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    Thread: Why Something Rather Than Nothing?

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      Why Something Rather Than Nothing?

      Disclaimer: I'm not religious, nor have I prescribe myself to any organized religion. While this thread has religious implications, I believe the significant, larger focus behind the question is philosophical in nature.


      Purpose: The reason for which something is done or created or for which something exists.

      Reason: A cause, explanation, or justification for an action or event.

      These are the web suggested definitions.



      My definitions for the words used in this proof are:

      Reason: The explanation(how/why) for an event based on the connections between different events. (often times, the reason(s) for action are determined by the "value" of what is yielded from executing the action. In this case the explanation is the value or product attained, which is based upon the connection between that value/product and the satisfaction it yields).

      Explanation (how): (how) the different events are connected

      Explanation (why): (why) the different events are connected

      Justification: The "rightness" of an action. A moral and arbitrary assessment of deciding an action.

      Purpose: The reason for the allocation of time and energy to achieve something.
      Synonymous with "why".

      Example:

      For what purpose did the atoms combine.
      -> For what reason did the atoms allocate/use time and energy to combine
      -> The reason why would be based on the value/reward of what is yielded by executing the action.
      -> The reason how would be based on the specific process in scientific terms

      ----------------------------------------------------------------------


      So the Question:

      Why is there something rather than nothing?

      rephrased:

      Why is there a universe rather than no universe?

      rephrased again:

      For what purpose is there a universe rather than no universe.

      rephrased again:

      For what reason was time and energy allocated for there to be a universe rather than no universe.

      rephrased again:

      What is the explanation for the use of time and energy for there to be a universe rather than no universe.

      rephrased again:

      How was time and energy used for there to be a universe rather than no universe.
      Why was time and energy used for there to be a universe rather than no universe.

      rephrased again (In our case, we are concerned with the latter):

      For what purpose was time and energy used for there to be a universe rather than no universe.

      So the answer to the question of:

      Why is there a universe rather than no universe

      Can be found in the answer to the question:

      For what purpose was time and energy used for there to be a universe rather than no universe to achieve something.


      I will infer a few things:

      1. The something that is sought after (the purpose) necessitates the existence of a universe.
      2. The universe was created by time and energy to achieve something of necessity or value.
      3. The creation of the universe was/is only possible through the previous existence of time/energy. Following the definition for all intents and purposes, you cannot create time and energy through time and energy.
      4. Time/Energy would therefore be eternal constructs.

      This does not at all mandate the requirement that:

      1. The purpose behind the creation of the universe is liable to "justification" of ones subjective interpretation of the rightness of the purpose.



      I'm conscious that scrutiny and criticism will be derived from my definitions of the words I used. Though, I did try to be as objective and clear as possible, I doubt the definitions will be unanimously approved.
      Last edited by Dreams4free; 06-04-2012 at 06:20 PM.

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      Quote Originally Posted by Dreams4free View Post
      1. The universe was created through some medium of energy over time to achieve something.
      What evidence is there to base this assumption on? I mean the assumption that there was a purpose behind the creation of the universe?

      For the rest of it - the best theories (that I know of) relating to the Big Bang state that time did not exist beforehand. Time - as we know it anyway (and I don't pretend to understand the concept) came into being only because the universe did, and only within the confines of our universe.

      It seems any theory that seeks to overthrow the best existing theories must account for the facts better than those theories do. Amirite?

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      probability ....there can be nothing and something...and theres something you are alive to see it if not you just wouldnt
      Last edited by wana; 06-04-2012 at 06:47 PM.
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      Quote Originally Posted by Darkmatters View Post
      What evidence is there to base this assumption on?
      Empirical only. From my limited experience and understanding of the universe, it seems that if all action is, is the transfer of energy, then it would seem that in order for their to be creation, energy need be transferred in some way to manifest itself as the universe we perceive.

      So you could even argue that the universe isn't "created" per se, but rather it is simply just a modulation of preexisting energy. Furthermore, the idea of existence of "time" is another hot topic in physics right now.

      So if time didn't exist, and everything was purely relativistic (which einstein seek to prove), then the idea of something being eternal is arbitrary in its current terms. You would have to modulate to a perception that rather than something having forever existed, it is more so that energy, or the mutability of some form of universal matter, has always "existed".

      You could make this same argument without the existence of time, but I would need to go through a lot of formatting and would end of just talking out of my ass.

