always been here.

Choice A is possible but does not explain anything. Therefore, choice B is the only choice with any explanatory power. With choice B, if "something" has not always been here, then "nothing" must have been here before it. "Nothing" is defined as above. But, in this complete "nothing, there would be no mechanism present to change this "nothingness" into the "something" that is here now. Because we can see that "something" is here now, the only possible choice then is that "nothing" and "something" are one and the same thing. This is logically required if we go with choice B.

Now, instead of saying "That can't be. Something and nothing are not the same", it's better to try and figure out how these two logically-required equivalent things can really be the same. The reason, I believe, is as described above that what has traditionally been called "nothing" completely describes, or defines, the entirety of what is present, and is therefore actually not "nothing", but is really an existent state.

Overall, I come to the conclusion that many others have come to which is that having true non-existence is not possible because even what we have traditionally thought of as true non-existence is really an existent state when seen from a different angle. Non-existence is basically a misnomer that has come about because we've been thinking of non-existence in our minds, which exist. Next to our existent minds, nothing just looks like nothing. But, nothing, or non-existence, itself, and not our mind's conception of non-existence, isn't dependent on being defined as the lack of existence. It's on its own and, on its own, completely describes the entirety of what is there and is thus really an existent state. In this (and all) areas, it's very important to distinguish between our mind's conception of non-existence and non-existence itself in which all minds along with everything else are gone.

This may all seem to be a waste of time, but the above reasoning provides a reason for why things exist and by trying to figure out the properties of the particular existent state previously referred to as non-existence allows one to build a model of the universe that is based on these properties via what I call "philosophical engineering". This model has symmetry breaking, a natural reason for why energy exists and a big bang like expansion of space.

A more thorough discussion of the above idea along with some responses to critiques is at my website at: https://sites.google.com/site/ralphthewebsite/filecabinet/why-things-exist-something-nothing

Also, some discussion of this has also taken place recently at google.com/groups in the epistemology and everything-list groups and many years ago at a digital philosophy group.

  • A rich answer in which I like several parts (but not all): When you say that nothing exists as well as something, I actually agree. And most of the answer is dedicated to define the 2 main concepts, that's good. Now sorry for the criticizing part: You say something may exist when it is completely defined (with boundaries). What about an infinite Universe with infinite mass and volume? Why do you totally ignore choice A "something has always been there", is it because your can't visualize/model/see it that your prefer the anthropomorphic birth view of Universe? Commented Sep 4, 2011 at 14:59
  • I don't really understand your argument about admitting that the nothing existing as an 'existent state'. But then you say that 'true non-existence' is impossible, isn't it contradicting with your former argument for its existence? And in that part you also use our mind point of view to aid in your idea; well, I don't like using mind/consciousness tools to help formulate an argument, it's an anthropic type of answer which as value only in our limited lifetime, what about asking this question as if we never (humanity) existed? Commented Sep 4, 2011 at 15:03
  • I do think the Universe has been there before the humans and will be there after our possible extinction, no need to include our subjective (naturally anthropomorphic) personal mind to the complex Universe equation. Finally, you make a reference to show how your paradigm fits well with the current Big-bang cosmology but that is supposing this model will never evolve and is right, (after millenaries of making Universe models, has humanity at last found the true model, well, that’s very improbable), moreover it is an ad-hoc reasoning. Commented Sep 4, 2011 at 15:04
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    5.) I was purposely pointing out that it's important to NOT mix in our mind's conception of non-existence in trying to figure out what non-existence itself is like. One of the ways people think incorrectly about non-existence is to confuse our mind's conception of non-existence with non-existence itself. Next to our existent minds, nothing just looks like nothing. But, non-existence itself, not our mind's conception of it, isn't dependent on being defined as the lack of existence. It's on its own, and, on its own, completely defines the entirety of what is there and thus exists.
    – Roger
    Commented Sep 5, 2011 at 3:36
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    Response 5.) I didn't claim that my model wouldn't evolve. You read that into it. I'm constantly working on it, and when someone can give me logical reasons why it's not right or why another model is better, I'll go with that. But, given that, if one has faith in one's reasoning and no better reason has come along, it's perfectly warranted to think it's right, for now, and try to develop it further until it's proven wrong. So far, it seems to fit well with what I know of physics. It's good to have faith in one's reasoning and not trust too much to the value of group work, IMHO.
    – Roger
    Commented Sep 5, 2011 at 3:49

Because nothing is a state of void being. This is an unnatural and unstable state. If you release something into a void it attempts to quickly disperse filling the void as much as possible. Similarly upon creation objects try to disperse. In a strange coincodence or maybe design things also attract each other. So while nature wants voids filled, matter wants to be together. As a result you end up with collections of particles scattered through out the universe.

