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FQXi FORUM
September 19, 2017

CATEGORY: What's Ultimately Possible in Physics? Essay Contest (2009) [back]
TOPIC: On Explaining Existence by Dean Rickles [refresh]
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Author Dean Rickles wrote on Sep. 16, 2009 @ 17:04 GMT
Essay Abstract

What are the limits of physics' explanatory power? Can physics explain everything? In this paper I discuss a somewhat broader question: can physics explain existence itself? I argue that genuinely ultimate explanations---those that really explain everything---involve the most basic and most general elements of logic. Such explanations cannot be done within physics unless physics undergoes a methodology shift more closely aligning itself with mathematics and logic. However, I give reasons for thinking that just such a shift might be in operation.

Author Bio

Dean Rickles is a historian and philosopher of physics at the University of Sydney. He is the author of Symmetry, Structure, and Spacetime (Philosophy and Foundations of Physics, Volume 3. North Holland: Elsevier, 2007) and editor of The Structural Foundations of Quantum Gravity (co-edited with Steven French and Juha Saatsi; Oxford: Clarendon Press, 2006) and The Ashgate Companion to Contemporary Philosophy of Physics (Ashgate, 2008). He is currently working on a project devoted to the history of quantum gravity.

Download Essay PDF File




Casey Blood wrote on Sep. 17, 2009 @ 00:29 GMT
Hi Dean,

Your essay is very clear for such an abstract subject (or at least I think I understood parts of it). But I have two questions/comments.

(1) I agree that mathematical systems "exist." But I should think that the only ones of interest would be those which can lead to some kind of awareness. That is, I think the question of existence is somewhat tied up with awareness.

(2) It seems one could imagine existences--with aware beings--which are not based on mathematics. Are you saying that any kind of non-chaos, any kind of awareness, any ability to distinguish "this" from "that" implies mathematics?

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Frank Martin DiMeglio wrote on Sep. 17, 2009 @ 00:51 GMT
Hi Dean, there is [undoubtedly] much thinking behind mathematics; although mathematics requires relatively narrow thinking in comparison with the highest/true form of genius.

In taking [the] mathematics further, one must determine what is the integrated, relational, and "as extensive as possible" significance of/behind the mathematics -- ideally, that is, how mathematics applies to experience in general.

A good example of this is the mathematical union of gravity and electromagnetism/light in a fourth dimnension of space. There is a physical basis/reality behind this. It takes even more genius to describe what this reality is.

Importantly, mathematics demomstrates that the integrated and interactive extensiveness of being and experience (including thought) go hand-in-hand in and with time.

Good luck in your work.

Author Frank Martin DiMeglio

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Florin Moldoveanu wrote on Sep. 17, 2009 @ 05:00 GMT
Dear Dr. Rickles,

Congratulations on an excellent essay. I am still reading it carefully, but I disagree with the main idea that it is not possible to be nothing. An empty set is a trivial counter example. You may argue that the notion of a set presupposes some mathematical construct and therefore this is not a truly “nothing”, but this is only a semantic argument. If nothingness is...

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Author Dean Rickles wrote on Sep. 17, 2009 @ 07:17 GMT
Hi Casey. Thanks for the comments.

You wrote:

"(1) I agree that mathematical systems "exist." But I should think that the only ones of interest would be those which can lead to some kind of awareness. That is, I think the question of existence is somewhat tied up with awareness.

(2) It seems one could imagine existences--with aware beings--which are not based on mathematics. Are you saying that any kind of non-chaos, any kind of awareness, any ability to distinguish "this" from "that" implies mathematics?"

