Problem of why there is anything at all
The question "Why is there anything at all?", or, "Why is there something rather than nothing?" has been raised or commented on by philosophers including Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz, Martin Heidegger − who called it the fundamental question of metaphysics − and Ludwig Wittgenstein.
The question is general, rather than concerning the existence of anything specific such as the universe/s, the Big Bang, mathematical laws, physical laws, time, consciousness or God. It can be seen as an open metaphysical question.
Criticism of the question's adequacy
Some argue that the question may be inherently illogical; if the universe had no beginning point then its non-existence might never have been an option. One study has suggested a model that eliminates the initial singularity and predicts that the Universe had no beginning but existed forever as a kind of quantum potential before 'collapsing' into the Big Bang's hot dense state. In other research a possible consequence of "rainbow gravity" might be that the universe had no beginning with time stretching back infinitely without an initial singularity and Big Bang. Similarly physics may conclude that time did not exist before the Big Bang, but 'started' with the Big Bang and hence there might be no 'beginning', 'before' or potentially 'cause' and instead always existed. A related view from Augustine of Hippo is that time is part of God's creation.
Philosopher Stephen Law has said the question may not need answering, as it is attempting to answer a question that is outside a spatio-temporal setting, from within a spatio-temporal setting. He compares the question to asking "what is north of the North Pole?"
Some, including philosopher Bede Rundle, have questioned whether nothing can exist. Nothing might be a human concept that is only a construct and inappropriate for a description of a possible alternative reality, state, or absence of state.
In a similar vein as Schrödinger's cat, until something is perceived, it both exists and does not exist, i.e. it is unknown. Nothing, having been defined, is itself something, if only at a meta level. If undefined, a.k.a. not being thought about or reasoned, it is not known whether it does not exist or does. Therefore, the default state of anything is neither nothing nor something but unknown.
David Hume argued that, whilst we expect everything to have a cause because of our experience of the necessity of causes, a cause may not be necessary in the case of the formation of the universe, which is outside our experience.
Philosopher Brian Leftow has argued that the question cannot have a causal explanation (as any cause must itself have a cause) or a contingent explanation (as the factors giving the contingency must pre-exist), and that if there is an answer it must be something that exists necessarily (i.e. something that just exists, rather than is caused).
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." Philosopher of physics Dean Rickles has argued that numbers and mathematics (or their underlying laws) may necessarily exist. (Particles can emerge from underlying quantum fields under the effects of quantum physics and possibly under other physical laws that may have existed at the start of the Big Bang.)
- Cyclic model
- Ultimate fate of the universe
- Ex nihilo
- Quantum fluctuation
- Big Bang
- Conceptions of God
- Criticism of religion § Inhibition to philosophical inquiry and acceptance of the unknown
- Creation myth
- Infinite regress
- Initial singularity
- Simulation hypothesis
- Problem of universals
- First Cause
- Question § Philosophy
- Something (concept)
- Causal loop
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