Why There Is Something Rather Than Nothing

Why There Is Something Rather Than Nothing

Why There Is Something Rather Than Nothing

Why There Is Something Rather Than Nothing

Synopsis

Why should there be anything at all? Why, in particular, should a material world exist? Bede Rundle advances clear, non-technical answers to these perplexing questions. If, as the theist maintains, God is a being who cannot but exist, his existence explains why there is something rather thannothing. However, this can also be explained on the basis of a weaker claim. Not that there is some particular being that has to be, but simply that there has to be something or other. Rundle proffers arguments for thinking that that is indeed how the question is to be put to rest. Traditionally, the existence of the physical universe is held to depend on God, but the theist faces a major difficulty in making clear how a being outside space and time, as God is customarily conceived to be, could stand in an intelligible relation to the world, whether as its creator or as theauthor of events within it. Rundle argues that a creator of physical reality is not required, since there is no alternative to its existence. There has to be something, and a physical universe is the only real possibility. He supports this claim by eliminating rival contenders; he dismisses thesupernatural, and argues that, while other forms of being, notably the abstract and the mental, are not reducible to the physical, they presuppose its existence. The question whether ultimate explanations can ever be given is forever in the background, and the book concludes with an investigation ofthis issue and of the possibility that the universe could have existed for an infinite time. Other topics discussed include causality, space, verifiability, essence, existence, necessity, spirit, fine tuning, and laws of Nature. Why There Is Something Rather Than Nothing offers an explanation of fundamental facts of existence in purely philosophical terms, without appeal either to theology or cosmology. It will provoke and intrigue anyone who wonders about these questions.

Excerpt

The question, 'Why is there something rather than nothing?', has a strong claim to be philosophy's central, and most perplexing, question. As providing a possible starting point for a proof of the existence of God, its centrality is assured, and it has a capacity to set one's head spinning which few other philosophical problems can rival. The principal answers which it receives are of two kinds. First, as just indicated, we have the theist's response: the existence of anything at all can be explained only if we can suppose that there is a being, God, who exists of necessity and is the source of all being. Second, and ever more commonly, it is held that physics will provide the answer. Cosmological theories are being continually developed and refined to such a point that we can expect an eventual explanation of why our universe exists, and hence of the more general fact that something exists, to arise out of such a theory

Both these responses are problematic. Our remarkable success in devising scientific explanations, in resolving what have initially appeared impenetrable mysteries, may make for a presumption that favours the naturalistic alternative, but there are many, scientists as well as non-scientists, who believe that we must look beyond science if we are to find a final explanation. The province of cosmology is nothing short of the whole universe, but it is difficult to see how enlightenment might be found within that province. One way or another, the existence of something seems always to be presupposed. On the other hand, if the origins of what is of concern to cosmology are not a question for cosmology itself, it is not clear that theology can fare any better, given the problems associated with the very concept of God. The universe does not appear to be self-explanatory, but it has yet to be made clear how a genuine explanation could be given by invoking a being outside space and time, as God is customarily conceived to be.

In the face of the difficulties presented by these two solutions, we may be drawn to a reluctant acceptance that the existence at which we marvel is just a matter of brute, inexplicable, fact. Reluctant, since as a response that disowns rather than offers the possibility of enlightenment, this is not a happy resting place. However, while it may be difficult to see where else to turn, there is a further possibility. Neither of the answers touched

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