I don't agree with your (1) here, though I appreciate the Wheelerish sentiment in it, but I think to make better sense of your idea I'd need to know what you meant by 'awareness' and 'existence'. On (2): I challenge you to imagine a world in which, say, the law of non-contradiction did not hold. Also, I didn't mention non-chaos, awareness, or identity and indiscrenibility issues. The point was that no matter what kind of situation you envisage (chaotic, non-chaotic, aware, non-aware, etc.) you will find that the same mathematical truths hold in all. So if you agree that these mathematical truths exist, and you agree that they are necessary, then you have to also hold that there is no conceivable situation in which they do not exist. That is enough to get the conclusion I need.

Cheers,

Dean




Sascha Vongehr wrote on Sep. 17, 2009 @ 07:44 GMT
Thanks for one of the few essays that actually address the ultimate in physics or the ultimate role of it anyways. “Why anything?” seems to be most profound. If physics were to answer this, it will certainly be something ultimate, although you have not much expounded on the role of physics (rather than math) in answering it. Anyways, your discussion of why this is a pseudo-question stops at...

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Author Dean Rickles wrote on Sep. 17, 2009 @ 09:50 GMT
Sascha. These are excellent comments. Thanks.

I'm sure you appreciate that it's very hard to do more than scratch the surface of this question in 10 pages and was intent on keeping it as close to math/physics as possible. There was an awful lot I wanted to put it, and I'm not happy with the actual argument itself. Also, however, this essay was for fun rather than part of my serious...

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Stefan Weckbach wrote on Sep. 17, 2009 @ 11:21 GMT
"The question appears impossible to answer. Any factor introduced to explain why there is something will itself be part of the something to be explained, so it (or anything utilizing it) could not explain all of the something - it could not explain why there is *anything* at all." [Phil. Exp. p. 115]

Very interesting arguments about this issue here!

The problem is indeed...

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Uncle Al wrote on Sep. 18, 2009 @ 02:04 GMT
An axiomatic system sufficiently complex to be useful must contain questions it cannot answer. So? Economics is an empirical disaster as is string theory and its 10^(50,000) acceptable vacua. Both are punctilious interpolations that are revealed to be frauds when extrapolated. The first class of failure requires a contrived construct to fail. The second class of failure merely requires a look. That is an important difference.

Existence might be an automaton whose evolution is contingent upon universal simple rules acting on increasingly complex structures. The bulk is self-evident. Increasing locality is increasingly perverse. Both scales are self-consistent and co-consistent. So?

A gold dubloon is accidently dropped near the center of a long unlit block. A professional manager will amortize the loss. A quality engineer will search at the corners, under four bright streetlights. A decent scientist will get a flashlight and a metal detector, walk into the darkness, find the gold dubloon, and then be discharged for cause - insubordination. Know the fear and do it anyway.

You don't have anything unless you risk a contingent unique testable prediction. Libraries bursting with scientific socialism tomes are ample warning that theorists boast promiscuity while empiricists pay child support.

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Author Dean Rickles wrote on Sep. 18, 2009 @ 02:21 GMT
Uncle Al,

The whole point of this essay competition is to go beyond "unique testable predictions". There's nothing wrong with some good old-fashioned speculation to get the mind going. If I were to write something with a "unique testable prediction" it would really be probing the ultimate foundations of physics now would it?

In any case, the idea of a unique testable prediction" is a slippery notion: Popper's views have been widely discredited amongst philosophers of science for quite some time now, largely thanks to Lakatos' analyses, and the Duhem-Quine hypothesis. You also need to have an account of experiment in order to give sense to the idea of a "unique testable prediction" - not as easy as you might think. Whatever you might think of the sociologists of science, there have been some very good studies that highlight the many contingencies in experiments.

Give me any so-called "unique testable prediction" from the history of science and I will show you an alternative that can also make that prediction. Moreover, if scientists were really to restrict themselves to "unique testable predictions" we would have a very impoverished science to show for it.

Also: perhaps you might phrase your points in plain English rather than quirky metaphors next time, and then we might be able to have a coherent argument.

Cheers,

Dean




Sascha Vongehr wrote on Sep. 18, 2009 @ 05:06 GMT
Dear Dean Rickles

I do not really appreciate your lauding my comments and then squeezing around them like a cat around a hot pot of milk.