      I rather base my assumptions off of as many facts as possible and just stick to trying to clarify language to help focus and improve the philosophical question.

      The only interest I really had was that; simplifying and clarifying the language.

      Many philosophical problems occur from different interpretations of language.
      Last edited by Dreams4free; 06-04-2012 at 06:52 PM.

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      Xei
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      I used to wonder about this a lot. I've since realised that, like most great metaphysical questions, it is a meaningless question, only asked because of a vast overestimation of the power of language and thought; the answer is outside of the domain of human knowledge or even meaningfulness. It's a great relief when you finally understand this statement.

      The only thing that the human mind can do is observe local patterns in our little bubble of reality. Sometimes we can break those patterns down into more general patterns. That's what we do when we ask 'why' of something.

      What we can't do is 'explain' something 'a priori', which means without assuming something else. To see this, just consider any explanation, and ask 'why' of it. For instance, why is there wind? Well, turns out it's down to the sun heating the globe unevenly. Why is the sun hot? Because there are hydrogen atoms fusing inside it. Why do hydrogen atoms fuse? Because the sun is so hot that the hydrogen nuclei overcome the barrier due to their positive charges and become bound by the strong nuclear force. Why is there a strong nuclear force? Probably unanswerable. There just is; some things are. And even if it wasn't unanswerable; what possible form could the answer take if it were to contain no assumptions? That's not what 'why' means; 'why' does not mean 'explain why something must be true', it means, 'explain why something happens as a result of something more general'.

      So, taking the universe to mean that which exists, the question 'why does the universe exist' is not well formed. Bearing in mind the above, it does not mean anything.

      Another way to look at it is to ask, 'why not'? Could the wind stop blowing one day? Why not? Maybe heat no longer causes air to expand, or maybe the sun no longer produces heat. Could this really happen? Why not? What is your a priori objection? All the way down to the strong nuclear force. Perhaps you push two neutrons together one day and they fail to attract each other. What objection could you possibly raise? Indeed, before you'd ever seen a pair of neutrons, how could you possibly have known by looking at them that they'd attract each other? Maybe they'd do nothing, or fly away, or spontaneously disappear, or maybe more would appear.

      Why couldn't more appear? Why doesn't stuff appear out of nowhere all the time? (Tangential point but actually particles do appear out of nowhere all the time!). We can't provide any answer. We just know that in our domain of observation, stuff doesn't tend to appear out of nowhere very much. That's not a logical implication. Outside of our observed region of space, or our observed region of time (i.e. tomorrow perhaps), this could fail to be the case. And all of this of course also applies to the moment of creation.

      Read this post again.
      Last edited by Xei; 06-04-2012 at 07:05 PM.
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      ^ This.

      I think I was trying to be mini-Xei. I wasn't really aware of it at the time, but somewhere in my mind I was thinking "What would Xei say?"

      But of course, not being anywhere near as smart or well-educated on the subject as Xei, I couldn't come near to expressing it as well as he just did. Yes - language! That's what I was groping for - it's clear that in asking "why does the universe exist rather than not" and in translating that to "for what REASON.. " you somehow got caught up in a different meaning associated with the word reason. That's why I questioned why there has to be a purpose at all (purpose behind the creation of the universe implies Creationism, or some derivative of it). But my point is that there's nothing about the condition of the universe that suggests there was any purpose behind its creation.

      I toally agree that language problems are at the root of many of the most seemingly profound and unanswerable questions, and that people tie themselves into knots using language to try to solve them. This is exactly why so frequently I jump on certain threads and try to work on clarifying the question. All too often there's an inherent confusion in the question itself that goes completely unacknowledged.

      Now I'm going to read his post again.

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      because you're alive, that's why

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      what makes all this "something" anyway? why couldn't it just be nothing?

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      Xei
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      Quote Originally Posted by Darkmatters View Post
      But of course, not being anywhere near as smart or well-educated on the subject as Xei, I couldn't come near to expressing it as well as he just did.
      I don't really have any education in this field at all, I just habitually wonder about philosophy, and these are the conclusions I came to. Everything I said came together about a year and a half ago. Only later did I discover that somebody had developed pretty much exactly the same approach as me about 250 years ago, namely David Hume. Hume even spoke of a 'New Scene of Thought' occurring to him... I think I experienced the same thing. Though Hume's achievement was vastly more impressive than mine, because I have access to two additional paradigms that he didn't; the first being the place of man in nature (courtesy of Darwin), the second being the vivid destruction of a priori truths that occurred in maths and physics at the turn of the 20th century (such as human ideas of space, time, causality, identity, and so forth). All Hume had to go on was the 'reduction of why'.

