Defending the Christian Worlview, Creationism, and Intelligent Design
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Defending the Christian Worlview, Creationism, and Intelligent Design

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Defending the Christian Worlview, Creationism, and Intelligent Design » Philosophy and God » Why Is There Something, Rather Than Nothing?

Why Is There Something, Rather Than Nothing?

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Why Is There Something, Rather Than Nothing?

Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz wrote:
"Why is there something rather than nothing? The sufficient reason [...] is found in a substance which [...] is a necessary being bearing the reason for its existence within itself."  1

The source of the reality of essences or possibilities or eternal truths is the necessary being, whose essence includes existence.

Leibniz’s Monadology:
M37. And as all this intricate detail includes nothing except other contingents which are earlier or even more detailed, each of which in turn needs a similar analysis in order to explain it, we are no further forward, and so it must be that the sufficient or ultimate reason lies outside the succession or series of this detail of contingencies, however infinite it may be.
M38. And thus it is that the ultimate reason of things must lie in a necessary substance, in which the intricate detail of changes exist only eminently, in the source as it were, and this is what we call God. 
Theodicy §7.

To say that the intricate detail of contingent changes exists eminently in God, as Leibniz does in M38, is to say that God is a different, more perfect kind of thing than these contingent changes.
Taken together, M37 and M38 constitute a version of the cosmological proof ( or better, evidence ) for the existence of God.

Leibniz presented substantially the same proof in a number of other writings; the classic, or definitive statement of it is to be found in a paper entitled ‘On the ultimate origination of things’ (1698):

Let us imagine that the book of the elements of geometry has always existed, one always copied from another; it is evident that, even if a reason can be given for the present book from a past one, from which it was copied, nevertheless we shall never come upon a full reason no matter how many past books we assume, since we would always be right to wonder why such books have existed from all time, why books existed at all, and why they were written in this way. What is true of books is also true of the different states of the world; for a subsequent state is in a way copied from a preceding one (although according to certain laws of change). And so, however far back you go to earlier states, you will never find in those states a full reason why there should be any world rather than none, and why it should be such as it is. Therefore, even if you should imagine the world eternal, because you still suppose only a succession of states, and because you will not find a sufficient reason in any of them, and indeed no matter how many states you assume you will not make the least progress towards giving a reason, it is evident that the reason must be sought elsewhere . . . From this it is evident that not even by supposing the eternity of the world can we escape the ultimate, extramundane reason of things, i.e. God.

M39. Now since this substance is a sufficient reason for all this intricate detail, which is also interconnected throughout, there is only one God, and this God is sufficient.

Leibniz now offers an argument for the uniqueness of God: because God (the necessary substance identified in M38) is a sufficient reason for all contingent things, which are themselves all connected, there is only one God, which is sufficient. In making this argument, Leibniz assumes that for any given thing, event, or truth (or set thereof), there will be exactly one sufficient reason, and hence no overdetermination, that is, no multiple sufficient reasons for one and the same thing, event, or truth. Why Leibniz would make this assumption is unclear, however, for the principle of sufficient reason, in all of its various formulations, does not state that there has to be just one sufficient reason for any given thing, event, or truth (or set thereof). Perhaps an answer can be found in Leibniz’s reference to a single God as ‘sufficient’: he can be read here as saying that as the universe canbe explained by a single God, there is no need to posit more than one. This can be seen as the application of a principle of parsimony, such as Occam’s razor, which is often formulated as ‘entities are not to be multiplied beyond necessity’. But of course from the fact that there is no need to posit more than one God it would not follow that there is actually just one. Yet Leibniz clearly wishes to make the latter claim too.

It is possible to derive the uniqueness of God from the identity of indiscernibles (encountered in M9). To see how, consider the traditional definition of God as a being which is omnipotent, omniscient, and perfectly good. Now suppose that there are two Gods, A and B; if they are genuinely Gods then both would satisfy this definition. But the identity of indiscernibles holds that if everything that is true of A is also true of B (that is, they are indiscernible), then A and B are one and the same thing (that is, identical). In order for there to be two they would have to differ in some respect, but that would mean one of them not being either omnipotent or omniscient or perfectly good, and of course such a being could not be called ‘God’ at all because it would fail to satisfy the definition of God. In a writing from 1685 Leibniz put forward a proof of the uniqueness of God along these very lines: ‘God is unique. For if there are many, they will differ, and indeed they will differ in their perfections, because nothing else is understood in God, and so each one of them is lacking some perfection, contrary to the definition of God.’