Your answer is not addressing the issues properly and I will only point out again your main flaw and for the last time:“I didn't split into possible, necessary, existent. Existence was descried as something that can be possible or necessary. When I say existence is necessary I always mean *some kind of existing 'thing'*. We are rather constrained by language here. Of course Wittgenstein and the ordinary language brigade focused squarely on how concepts are used in practice. I thought we'd gotten beyond that straightjacketed form of philosophizing?”

The “straightjacket” is plainly to stick to meaningful terminology. What you are saying is, actually your essay is not about existence, but about some kind of “Rickles-existence”. In that case however, you need to make that clear right from the beginning. You disregard what existence, possible, necessary etc actually means, claim that you cannot get into what you are actually writing about on only 10 pages, and then instead spend the valuable space on three or four times at length expounding one of the most silly, empty and misleading statements, namely that math is “unreasonably effective”.

I recommend those who address the modality terminology and who want to improve it in the light of for example quantum theory. However, one needs to first understand the issues one desires to improve.

S

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Author Dean Rickles wrote on Sep. 18, 2009 @ 06:38 GMT
Sascha,

I showed you a great deal of respect in my response. I can both appreciate some comments and then proceed to criticise them. There's no inconsistency here. Knowledge advances by criticism. Consider: "Dear Mr Bohr. I don't appreciate the way you laud my comments on local realism and then squeeze them around them like a cat around a hot pot of milk (whatever the hell that means!)" Yours A. Einstein. Though neither you nor I are a Bohr or an Einstein, the point is this is clearly a ridiculous attitude.

The definitions of possibility and necessity I gave are the standard ones from modal logic. I didn't need the existence operator. I don't know what superior source you have. Enlighten me. You say: "The “straightjacket” is plainly to stick to meaningful terminology." I am using the standard, meaningful terminology in this case. My ambivalence over the definition of existence concerns the fact that the word "thing" is too heavily loaded. I don't quite want to say existence implies existence of some thing, but it'll have to do. The question 'why something rather than nothing?' does mean 'why existence?', but that will always be interpreted as the existence of a thing of some kind. I tried to remain as general as possible about what that 'thing' might be.

Finally. If the claim that mathematics' being “unreasonably effective” is silly and empty, then I'm perfectly content to be silly and empty with Wigner.

D




Sascha Vongehr wrote on Sep. 18, 2009 @ 09:11 GMT
Dear Dean Rickles,

I was not complaining about your lauding me but about your use of such strategy to circumvent addressing the issue. I prefer people just get to the point – it is shorter and does not hide the core in PC niceties.

My source, since you are so dependent on big names like Einstein Bohr and Wigner, is I. Kant (for example) and his work on categories, particularly that of modality, which is traditionally split into possibility, existence, and necessity.

Wigner’s statement is not only empty and silly but misleading (read: detrimental to research progress), but you may remain hiding behind Wigner, because the views of founding fathers do matter a great deal in religion, and if you are with Wigner, then of course you may do so, because Wigner is of course Wigner and I am no Wigner.

S

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Author Dean Rickles wrote on Sep. 18, 2009 @ 10:59 GMT
Sascha.

I'll ignore your deliberate attempts to wind me up this time and focus on what you insist on saying is my main flaw.

You say: "... I. Kant (for example) and his work on categories, particularly that of modality, which is traditionally split into possibility, existence, and necessity."

Yes, I know that. Why should I follow this Kantian approach? If you knew anything about Kant, you'd realise that my definitions of necessity and possibility are in any case perfectly consistent with his (his universality almost exactly matches the definition of necessity). What, in any case, does this have to do with the topics in my essay? I'm interested in ontology; beyond the categories. The best connection I can make is via a transcendental argument: it's necessary condition for us having any experience is that there be something that exists. We can know that a priori, so it must be a necessary truth that something exists. But this is just the anthropic-type argument that I mentioned. It doesn't genuinely resolve the problem. Add to this the internal problems with Kant's theory as described by Quine and Kripke.