Space is not truely empty. There are an effectively infintite number of atoms and particles out there. They are mostly dispersed so as to have an effective pressure approaching 0 through out the majority of the universe. But there are particles there. When they get close enough together and have enough attraction they couple. Eventually that couple collects more or becomes part of a larger collection.

So there is something because that is a more stable state. There are theories that there is antimatter collections in the universe that would cancel out most matter but the dispersal of matter/antimatter sometimes happens before the 2 can cancel each other out.

-- Edit addressing some Ben Hockings concerns

I propose that you can not sum space time. Thus there can be no totality of spacetime. That it may be infinite and immeasurable. That we indeed exist because that is a more natural state. That the universe as you have defined it expands to fill a limitless nothing because that is a more natural state than containing nothing.

Limitless is not the same as being infinitely large. It is nothing thus it has no size, and is not defined by our space time. No displacement is neccessary as there is nothing to displace. The universe expands to fill something that has no volume, or capacity thus can not be filled.

In some ways we agree that the void does not exist as part of our space time. But I deny that our spacetime contains the totality of all that is. The scientist in me would love to limit everything to the limits that transcribe. That would imply that the potential is there to understand everything even if the reality of that approaches the impossible. But logically that makes no sense. I can accept that we exist as statistical anomaly. But if we exist as a statisical anomoly of a cycle of creation/annialation what is the chance that that anomaly only exists once?

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    I agree, the OP has been operating under a false dichotomy since he was 10 years old (as have many Star Wars fans like me) that the opposite of the light is dark and the opposite of stuff is nothing. Commented Jul 20, 2011 at 13:34
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    I'd argue that there is a difference between nothing and a void, although it is arguable. Not that it requires general relativity to argue, but since that's my reference frame (so to speak), I'd argue that a void still contains spacetime whereas "nothing" does not even contain that. As Stephen Hawking would argue it is an invalid question to ask what happened "before" the beginning of the Universe in the same manner that it is invalid to ask what is South of the South Pole. Commented Jul 20, 2011 at 13:47
  • @Ben Hocking - And I would argue that just because we require something to measure space time that does not mean that space time requires something to exist. Your premise requires a containment of infinty. What if the universe truely is limitless. You assume that because we can not measure, comprehend, or appreciate the concept of a truely limitless void that it can not exist. We often contstrain our universe to that which was created by the big bang. What if there are an infinite number of big bang type events.
    – Chad
    Commented Jul 20, 2011 at 14:08
  • @Ben Hocking I agree with you that nothing is not a void and it follows that Chad answer does not satisfy me. He already supposes existing matter dispersing into an unnatural void, but what if there was no matter, no space, no Universe? Chad also says that "Space is not truly empty" so then a true empty void would not even exist in our Universe, and it is also my opinion. My imagined "Nothing" does not exist in our Universe. Our know Universe is "something", OK. But why something exists at all? Commented Jul 20, 2011 at 14:13
  • @Chad: actually, I'm not assuming that for the reasons you posit that I'm assuming that. I'm assuming that the spacetime of the universe is limited because that agrees with the predictions of General Relativity and observed measurements. (I.e., the combination of both of those, not either one by themselves.) General Relativity draws a distinction between nothing, a void of limited size, and a void of unlimited size. Commented Jul 20, 2011 at 14:26

One additional interesting facet to consider, and apologies if I missed it in the earlier answers, comes from looking at the sum total of energy in the observable universe. As far as we've been able to measure so far, all the positive energy sources in the universe (positive electrical charges, mass, etc.) are exactly cancelled out by their equivalent negative energy source (negative electrical charges, gravity, etc.).