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      I wonder if someday we do find an inherently axiomatic "something" from which all experience can be explained.
      Last edited by Wayfaerer; 06-04-2012 at 09:40 PM.

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      Unless history is doomed to forever repeat itself, I don't see why not. I don't see how we could know that it's out of the bounds of human ability.

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      Why is there something rather than nothing?
      This is quite arbitrary, for even when there is 'nothing', there is space, and that is something. I'd like an example of 'nothingness', actually. Even in the vacuum of space, the vacuum is 'something.'

      Why is there a universe rather than no universe?
      Highly doubt you're going to find a suitable answer for that here, for even if you find out why our universe exists, you'll have to find out why there was (likely) a universe before that; a universe before That; and the multiple universes that are (likely) existing around our own at this very moment.

      For what reason was time and energy allocated for there to be a universe rather than no universe.
      This alleges that "the universe" didn't always exist. And in the case of a multi-verse, it would assume that the multiverse didn't always exist. Mankind is at a point, scientifically, where we cannot assume any of these to be true, so the question you're asking is much harder to answer than I think you are giving it credit for.

      What is the explanation for the use of time and energy for there to be a universe rather than no universe.
      How was time and energy used for there to be a universe rather than no universe.
      Why was time and energy used for there to be a universe rather than no universe.
      See above.
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      Quote Originally Posted by Xei View Post
      The only thing that the human mind can do is observe local patterns in our little bubble of reality.
      I've heard you say this before and I'm not doubting that you have it right, but I've always had trouble understanding why and would really like to, since the conclusion is an important one. What is our ability to reason then? I can imagine that it might be explained in terms of patterns. For example, if someone tries out the rule "if all A's are B's, and all B's are C's, then all A's are C's" and finds that it often works out, then that person might take up that rule of reasoning, and so it would be gained through experience. But that isn't what it feels is happening in the brain. It seems that the ability to reason is not experience based at all, that all deduction breaks down to the law of identity and so the logical rules have to be true. We don't just assume that they're true based on experience.

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      ^That's an interesting question that I've been thinking about. It seems to me logical patterns like that seem so absolutely "true" because that's how life had to evolve to function, but I don't think that nearly says everything about their environmental truth-value.

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      Quote Originally Posted by Xei View Post
      I don't really have any education in this field at all, I just habitually wonder about philosophy, and these are the conclusions I came to. Everything I said came together about a year and a half ago. Only later did I discover that somebody had developed pretty much exactly the same approach as me about 250 years ago, namely David Hume. Hume even spoke of a 'New Scene of Thought' occurring to him... I think I experienced the same thing. Though Hume's achievement was vastly more impressive than mine, because I have access to two additional paradigms that he didn't; the first being the place of man in nature (courtesy of Darwin), the second being the vivid destruction of a priori truths that occurred in maths and physics at the turn of the 20th century (such as human ideas of space, time, causality, identity, and so forth). All Hume had to go on was the 'reduction of why'.
      so i guess this is off topic but do you get hit on a lot?

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      Quote Originally Posted by Orr View Post
      so i guess this is off topic but do you get hit on a lot?
      This also might be off topic but do you make more than 5 digits a year?

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      Quote Originally Posted by Dreams4free View Post
      This also might be off topic but do you make more than 5 digits a year?
      Finding work is harder than actually doing the work these days.

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      Quote Originally Posted by Dreams4free View Post
      This also might be off topic but do you make more than 5 digits a year?
      how does it go.. wake up in the morning take a money shower
      yeah
      something like that

      but lolwut i am being sincere i swear on my boner for jean-paul mother fucking sartre

      Quote Originally Posted by Dianeva
      If you're being sarcastic you're being stupid because intelligence is probably the sexiest quality there is.
      so why why why would you ever think im attacking
      is it so hard to trust that another being is in concordance with your libidinal impulse
      goddamn
      it was just supposed to be a fucking compliment

      why do you all assume spite curdles within me why attribute a histrionic quality to me?
      oh fuck youve got ME asking why now .. ha! but this is a perfect segue into this point i wrote about last night which i did not post

      you see i was slightly stoned though it was not very satisfying
      why must i be this heavyweight marijuana jock the rasta gods are so cruel
      anyway i wrote up all this shitty text to parallel the essence of man with that of the universe

      taking the universe to mean that which exists
      and instead of posting my 'high' train of thought thats full of assumed premises as per usual i'll ask in a nutshell if