Having proved the existence of the necessary being in M38, Leibniz now proceeds to tell us more about it. Here he argues that God, the necessary being in question, contains as much reality as is possible. In the first part of the argument, Leibniz claims that God can have no limits, which he takes to follow from the fact that God has nothing outside of him that is independent of him. But what does it mean to say that God can have no limits? Presumably, that none of God’s attributes is limited, that is, he has them in the ultimate or maximum degree (for example, maximal power, maximal knowledge, maximal goodness, and so on). From that Leibniz concludes that God contains as much reality as possible.

Leibniz’s various descriptions of God in M40 are worthy of note. His initial description of God as ‘unique, universal, and necessary’ repeats the claims made in M38–9: Leibniz determined that God is necessary in M38 and unique in M39. In describing God as ‘universal’, Leibniz most likely means that God is the cause of all things. Not only does this follow from what has been said already, in M39, it also corresponds with what he says in other writings. For example in a text from 1685 Leibniz writes of God that ‘his action [is] so universal that all things depend on him’. Finally, Leibniz’s description of God as ‘a simple consequence of possible being’ anticipates the ontological proof for God’s existence that he will go on to give in M44. Leibniz identifies power, knowledge, and will (goodness) as God’s perfections in M48.

M42. It also follows that created things owe their perfections to the influence of God, but that they owe their imperfections to their own nature, which is incapable of being without limits. For it is in this that they are distinguished from God. [This original imperfection of created things is observable in the natural inertia of bodies.]
Theodicy §20. §27–31.

If created things were to have unlimited (absolute) perfection then they would be God, but Leibniz has already established that there is only one God (see M39) so their perfection cannot be unlimited. Hence creatures are naturally limited (or as he puts it in one text, ‘limits are of the essence of creatures’). However, the perfections they do have must come from God, since God is the cause of all things (see M40). Leibniz in fact holds that all created things possess the same properties as God, but to a limited extent:

there are in him [God] three primacies: power, knowledge and will; the result of these is the operation or creature, which is varied according to the different combinations of unity and zero; or rather of the positive with the privative, for the privative is nothing other than limits, and there are limits everywhere in a creature, just as there are points everywhere in the line. However, a creature is something more than limits, because it has received some perfection or power from God, just as the line is more than points. For ultimately the point (the end of the line) is nothing more than the negation of the progress beyond which it ends.

At the end of M42 Leibniz refers the reader to various passages from his Theodicy. Most are concerned with the issue of sin, more specifically, its source in the imperfection of creatures. In one of these passages (T20) Leibniz asserts that ‘there is an original imperfection in the creature before sin, because the creature is essentially limited, which means that it cannot know everything, and that it can be deceived and make other mistakes’. Hence sin can be traced back to the limitation of creatures, and, as Leibniz often claims, there is nothing that God could have done about the limitation of creatures because creatures are limited by their very nature. This position has considerable value in theology, as it entails that God cannot (meaningfully) be blamed for the sins of created beings.

M44 concludes with Leibniz offering a version of what has, since the time of Kant, become known as the ontological proof for the existence of God. Versions of it can be found in Anselm, Descartes, and Spinoza. Leibniz spends a lot more time on it in other writings; here it is squashed into the second half of a single sentence, with key steps omitted. Leibniz gives a more complete version of the proof elsewhere:

The Ontological Argument
M44 If one’s essence includes necessary existence then one’s essence is inseparable from existence. The essence of God (i.e. the necessary being) includes necessary existence. Therefore the essence and existence of God are inseparable

Usually when discussing this argument, Leibniz claims that it tacitly assumes that God is possible. Because of that, what he thinks the argument actually shows is that if God is possible then he exists. (This may seem more obvious once one remembers that, for Leibniz, ‘essence’ just is ‘possible existence’.) Consequently it falls short of a true demonstration of God’s existence. To qualify as that, it needs to be shown that the concept of God is possible, that is, free from contradiction. Leibniz will go on to show that God is possible in M45. Sometimes when presenting the ontological argument, however, he argues that God should be presumed possible until shown to be otherwise, for example in the New Essays:

We are entitled to assume the possibility of any being, and above all of God, until someone proves the contrary; and so the foregoing metaphysical argument does yield a demonstrated moral conclusion, namely that in the present state of our knowledge we ought to judge that God exists and to act accordingly.