If the nature of the universe is such that the sum total of all energy actually IS exactly zero, we have the fascinating situation where the universe is, in a sense, 'nothing' - at least in the manner of:

1 - 1 + 2 - 2 + 3 - 3 = 0

Further support for this idea comes from physicists who are studying 'virtual particles'. It turns out that a pure vacuum is unstable, and 'virtual particles' can appear out of 'nothing' for a brief moment of time before re-combining and cancelling each other out again: a Nothing -> Something -> Nothing progression of the form: 0 = 1 - 1 = 0

In short, one of the unexpected answers to the ancient question is that, just maybe:

Σ(Universe) = 0

... Meaning once again, the universe appears to be turning our intuitions on their head: the 'something' that we see might actually be an expression of 'nothing'!

  • Interesting but 'energy' and 'vacuum' are both something by definition. And Zero energy (cancelled) doesn't mean 'nothing', it just mean that we can't currently fully comprehend the phenomenon with our limited tools. Commented Aug 1, 2016 at 22:39
  • I am not saying we fully understand for instance positive or negative electric charges but at least we have more models for those. Commented Aug 1, 2016 at 22:49
  • Our universe can be thought of us a pile of dirt and a hole. These are both "somethings". But put the dirt back in the hole and you get a nothing. In essence there is always nothing, there always was nothing. We just have the illusion of something. As said above, everything is energy in its fundamental form. Sum it all up and we get zero. By your logic nothing is also something .. so you are in a paradox.
    – sci-guy
    Commented Nov 15, 2016 at 22:30

The OP miscasts this famous question as physicalist rather than phenomenological.

Proceeding with a few quotes from the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy : Nothingness

Let’s begin with a question that Martin Heidegger famously characterized as the most fundamental issue of philosophy. : Why is there something rather than nothing? . . .

‘Why is there something rather than nothing?’ is not about the origin of the world. Increasing the scientific respectability of the creation story (as with the Big Bang hypothesis) would still leave Heidegger objecting that the wrong question is being addressed.

Now switching to colourful quote from Camus, The Fall, (1956)

Please, let’s sit down. Well, what do you think of it? Isn’t it the most beautiful negative landscape? Just see on the left that pile of ashes they call a dune here, the gray dike on the right, the livid beach at our feet, and in front of us, the sea the color of a weak lye-solution with vast sky reflecting the colorless waters. A soggy hell, indeed! Everything horizontal, no relief; space is colorless, and life dead. Is it not universal obliteration, everlasting nothingness made visible? No human beings, above all, no human beings! You and I alone facing the planet at last deserted!

What makes everlasting nothingness visible is life, and what makes life is ('arguably') the self-organising principle and driving force of life: the Life Drive.

This concept of Life Drive is taking after Freud's Beyond the Pleasure Principal, Nietzsche's Will to Power, Heidegger's essence of being (Beyng), and Derrida's Life Drive in The Postcard, To Speculate--on "Freud", which I previously mentioned here.

So, not a question and answer about the Big Bang, but a more obvious question and answer about the originating principle of the beings who turn nothing into something.

  • Beyond the visible, the source or "prime matter" or hyle (ὕλη) is indeterminate, noumenal. Commented Apr 1 at 9:49

The term "nothing" does not denote an object. Instead it is the negation of a statement of existence. I would reformulate question as, “Why is there a world?

This is because we live in the world. If there were no world, we would not exist and could not ask this question.

That's a kind of anthropic principle. Continuing and discussing a possible cause of the world is outside the scope of current science.


No matter how one will want to answer this question, one would have to appeal, at least implicitly, to that which exists (or to what supposedly exists). Otherwise, one would put himself in the dubious position of assuming that the appeal to non-existence somehow explains existence. (The trend in philosophy since Plato, and perhaps long before him, is to posit some form of consciousness as the “answer” to such questions, even though this tactic is irrescindably incoherent.)