      Quote Originally Posted by Xei View Post
      What we can't do is 'explain' something 'a priori', which means without assuming something else. To see this, just consider any explanation, and ask 'why' of it. For instance, why is there wind? Well, turns out it's down to the sun heating the globe unevenly. Why is the sun hot? Because there are hydrogen atoms fusing inside it. Why do hydrogen atoms fuse? Because the sun is so hot that the hydrogen nuclei overcome the barrier due to their positive charges and become bound by the strong nuclear force. Why is there a strong nuclear force? Probably unanswerable. There just is; some things are. And even if it wasn't unanswerable; what possible form could the answer take if it were to contain no assumptions? That's not what 'why' means; 'why' does not mean 'explain why something must be true', it means, 'explain why something happens as a result of something more general'.
      then doesnt the same apply to explaining the nature and behavior of people?

      we often ask 'why' are there killers and rapists and katie courics?
      after we overcome the problem of duality and deduce the mental quality of humans as emergent
      and then after deconstructing the physicalness of human down to its essence all were left with is 'something' in spacetime rather than nothing just like anything else in the universe

      ultimately our personality and being, like the spacetime nature of the universe

      just is
      self-evidently and without reason

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      Quote Originally Posted by Orr View Post
      how does it go.. wake up in the morning take a money shower
      yeah
      something like that

      but lolwut i am being sincere i swear on my boner for jean-paul mother fucking sartre


      so why why why would you ever think im attacking
      is it so hard to trust that another being is in concordance with your libidinal impulse
      goddamn
      it was just supposed to be a fucking compliment

      why do you all assume spite curdles within me why attribute a histrionic quality to me?
      oh fuck youve got ME asking why now .. ha! but this is a perfect segue into this point i wrote about last night which i did not post

      you see i was slightly stoned though it was not very satisfying
      why must i be this heavyweight marijuana jock the rasta gods are so cruel
      anyway i wrote up all this shitty text to parallel the essence of man with that of the universe



      and instead of posting my 'high' train of thought thats full of assumed premises as per usual i'll ask in a nutshell if



      then doesnt the same apply to explaining the nature and behavior of people?

      we often ask 'why' are there killers and rapists and katie courics?
      after we overcome the problem of duality and deduce the mental quality of humans as emergent
      and then after deconstructing the physicalness of human down to its essence all were left with is 'something' in spacetime rather than nothing just like anything else in the universe

      ultimately our personality and being, like the spacetime nature of the universe



      self-evidently and without reason
      I'm going to take that as a:

      "No I live in my mothers basement and do drugs all day".

      That's all you had to say. By the way, on a side note, you write like a 7th grader.

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      Quote Originally Posted by Orr View Post
      so why why why would you ever think im attacking
      is it so hard to trust that another being is in concordance with your libidinal impulse
      goddamn
      it was just supposed to be a fucking compliment
      I'm not sure how you even responded to that since I deleted it right after I posted it. It seemed like sarcasm on first glance, then I thought about it and realized it probably wasn't, so I deleted it, not intending anyone to see. Sorry about that.

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      Quote Originally Posted by Dianeva View Post
      I'm not sure how you even responded to that since I deleted it right after I posted it.
      magic


      but no really it was just the email notifications you get when someone responds to a thread
      i pulled it from there dude because i didnt know you changed your mind

      so I deleted it, not intending anyone to see.
      well we its good to know thats definitely not how the internet works
      welcome to the real internet

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      Quote Originally Posted by Dreams4free View Post
      Empirical only.
      From empirical observations you arrived at the idea that there must be "purpose" behind the existence of the universe? I htink more likely that happened as a mistranslation of the word "why" in the original question. You seem to have gone from "why is there something.. " to "What is the purpose of the existence of something.." - when originally the word Why served a slightly different purpose. In the original question the term Why didn't mean "for what purpose", but rather simply "There are 2 alternatives - existence or non-existence..". It's a difficult thing to even express without using the word Why - and that probably explains why the question itself is so misleading. But let's be perfectly straight about one thing - if you really want to say that there was "purpose" behind the creation of the universe, then maybe this should be moved to R/S? Because purpose behind creation implies a conscious and thinking creator. Is there purpose behind the orbits of planets? No... the answer to "why do planets orbit stars" is essentially "gravity and centrifugal force in dynamic balance" (if my layman's understnading is essentially corrct). So the question is searching for laws of nature or laws of physics, not "for what purose". There doesn't seem to be an actual "purpose" for planets orbiting... they simply do it because that's the way large masses behave according to the known laws of the universe. The word purpose has no place in a scientific discussion about these laws.