Next: "Wigner’s statement is not only empty and silly but misleading (read: detrimental to research progress), but you may remain hiding behind Wigner, because the views of founding fathers do matter a great deal in religion, and if you are with Wigner, then of course you may do so, because Wigner is of course Wigner and I am no Wigner." So what is your actual argument here? I gave you a reasoned response to the unreasonable effectiveness issue involving a case study.

Dean




Lev Goldfarb wrote on Sep. 18, 2009 @ 18:12 GMT
Dear Dean,

May I ask you for the clarification of your *main point*?

“If it is necessary then we need a necessary structure to ground this fact. Mathematical structures are of this kind. If reality is mathematical then it must exist. Reality is mathematical (as evidenced by the effectiveness of mathematics in the sciences). . . . Mathematical structures are timeless. . . . In other words, the universe is mathematical because there is existence, and the only reason for there to be existence is that there are mathematical truths.”

Aren’t mathematical structures *created* by us? As far as I understand the situation, they are not handed to us by any God. In fact, the most basic mathematical structure, the natural numbers, is an encapsulation, or representation, of a sequence of identical consecutive events (Peano axioms). One can argue that without such connection with temporal events, the concept of number, and hence of the mathematical structure, could not have appeared in the first place. So, to produce numbers—the very foundations of our mathematical journey—the least *our* universe must have are the sequences of events. Thus, our experience suggests that to have any ‘mathematical structures’ (in our current understanding of the term) the universe must have temporal sequences of events. Hence, I do not see how, *relying on the mathematical structures*, we can argue beyond this *minimal requirement on one of the possible universes*.

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Author Dean Rickles wrote on Sep. 19, 2009 @ 00:28 GMT
Dear Lev,

You said: "Aren’t mathematical structures *created* by us? As far as I understand the situation, they are not handed to us by any God."

I certainly never said they were handed to us by a God! Then I'd have to explain that!

Representations of mathematical structures *are* constructed by us. Of course I agree with that. What they represent was not. The structures were around before the first sentient being capable of representing them emerged.

You then say: " One can argue that without such connection with temporal events, the concept of number, and hence of the mathematical structure, could not have appeared in the first place." There are plenty of possibilities whereby the concept of natural numbers could have emerged. Are you saying that temporal succession is a necessary condition for the emergence of this concept? That doesn't sound like a good thing to be saying. And even if it were true that the 'concept' of the natural numbers emerged this way, that does not mitigate against the structure having a reality independently of this. If the sequence of events is there then we have something instantiating the structure. Unless you mean the sequences recorded in memory. But that case: (1) you have a very idealist view that seems harder to stomach than mathematical realism; or (2) you face the problem that memory, records, and psychology are hardly unproblematic themselves.

I don't know what you have in mind by the claim: "Hence, I do not see how, *relying on the mathematical structures*, we can argue beyond this *minimal requirement on one of the possible universes*". You'll have to spell that out a bit more for me.

Best,

Dean




Ben Baten wrote on Sep. 19, 2009 @ 01:21 GMT
Hi Dean-

You are stating the interesting issue of existence and suggest that there are two ways to go about answering the questions that you bring up:

But now what if we are puzzled about existence itself? Why is there anything at all? This is really the ultimate question: why is there something when, presumably, there might not have been? There are two ways to go about answering...

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Lev Goldfarb wrote on Sep. 19, 2009 @ 02:19 GMT
1. “Representations of mathematical structures *are* constructed by us. Of course I agree with that. What they represent was not. The structures were around before the first sentient being capable of representing them emerged.”