Thus, by posing this question and assuming that it is valid, you implicitly (but unavoidably) commits yourself to the fallacy of the stolen concept. If we ask why something is, but simply turn around and posit that something in our explanation of that something, what mileage have we gained? Indeed, we’re back to where we started, yet we don’t admit it to ourselves. This is what you do in assuming that the question “Why is there something rather than nothing?” (or “Why does existence exist?”) is a valid question. One will have to assume the fact of existence in order to answer the question. But in so doing, he will have to deny the fact of existence in order to validate his assumption that there must be a reason why there is something rather than nothing. He must assume the very concept his argument wants to deny, thus ‘stealing’ it from the objective hierarchy of knowledge, and rendering invalid any conclusion he hopes to draw from his argument.

Existence exists. We must start somewhere. The theist wants to start with a form of consciousness. He wants to posit a mind (albeit supernatural) which is responsible for creating all its objects. This is called metaphysical subjectivism, a view which holds that existence finds its source in a form of consciousness.

Some may object to my characterization of the question “Why is there something rather than nothing?” as fallacious, contesting that there is no such thing as a fallacious question. However, it is true when we examine issues in epistemology and logic, that there is a such thing as an invalid question. The fallacy known as ‘complex question‘, for instance, is a species of invalid question. It is a question which operates on a false assumption and expects the reader to accept that false assumption in order to answer it. The typical example is the question “Have you stopped beating your wife?” The question assumes that one is a married man and that he beats or has beaten his wife; indeed, it implies such beatings are a regular occurrence. Contrary to these assumptions, however, it could be the case a) that he is not married, or b) that he is married but has never beaten his wife. Since the question is asked in a manner in which a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ response can be the only appropriate reply, one cannot answer it on its own terms and avoid affirming its erroneous premises. One would implicate himself simply by answering. The question is fallacious because it leads one to accept a false premise, assuming either a) or b) are the actual case, if he should choose to take it seriously.

Likewise, a question which leads one to commit a fallacy in order to answer it is also invalid. If taken seriously, the question “Why is there something rather than nothing?” will lead one to commit the fallacy of the stolen concept; indeed, the fallacy of the stolen concept is unavoidable on the question’s own terms, as we saw above. One would have both to assume and deny existence in order to address the question. If Martin Heidegger ,who originally asked this question, did not recognize this, it was principally because he was not operating on a fully rational philosophy. Yet, today we have theists assuming this question is valid all the time in the construction of their apologetic ruses. What is it that theists want to posit in response to their invalid questions so as to appear to satisfy them? Of course, they assume that the only logical answer is to assert a universe-creating, reality-ruling form of consciousness, which they call God, and delight themselves with this as their answer, never allowing themselves to recognize that the question leads them to accepting a stolen concept, and assuming that their arguments justifying this illicit move make it valid.

  • 1
    Interesting answer. In short you say it is an invalid question, logically, but your argument didn't convince me. Could you be more specific here? "commits yourself to the fallacy of the stolen concept", what stolen concept? And I suppose the Universe already existed before my birth, so I don't need a human consciousness to prove it'll exist after my death (even if I proved the Universe does exist in the present thanks to my Consciousness, I take for granted it has/will forever existed/exist) Commented Aug 3, 2011 at 17:00
  • When one or more concepts on which an argument logically depends are denied in the argument then that argument commits the fallacy of stolen concept. e.g. 1. There are absolutely no absolutely true statements. 2. Physics has proven science is incapable of telling us anything true. 3. It is impossible for people to communicate with one another. Commented Aug 5, 2011 at 5:14
  • Yes. But these are statements, not questions. I can clearly see logical fallacies in your examples, but I see none in my question. Why natural chlorophyll is green instead of blue? we know natural chlorophyll is green, we know why it's green (cause on Earth surface green is the more efficient color to catch more energy from the Sun) so we also know why it isn't blue. No logical fallacies in the question. Commented Aug 5, 2011 at 15:41
  • When you ask Why is there something instead of nothing, the ONLY answer you will accept is of the form: "There is something instead of nothing because there was <something> before there was something". Since you force the person who answers it to commit the fallacy of stolen concept, the question you asked is fallacious. I have explained it in detail above. Commented Aug 5, 2011 at 16:39
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    Thank you. I now better understand your point. But the question remains valid for some class of answers as with notably Leo's answer: "There is something because nothing can't exist." or ChrisEve's "they are both present" The fallacy of the stolen concept doesn't seem to appy here. Commented Aug 5, 2011 at 18:32

Since the empty set is also a set and therefore you have the whole set theory and nearly everthing logic requires. {} is the null statement and the empty set. Therefore there is a set and there is something. Here are more empty sets {<>,<>,<>} in fact 3 sets and there exists 3 things actually 4 things since the set of 3 sets is also a set and so on.