M45. Thus God alone (or the necessary being) has this privilege, that he must exist if he is possible. And as nothing can prevent the possibility of that which possesses no limits, no negation, and consequently no contradiction, this alone is sufficient for the existence of God to be known a priori. We have proved it through the reality of eternal truths also. But we have now just proved it a posteriori too since contingent beings exist, and they cannot have their ultimate or sufficient reason except in the necessary being, who has the reason for his existence in himself.

Why Is There Something, Rather Than Nothing?
Sean M. Carroll  June 6, 2018

Let’s consider the five options

brute fact

The idea of a universe created by a greater being, for some specific purpose or having some particular properties, seems somehow more satisfying than a universe that existed without a brute fact. (Our idea of satisfying explanations has, needless to say, been trained on our experience within a tiny fraction of reality, not on the existence of the whole of reality itself; but we work with what we have.) Moreover, the presence of regularities such as the laws of nature is itself something we might want to explain, even if it alone is sufficient to render the universe intelligible. We are therefore welcome to search for evidence for such an extra-universal entity, using the conventional methods of science and reason.

But there is no logical or empirical reason why such an entity must exist; the universe can just be. The idea of a necessary being doesn’t really hold together; there just isn’t any such thing. The conclusion is that invoking a creator does not provide us any escape from the need to posit something that simply exists because it does, without further reasons to which we can appeal. And if that is the case, there is no reason not to include all of reality in that category, without additionally imagining a creator at all.
It seems to me that Carroll argues from incredulity, without giving any reason for his standpoint and assertion. The universe had a beginning, therefore, it had a cause. The present moment cannot be reached by adding individual events together from eternity. The second law of thermodynamics refutes the hypothesis of an eternal universe.

Creation. The idea that our reality was brought into existence by some being outside of reality is perhaps the most intuitively appealing explanation for its existence. For one thing, even if the universe could exist as a brute fact, existence is arguably not what we would expect; as Swinburne has put it, “It is extraordinary that there should exist anything at all. Surely the most natural state of affairs is simply nothing.”

While a creator could explain the existence of our universe, we are left to explain the existence of a creator. In order to avoid explanatory regression, it is tempting to say that the creator explains its own existence, but then we can ask why the universe couldn’t have done the same thing. Thus we are left to identify the creator as a necessary being, in contrast with the contingent nature of our universe. 

The existence of a creator of the universe should be judged on ordinary empirical grounds (does it provide a useful explanatory account of observed features of what we see?), not on a priori arguments for its necessity.
The Kalaam refutes Carroll's view since it starts with a sound premise, from where the inference and conclusion is derived. 

Cosmologists use the word “multiverse” to refer to something that is actually more prosaic than it sounds: a single connected spacetime, but with regions (“universes”) where conditions are very different from each other.

Nice try to avoid the inherent problems of a multiverse, where each one would be separated or independent from each other and generated by a universe generator. That would also avoid the question of what could / would exist in between them, if by definition, beyond the universe, there is no space and matter. But then, it would also not solve the fine-tuning problem, since the initial causation of these universes would not be based on independent physical constants  of trial and error, until the appearance of a life-permitting one. There is a lot of incoherence in these proposals. 

The metaverse still faces a severe problem with explanatory regression, as we would be left trying to explain the existence of multiple realities rather than just one. It does not directly provide an answer to the question of why there is something rather than nothing.

The biggest obstacle is that it’s hard to see, given what we know about the actual universe, what such a principle could possibly be. Future scientific discoveries could reveal such an answer.

What can be asserted without evidence, can be dismissed without evidence. 

All else being equal, a self-explaining and necessary universe would be a simpler overall package than a self-explaining and necessary creator who then created the universe. But to most advocates of this general strategy, necessity seems like a more natural property to attribute to a supernatural creator than to the natural universe. 

Some form of reality would be necessary, even if the specific form were left unexplained; we would still face the challenge of understanding our actual universe.

Brute fact
Every attempt to answer the question “Why is there something rather than nothing?” ultimately grounds in a brute fact, a feature of reality that has no further explanation. What we can’t do is demand of the universe that there be something we humans would recognize as a satisfactory reason for its existence.

I see no reasons to commit to naturalism. God is a sufficient reason and satisfactory explanation of our existence. Anything else is void sophistry which leads to willful ignorance, and in ultimate stance, the despair of nihilism. At this point, people begin to do irrational things, like self-mutilation,  appreciation of pain, and other strange things, up to the extreme of suicide.