      And please understand - I'm not saying this just to bash your ideas at all - I'm trying to help you define the terms more properly. I'm just saying I think the word Purpose needs to be removed.


      Quote Originally Posted by Dreams4free View Post
      You could make this same argument without the existence of time, but I would need to go through a lot of formatting and would end of just talking out of my ass.
      I suspect when you boil it right down, this is all anyone can really do in relation to such big questions - talk out of our asses. As Xei said earlier, we don't even have a complete understanding of the natural laws inside the confines of our own universe, but one thing we suspect is that outside of its confines all bets are off. There's no reason to believe that time or energy or matter behave in the same famailiar ways there that they do here. So we really have no base to stand on to try to make any deductions about what might exist "outside" of or "before" our universe. It would be rather like fish trying to make empirical deductions about what exists above water, and starting with the "known" fact that "the only mode of locomotion is to swim.. "

      The simple answer to "why is there something rather than nothing" - we have no idea and currently are incapable of even thinking meaningfully about the question.

      This isn't to say "stop trying" - not at all! The only way we'll progress is for people to ponder these deep issues. I just don't think the people of Dreamviews are going to be the ones to solve the riddle. I leave that to scientists and philosophers who understand the dynamics of the issue much better than we do.

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      Xei
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      This post sat unfinished in my browser for about a week because of exams so I hadn't read your posts yet Orr. But lol.

      Quote Originally Posted by Oneironaut Zero View Post
      This is quite arbitrary, for even when there is 'nothing', there is space, and that is something. I'd like an example of 'nothingness', actually. Even in the vacuum of space, the vacuum is 'something.'
      I don't personally think this has any meaning... or at least, any parts of it with meaning aren't really true. It's a common misconception that the universe is expanding, in the sense of a spherical object expanding, as we would understand it. Such a spherical object is three dimensional and is expanding into empty three dimensional space. This is not at all what the universe is doing. When physicists say the universe is expanding, they mean that it is becoming more rarefied; not increasing in size. The best way to explain this is to explain that physicists do not know exactly the geometry of the universe, but none of the hypotheses involve an 'edge' to the universe. Possible geometries include an infinite flat space, or a space like the surface of a sphere. The surface of a 3D sphere is essentially a 2D space. It has nothing to do with a 3D space; it does not exist within a 3D space. It is just a special kind of 2D space in which, if you go far enough in a line, you will come back to the same point (have the arcade game Asteroids in mind). When we talk about this space expanding, we don't mean that a sphere is expanding in 3D space, or that an infinite flat space is somehow getting larger; just that things in the 2D space are getting further apart (or in the case of our universe, which is 3D and thus would be the surface of a 4D sphere, just replace 2D with 3D and 3D with 4D). Another hopefully insightful remark is that the Big Bang occurred at every point in space, including inside this full stop. And this one. There wasn't a coordinate in space (which is now at some well defined point inside the universe) at which the Big Bang occurred and then the universe bubbled outward from it, that's completely the wrong picture.

      So when we say that 'even if there was nothing, space would have to exist', this isn't true. It's just our human intuition, which is entirely built for modelling the flat 3D space we live in, being extended to domains in which it has no place. Reality is not contained in a space; the space is part of reality. That sphere could shrink to nothing, and there wouldn't be any space. Like I said, the sphere was not 'in space', it was the space. Or in the case of an infinite flat space, if the universe did not exist that space would simply cease to be. The space wasn't contained 'inside' another space. That is just how we are used to things working in our parochial little backwater of reality.

      Highly doubt you're going to find a suitable answer for that here, for even if you find out why our universe exists, you'll have to find out why there was (likely) a universe before that; a universe before That; and the multiple universes that are (likely) existing around our own at this very moment.
      See my first post. We have no right to claim as a categorical principle that universes can't simply come into existence, without anything happening 'before' them. Indeed, very much like the case of space, time is bound up with the fabric of our universe, so it's not clear to what extent this even has any meaning.