  • This doesn't explain why we observe nonempty "set."
    – anon
    Commented Aug 21, 2011 at 23:22

I'll be mostly repeating other good answers, but I'll be using different words, semantics and concepts.

There could never ever be nothing!

Because if there was nothing at all then, by definition, nothing could ever come out of it and we would never be able to be here, reasoning about it.

There, that's all.

Other than that...

We can go on and reason about the question in so many different ways. What I'll try to do below is bringing up some random reasoning to luckily connect a synapse in the OP's brain that makes sense. Because, in all truth, there is just nothing (instead of something) that can be said to answer the question as whole to everyone! :-)

For instance, back in 2005 I figured, for myself, the answer to "what's the reason of life, existence, and all things" to be there is no reason. To my neural network, that makes so much sense that the exact instant I came to this answer, with that exact wording, [I felt a formication in my brain (read the description, I've uploaded that video)][1] like never before or afterwards.

Back to the topic...

It can all be reduced to grouping things and defining words.

Let's define universe to everything that can possibly affect us somehow.

And let's define the nothing opposite to something as NOTHING, all in uppercase, in contrast to using semantics for talking about an empty group, the regular usage for nothing.

So, first, let's finally suppose you meant time (or space time) itself broader than the universe.

(1) spacetime > universe

Then it doesn't matter if there is NOTHING at any point.

NOTHING could have existed outside the universe group, at some point. Though it may also be the case that NOTHING never existed. It certainlly haven't existed inside our universe because if it did it would have affected us and there would be nothing instead of something. Since it's outside our universe, it can't matter, by definition. Nothing that exists outside of the universe matters to us.

But then we have two different groups (which might be the premise of your question): the NOTHING and the something, which includes the universe defined above.

If we were at the NOTHING group, we couldn't possibly be reasoning about it, by definition. So we are in the something group. There is something right now. There might be nothing at a place and time out of our universe - it can't matter.

Now let's go to the other possibility and assume...

(2) universe > spacetime

For whatever that means. Maybe the big bang created spacetime. Maybe there are things before the big bang which can affect us.

In any case, the universe includes some physical constraints that goes way and beyond anything we currently understand by reality.

Even then. If NOTHING was inside the universe group, it would be able to affect us. Again, what's a "NOTHING instead of something" which can affect us? It can only be, by definition something that would make it impossible anything to exist - or else there would be something.

Or worse the, NOTHING is inside the spacetime group. But wait, how can NOTHING even be inside any grouping?! If it exists anywhere alongside something it's alraedy not opposite to something!!

Ok... But wait! Why do we even exist then?!

That's a whole different question. The answer is: we have no fucking clue.

Then again, think of it this way: if there ever was an absolute NOTHING, how could anything come to exist? Answer is: there couldn't. That alone is already reason enough for something to exist. Else, NOTHING would be eternal and, well, what's the point in THAT?! ;P

The more you deeply reason about it

The more you can realize there could never, ever, be NOTHING.

  • Thanks for your answer: so there is both something and nothing at "same time in the same place", thus making the question invalid. As you said, you repeat stuff already said. So, I'll assume your grouping is of time greater than universe But you can't assume that because my definition of the whole Universe include everything, time included. Commented Apr 14, 2012 at 12:22
  • And thanks for your hints, @GeoffroyCALA, on how I can improve my answer. I'm editing it now.
    – cregox
    Commented Apr 15, 2012 at 21:46

Asking "why" there is "something" (i.e., existence) is conceptually invalid: To ask "why" such-and-such a state of reality exists is implicitly to ask for a more detailed causal account of how things act to bring about this state. So if a person asks, "why is fire hot?" they are implicitly asking for a more detailed causal account of the heat of fire. A reasonable response to this might explain that fire is the oxidisation of certain materials, and explain why this physical process produces heat; a deeper explanation might further explain heat and temperature in physics terms and give a more detailed account of what "heat" actually is. One could ask an initial question like this, and then keep asking "why" at each explanation, and in each case, the respondent would attempt to provide a deeper account of the causal process, by going into more detail on the causal physical processes at work. What is important here is that asking "why" is a question about causality, and the answer is always to give a more detailed causal explanation.