The Leibnizian Cosmological Argument


The most perfect being is necessarily the most rational being. The principle of sufficient reason ensures us that for all decisions and acts of God there is a rational reason. Since knowledge is a perfection,1 the most perfect being must be omniscient. As being active is more perfect than being passive, God has to be all-powerful. To be more precise, the most perfect being has to be almighty insofar as it is logically possible to be almighty. In other words, the definition of “almighty” should not be contradictory. Intellectual conundrums such as discussing the question whether God can create a stone which is so heavy that he himself cannot lift it, do not fit into Leibniz’s style of thought. As for the moral dimension, Leibniz is firmly convinced that there is a close connection between rationality and goodness: the most perfect being will always act according to the maximum of goodness which is characteristic of him. This necessarily implies that God will create the best of all possible worlds because otherwise he would either not be almighty, or not be absolutely good, or not be omniscient. Leibniz seems to be aware of the imperfections of this world we live in, but the principle of the best possible world is a direct consequence of his high esteem for rationality. Incidentally, Leibniz anticipates how a mathematician might possibly object: a mathematician faced with an increasing infinite sequence knows that there need not be a maximum. So Leibniz states: if it were true that for every good possible world there exists a better possible world, then God would not have created any world at all, because in this case there would not have been sufficient reason for selecting and creating this particular world which exists. The absolutely rational being will never act arbitrarily.

The true religion is the most rational religion, and it is impossible to resist rational arguments.

Reason is a property common to God and man; it is not only what links all human society and is the basis of friendship, but is also the link between God and man

The best of all possible worlds
There must be a rational basis for God’s decision. Given that, for Leibniz, thought has a fundamentally mathematical structure, God’s reasoning about possible worlds must be precise and, in principle, understandable for a mind of sufficiently high capabilities. God must be a perfect mathematician. calculating all possible worlds and selecting the best one. The ancient idea of God as mathematician is given an emphatically new meaning by Leibniz. “As God calculates and executes thought, the world comes into being”. The act of creation is done by “divine mathematics”,6 and is nothing other than the solution of an extreme value problem. Among all the possibilities, God selects the maximum of essences compatible with each other. This selection is much more complicated than it might seem. It does not simply mean a maximum of material objects, but rather the essences of all living creatures having all possible courses of life. Moreover, all kind of perfections, such as moral goodness, justice, ontological variety and so on, have to be taken into account. For example, God decided to create lions although they are dangerous to human beings, but without any lions the world would have been less perfect.  In addition, there is the temporal dimension. There might have been a possible world which would have been better up to the present time, but which would have contained less possibilities for future progress and was, therefore, not selected.  Obviously we cannot understand how God calculated all this. But in all things, Leibniz argues, there is a principle of determination, which is the maximum of effect achieved with a minimum of expenditure. To create a maximum of essences requires using very simple laws for their interaction. Otherwise God would have been like an architect using round bricks, which cost more space than they take up. As God created this world according to this construction principle, Leibniz can state the fundamental rule of his philosophy, or in other words, the fundamental rule for our knowledge of this world: the reason of things is the same everywhere, but the forms and degrees of perfection vary infinitely. The totality of all possible worlds does not seem to be well defined; it seems possible to give analogies of Russell’s paradox and Richard’s antinomy for possible worlds. If this is true, Leibniz’s God cannot overcome these difficulties, and Leibniz would have to reformulate his theory of possible worlds, using neither Cantor’s nor Zermelo–Fraenkel set theory

Gods goodness is expressed in his moral kingdom of grace. and it is the most exalted and the most divine of God’s works, and it is in this that God’s glory truly consists, since there would be no glory if his greatness and his goodness were not known and admired by minds. God’s glory has been thought to consist in his own perfect nature, and/or in his expression of that nature. But there is more to Gods glory than this; specifically, God’s glory also requires other beings to recognise his supreme qualities, since that if there were no such recognition then God would have no glory. Hence it would be correct to say that God’s glory requires (a) that God has a perfect nature, (b) that he expresses that perfect nature, and (c) that his perfect nature is recognised by other creatures. Whilst God’s wisdom, intelligence and power are manifested in all parts of creation, his goodness is most apparent in his sense of justice, moral code, and plan of justification and grace expressed in Christs coming, death, and resurrection. If creation consisted merely in the amazing beauty and complexity of the universe and its mathematical structure, laws and fine-tuning, then God’s great wisdom and power would be evident, but not his goodness. In order to manifest his goodness, God  created minds, rational and moral creatures upon which he can exercise justice, mercy, forgiveness, and so on.

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