      Quote Originally Posted by Dianeva View Post
      I've heard you say this before and I'm not doubting that you have it right, but I've always had trouble understanding why and would really like to, since the conclusion is an important one. What is our ability to reason then? I can imagine that it might be explained in terms of patterns. For example, if someone tries out the rule "if all A's are B's, and all B's are C's, then all A's are C's" and finds that it often works out, then that person might take up that rule of reasoning, and so it would be gained through experience. But that isn't what it feels is happening in the brain. It seems that the ability to reason is not experience based at all, that all deduction breaks down to the law of identity and so the logical rules have to be true. We don't just assume that they're true based on experience.
      It's a great question, and it's an important one, which I've considered.

      The first thing I'd say is that I think that the scientific discoveries of the 1900s should basically destroy our trust in any principle not being deduced from experience but rather being in some way universal (tangentially, this is why I also mentioned Darwin; he made clear to us our relationship with reality, as natural rather than spiritual beings. In the naturalistic paradigm, the concept of a principle not deduced from nature begs the question 'then where on Earth did the organism obtain the principle'? What form would the thought take in the physical neurons of the brain?). Logic is very basic and intuitive, yes, but, in my opinion, no more so than the concepts which were clearly struck down by the aforementioned events. For instance, our understanding of space. Take the statement, 'given a line and a point above it, there is one line through that point which never touches the first'. Or our understanding of time, 'if two events are simultaneous for me, they are simultaneous for you'. Or identity and causality, 'an object has a state, and that state determines its behaviour'. Are these statements not all just as intuitive as the logical example you gave? And yet they are all false. They are great models of reality for the domains that we normally experience, but outside of that domain they fall to pieces.

      You are correct in your prediction of how I think we come to know the axioms. I actually think it's kind of obvious that we go through such steps, at least at first. I think a good analogy is with numbers. Many people put numbers on the same level that you put logic. But what actually is a number (let's consider whole numbers to keep it simple)? The number three is the thing in common between three trees and three clouds and three deer. But the idea that such disparate things have some entity in common is actually quite a high level of abstraction, and it must have taken many millennia of human history to develop it. If you asked one of these pioneers what two plus two was, how would they have gone about it? I think it's obvious you can't work with the abstraction itself. So you have to go down to the level of the physical substrate of the abstraction, either playing it out in reality or in your head, putting two objects together and finding that there are four. It only feels 'obvious' to us now because we are so used to working with the abstraction. And an important thing to note is the scope of meaning of the concept; it requires universe in which there are discrete objects, in order to think of this generalisation. But what's a discrete object..? There's not really such a thing. Stuff just clumps together in our universe and we notice the pattern.

      I think the same goes through for logical axioms. You have to ask what the axioms are actually 'about'. They can't exist without reference to something; they must delineate some limited portion of reality. In the case of 'A is a B and B is a C therefore A is a C', we again need to have some model of discrete entities, and also we need to be able to put these entities into sets according to some adjective or another. And what's an adjective..? It's a pattern. And again, this statement may seem 'intuitively obvious', but perhaps there are objects which break it which we've just never been exposed to. And what is the neural process which allows us to conclude that it is true? In the naturalistic interpretation there must be one. Well, it seems to me that it must have come from observation. We observed every single object ever, from the time of babies (another tangent: read about Piaget's studies of infants, who turn out to be woefully poor at understanding basic logical concepts), behaving in this way. And so we formed an abstraction and now don't need to refer to the physical substrate, because we're so accustomed to it. I imagine clumps of neurons in our brain form from repeated exposure to the same pattern and become entities in themselves. In fact these concepts are so fundamentally basic that they probably constitute the fundamental essence of our being. But they're still not a priori.
      Last edited by Xei; 06-09-2012 at 02:54 PM.