So, when you ask "why is there something instead of nothing?", you are asking for a deeper causal account of the creation of "something" (i.e., a causal account of the existence of existence). This means that you are asking for a causal account for how "something" came to exist from a previous state that was not itself "something". Which means: you are asking for a causal account of how "something" is created from "nothing". Which means: you implicitly presume that something could not have been the start of things to begin with, and it must have sprung out of nothing. By the very nature of "something" (i.e., existence) there is nothing else outside of it, and so there is no thing or time outside of it. There is no preliminary state from which "something" could be the causal result. Hence there can be no causal account of the existence of "something" and so there is no "why".

(Incidentally, your question relates to a funny little experience that parents of young children have when little children incessantly ask "why". Parents of young children will be familiar with the fact that there is a limit to one's explanatory capacity when the child keeps asking "but why?" at each step of an explanation. This limitation represents the fact that deeper accounts of causality have a limit, though in the case of explaining things to a child this is more of a pedagogical limit than a metaphysical limit. Nevertheless, you can see that eventually there must be a starting point.)


Despite Logical Positivists and others who will tell you that some questions are not fit to ask, I hold it as a personal truth that all questions that can be framed can be asked, and even from nonsense we can sometimes learn something, such as where we are personally mistaken in our understanding.

Given that, I say this looks like "what Martin Heidegger has called the fundamental question of metaphysics"as described by Art Witherall, so it has quite a pedigree! But its roots lie in the unresolved question of universals which dates back to Plato and Aristotle. See Problem of Universals on Wikipedia

One argument [given in answer to the question by @Saul] is: ".. if Nothing could be, then it would inevitably be Something - giving us a contradiction with our initial premises, thus demonstrating that Nothing cannot be."

But that has a whole bunch of issues about what kind of something, it seems on the face of it that it bootstraps Being, but really it just demonstrates the contradiction, not how the contradiction enables existence to be.

My understanding of the question is that the OP means how does it happen that we are here when so much is necessary to explain it? How does the Universe/Multiverse come about from an assumed earlier state of nothingness, or as an alternative to that state?

It is an expression of amazement, I think, and rightly so. And right up there with the top questions about us.

My answer is this:

I say there is a state I will call virtual that is very similar to the ideal of universals.

The nature of the virtual is that something of it is inherent in any reality [Axiom 1], at least, where it is created as a consequence of relationships. Therefore, if we consider a situation where no thing is real, nothing, no material reality, no time, no space, no God, we can see that this would be a real state of affairs, if it were so it would be a real null. So it would also imply a virtual state of affairs as the ideal of nothingness, which is the same as a null relationship. This is the something which the reality of nothing forces into being. It is not much, just a virtual link between nothing and itself.

It would be a dead end, going nowhere, if it were not for the second axiom concerning the virtual.

The other nature of the virtual is that whatever is logically implicit in one state [instance] of the virtual necessarily follows on from that state. [Axiom 2]

From axiom 2 we automatically, and necessarily, get the virtual state [predicate] of being. This virtual state is a relationship between the spirit [meaning/essence] of nothingness and the spirit [meaning/essence] of being. This is the first non-null relationship, but it is not a concrete thing, it is a virtual, abstract, thing, that exists nowhere and at no time.

That might not be perfectly argued, but the gist of it is, I think, valid.

The implications of this are many, but there are then even more steps to arrive at material existence. Which might include:

1) Number is a clear virtual consequence, and I imagine is still counting toward infinity, without being any closer, and in doing so provides a tick that is one measure of absolute time.

2) Dimension is a natural consequence of number, and so another virtual feature of existence, one that creates a multi-dimensional void.

3) Virtual time is only one thing happening after another, so having happened they remain, which is eternal.

4) Godel's Incompleteness Theorem suggests some things are unanswerable by mathematics alone, so there is a need for something like a universe to try things out and see what happens.

5) Consciousness could be in the relationships between the contents of mind, making it a virtual quality, rather than a physical quality of concrete brains.

6) The Big Bang takes place in the multi-dimensional void, creating a 3d Universe that expands as the surface with a common radius from ground zero. That surface is always now, and holds all the matter/energy. Consequentially yesterday is gone, and tomorrow not happened.

7) Material time is actually absolute, so all Relativity is about rate changing, not time. (space and time not really interchangeable, and no time travel)

8) Quantum effects are not interpretable as a block universe, but require something akin to the Transactional Interpretation to explain Young's Slits.

9) Other weird stuff happens, not yet accounted for by mainstream science.

10) Maybe death is not the end, except for our bodies.

So there you go. Maybe it is not all exactly correct, or is heretical in places, but that is the joy of asking questions, especially impossible ones!

PS. I am in no way qualified to claim any of the foregoing.

  • If you have any references to those who take similar views this would help support your answer and give the reader a place to go for more information. You mentioned Wittgenstein, Plato and Aristotle. Perhaps a quote from them would be useful. Welcome to Philosophy! Commented Apr 20, 2019 at 22:21
  • Thank you @Frank. I have added links as suggested, and just as well because it was Heidegger I was thinking of, not Wittgenstein. As for the rest of it, I made it all up, so I don't know if anyone else ever thought the same thing. Personally I think universals are all relationships, and only sometimes between concrete particulars. I think Sir Roger Penrose also believes in the independent reality of number, but I'm not sure where I have seen that.
    – Jeremy C
    Commented Apr 21, 2019 at 9:14
  • I can upvote if someone can edit this to be more succinct and less conversational. Commented Mar 30 at 15:20

There might be nothing’ is false when read epistemically. (Roughly, a proposition is epistemically possible if it is consistent with everything that is known.) For we know that something actually exists and knowledge of actuality precludes all rival epistemic possibilities. But when read metaphysically, ‘There might be nothing’ seems true. So ‘Why is there something rather than nothing?’ is, so far, a live question... Knowledge, even a priori knowledge, that something is actually true [that something exists] is compatible with ignorance as to how it could be true.

If we grant that empty worlds are possible (the linked to article discusses that), then we probably can, I think, ask why this world isn't empty. We're quite used to asking how it is that something possible isn't actual: so why isn't the actual world empty?

I'm not sure there's any convincing explanation of why, because I can't think even of what sort of explanation could work.

Some philosophers conclude ‘Why is there something rather than nothing?’ is unanswerable. They think the question stumps us by imposing an impossible explanatory demand, namely, Deduce the existence of something without using any existential premises. Logicians should feel no more ashamed of their inability to perform this deduction than geometers should feel ashamed at being unable to square the circle.

But I also like this quote there, which suggests that our awareness of nothingness is important.

One need only shut oneself in a closet and begin to think of the fact of one’s being there, of one’s queer bodily shape in the darkness … of one’s fantastic character and all, to have the wonder steal over the detail as much as over the general fact of being, and to see that it is only familiarity that blunts it. Not only that anything should be, but that this very thing should be, is mysterious [William James]!

A good question without an answer, even if there's no consensus that it can't be answered: that would depend most on "explanatory standards" and what we're willing to accept as an 'explanation'.


-Case 1: Nothing is not possible.

P_existence(nothing) = 0, P_existence(something) = 1. This answers the question.

-Case 2: Nothing is possible and it is the only possibility.

P_existence(nothing) = 1, P_existence(something) = 0. This is not our reality.

-Case 3: Nothing is possible. Transition probability to and from something is 0.

P_existence(nothing) > 0, P_existence(something) > 0.

Nothing is there, but we cannot experience it. The original question is under wrong premises: nothing is "somewhere", we just cannot experience it.