    24. #24
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      Quote Originally Posted by Xei View Post
      The first thing I'd say is that I think that the scientific discoveries of the 1900s should basically destroy our trust in any principle not being deduced from experience but rather being in some way universal (tangentially, this is why I also mentioned Darwin; he made clear to us our relationship with reality, as natural rather than spiritual beings. In the naturalistic paradigm, the concept of a principle not deduced from nature begs the question 'then where on Earth did the organism obtain the principle'? What form would the thought take in the physical neurons of the brain?). Logic is very basic and intuitive, yes, but, in my opinion, no more so than the concepts which were clearly struck down by the aforementioned events. For instance, our understanding of space. Take the statement, 'given a line and a point above it, there is one line through that point which never touches the first'. Or our understanding of time, 'if two events are simultaneous for me, they are simultaneous for you'. Or identity and causality, 'an object has a state, and that state determines its behaviour'. Are these statements not all just as intuitive as the logical example you gave? And yet they are all false. They are great models of reality for the domains that we normally experience, but outside of that domain they fall to pieces.

      You are correct in your prediction of how I think we come to know the axioms. I actually think it's kind of obvious that we go through such steps, at least at first. I think a good analogy is with numbers. Many people put numbers on the same level that you put logic. But what actually is a number (let's consider whole numbers to keep it simple)? The number three is the thing in common between three trees and three clouds and three deer. But the idea that such disparate things have some entity in common is actually quite a high level of abstraction, and it must have taken many millennia of human history to develop it. If you asked one of these pioneers what two plus two was, how would they have gone about it? I think it's obvious you can't work with the abstraction itself. So you have to go down to the level of the physical substrate of the abstraction, either playing it out in reality or in your head, putting two objects together and finding that there are four. It only feels 'obvious' to us now because we are so used to working with the abstraction. And an important thing to note is the scope of meaning of the concept; it requires universe in which there are discrete objects, in order to think of this generalisation. But what's a discrete object..? There's not really such a thing. Stuff just clumps together in our universe and we notice the pattern.

      I think the same goes through for logical axioms. You have to ask what the axioms are actually 'about'. They can't exist without reference to something; they must delineate some limited portion of reality. In the case of 'A is a B and B is a C therefore A is a C', we again need to have some model of discrete entities, and also we need to be able to put these entities into sets according to some adjective or another. And what's an adjective..? It's a pattern. And again, this statement may seem 'intuitively obvious', but perhaps there are objects which break it which we've just never been exposed to. And what is the neural process which allows us to conclude that it is true? In the naturalistic interpretation there must be one. Well, it seems to me that it must have come from observation. We observed every single object ever, from the time of babies (another tangent: read about Piaget's studies of infants, who turn out to be woefully poor at understanding basic logical concepts), behaving in this way. And so we formed an abstraction and now don't need to refer to the physical substrate, because we're so accustomed to it. I imagine clumps of neurons in our brain form from repeated exposure to the same pattern and become entities in themselves. In fact these concepts are so fundamentally basic that they probably constitute the fundamental essence of our being. But they're still not a priori.
      I'm glad someone understands. :p
      Xei likes this.

    25. #25
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      Quote Originally Posted by Dianeva View Post
      I've heard you say this before and I'm not doubting that you have it right, but I've always had trouble understanding why and would really like to, since the conclusion is an important one. What is our ability to reason then? I can imagine that it might be explained in terms of patterns. For example, if someone tries out the rule "if all A's are B's, and all B's are C's, then all A's are C's" and finds that it often works out, then that person might take up that rule of reasoning, and so it would be gained through experience. But that isn't what it feels is happening in the brain. It seems that the ability to reason is not experience based at all, that all deduction breaks down to the law of identity and so the logical rules have to be true. We don't just assume that they're true based on experience.
      @ Dianeva - are you familiar with Einstein's special theory of relativity? I think that's a basic requirement for anybody who wants to try to understand modern thinking about the universe. Heh, well ok, maybe the term Modern is outdated, since it generally refers to the early 20th century - I suppose I ought to say contemporary instead (though of course, many of today's theories come from the early 20th century).

      I read a book with both the special and general theories - the special theory was pretty easy to understand, but the general theory is quite a brain scrambler. But once you grasp the basic idea of timespace - how it can be viewed like a stretched sheet of rubber where heavy gravitational objects like stars make big dents in it that cause planets to orbit them while apparetnly describing a straight line (am I getting that right? It's been a long time, and I haven't re-read or kept up since) - then some of the absolute strangeness of the universe reveals itself to you.

      I think this knowledge forms the basis of any understanding of today's physics, though it's only a beginning.

      I would recommend anybody interested in the subject read at least the special theory - I bought a book with both, but I'm sure you could find websites that explain it quite well (though a website might not go into as much detail and might give a very cursory understanding that fails to really get the import of the ideas across).

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