-Case 4: Nothing is possible. Transition probability to and from something are greater than zero.

Same as case 3, but we may transition to it in the future.

-Cases 5,6: As 3 and 4, but only one transition probability is zero.

I'm postulating the existence of a transition probability and an existence probability, which in a sense are more fundamental than even nothing and something. Case 4 is more natural, as it doesn't postulate measure zero probabilities. Too bad that there will be no experimenter around to test the prediction of a transition to nothing!

If optionally we want to address why we are in a "something state" since a long time ("long" in human subjective terms): perhaps the transition probability is asymmetric and much more likely in the nothing-->something direction, as in second law of thermodynamics. Indeed something has many microstates and large entropy, while the Boltzmann entropy of nothing is zero.


There is a form of monism called existence or realistic monism proposed by Galen Strawson. The term cosmopsychism is also used. In this view, there is only one thing - the universe. This develops other, smaller forms of consciousness over time. The moment of initiation is when the universe decided to exist.


Parmenides wrote in his poem, that he was brought before a goddess at the gates of Night and Day, in the abode of the Sun; and by steeds and chariot; and she told him there:

Come now, I will tell thee - and do thou hearken to my saying and carry it away - the only two ways of search that can be thought of. The first, that it is and that it is not possible for anything not to be - is the way of conviction

And continuing:

For truth is its companion; the other, namely that it is not - and that something must needs not be - that, I tell thee, is a wholly untrustworthy way. For you cannot know what is not - nor utter it.

Something then, always is; nothing - in the precise sense - can never be; even to name it, is to name something; in the imprecise sense - we have space, place, void, vacuums - but these, Parmenides is insisting is not nothing.

It suggests that Parmenides was reacting to, or deliberating, or compacting an argument of what it means to be and not, temporally or in-temporally.

Why is there something rather than nothing

Because the contrary - according to P - is precisely impossible; and is precisely unimaginable.


It's simple:

  • If there were nothing, we could not ask the question.

  • We can ask the question, so there is not nothing.

  • As there is not nothing, there is something.

One could argue that this answer "plays tricks" with it's own meta level, but that is because the question itself does that.


The quesion assumes what it must prove. The view that nothing really exists or ever really happens is widepread and is crucial to Buddhist philosophy and mysticism in general. First one would have to show that something exists, before asking the question, and this cannot be done.

This would be why the quesion is unansswerable. It makes an incorrect asxumption. Or at least, the assumption cannot be shown to be correct. History shows that if you hang on to this assumption metaphyscis cannot be solved.


There is no equality at all in between "something" and "nothingness", and it asserts absolute differentiation (there is no the sameness at all) in between "something" and "nothingness".

Absolute differentiation in between "something" and "nothingness, it asserts essential differentiation (it’s not “i am different than you but we have the sameness a little bit”, but it’s strictly “there is nothing on me that exist within you”), therefore there is consequence:

  • If "something" has dimensional, then there will be no dimensional at all on another “nothingness”, and another “nothingness” is equal to “not exist” (we can ignore it, we consider it as “not exist”, since it requires no basic dimensional at all), and vice versa,

  • Whichever we choose, eventually it asserts there is only "dimensional", which asserts there is only "something" rather than "nothingness"

Why is there something instead of nothing?

  • Both "something" Versus "nothingness" asserts (consequence that there is) only "dimensional" (which left behind) that must be related to "something".

It may be considered incomparable in between "something" Versus "nothingness" (whether it maybe considered "doesn't make sense", contradiction in between both or whatever), but it can be considered as our trial to push our logical to the farthest extent and see where is it going to? And eventually it asserts there is only "dimensional" which assert "something".


A simple but fundamental answer:

There are only three answers to every question, "why?".

  1. "Why not?"
  2. "Because..."
  3. "You'll have to figure that out for yourself."

A note on answer #2: "because..." is ambiguous as the same answer can address two different questions very differently, e.g.

  • "Why are you shivering?" and
  • "Why are you putting on your sweater?"

...can both be answered by, "because I am cold."

In the former case, physical cause is cited, in the latter, logic.

Towards answer #3, consider that the question is imponderable and otherwise: know thyself.

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