Dean, I don’t know what exactly you mean by the last statement. I can accept such existence for some (informational) structure, but this structure can be *radically* different from any of the *currently* known mathematical structures. The latter can be, as was suggested by von Neumann (see the end of his quote on page 2 of my essay), “a *secondary* [formal] language, built on [top of] the *primary* [formal] language”. (In fact, in my essay such a possible formalism is discussed.)

2. “There are plenty of possibilities whereby the concept of natural numbers could have emerged. Are you saying that temporal succession is a necessary condition for the emergence of this concept? That doesn't sound like a good thing to be saying.”

I don’t see at all why it “doesn't sound like a good thing to be saying”.

3. “If the sequence of events is there then we have something instantiating the structure.”

I agree that there should be some structure instantiating streams of events (and this I discuss in my essay), but, as I mentioned above, the important question, of course, is *which* structure is instantiating them.

Dean, the reason I raised the question in the first place has to do with the following point. Based on the above, we can claim only that *in our universe* there is at least one ‘preexisting’ formal structure. It is not quite obvious why this situation is also valid for *all* other (possible) universes.

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Stefan Weckbach wrote on Sep. 19, 2009 @ 03:59 GMT
Another short remark to the issue of existence/non-existence:

If one assumes that something rather than nothing is possible, one assumes at the same time that nothing rather than something could also be possible - but actually isn't, because of the evidence that we have for something rather than nothing as an obvious fact. So the question wether there could be nothing instead of something seems to be not very puzzling for me. Because the case of a totally non-existence in the future (maybe by the vanishing of the universe into "non-existence" in some far away future) or even in the past (by arising of "something" out of nothing), one cannot erase the very fact of the possibility of our present existence.

But that does not prove the necessity of existence - or does it? I think it does, because a "possibility" inhabits choices. The possibility of a totally non-existence inhabits the choice of being actual or not, as we see with our actual existence. Therefore, something that inhabits choices cannot be "nothing" at all.

It seems to me, that assuming a totally non-existence to be possible is to deny a subtle detail in the argumentative chain, namely the fact of the existence of our universe and ourselves.

Therefore, the question for me is not, if it is possible that nothing exists, but moreover, where do choices come from - insofar as they cannot come from nothing at all. If they nonetheless could, then everything could come out of nothing and our choices and deductions could be only random exercises, because even contradictions of any kind could come out of nothing and even such contradictions, which could camouflage themselves as consistent lines of reasoning. Therefore, if we believe in rationalism, the necessity of something existent seems obvious for me and Dean Rickles rule of non-contradiction is as necessary as existence seems to be for me.

p.s. In my own essay in the current contest i argue, that not only the rule of non-contradiction is necessary, but also consciousness for the explanation *where* this rule originates from.

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Leshan wrote on Sep. 19, 2009 @ 10:47 GMT
Your essay contains important questions but I don't see the responses and real results. What are the limits of physics 'explanatory power? Can physics explain existence itself? These questions do not have responses in your essay. 'Reality is mathematical. Therefore, there is existence.'

It explains nothing. If reality is mathematical then please transform a formula into a material body. Or...

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Author Dean Rickles wrote on Sep. 19, 2009 @ 11:26 GMT
Leshan wrote: "If reality is mathematical then please transform a formula into a material body. Or try to transform a body into a formula."

Formulae are *representations* of mathematical structures, not the structures themselves.

You also wrote: "The explanation of EXISTENCE means explanations of extension and duration: why a body exists in space and time?" and that "a hole in space-time is an example of the non-existence."

But spacetime is not nothing: why spacetime rather than nothing? To say nothing is a "hole" in spacetime as you do depends on there being some boundary. But why the bounding spacetime rather than nothing? Space and time belong to the family of existing things that we are trying to explain, you cannot presuppose their existence.

Dean




Leshan wrote on Sep. 19, 2009 @ 13:14 GMT
Dean wrote:

'Formulae are 'representations' of mathematical structures, not the structures themselves'

What is the difference? Can you transform a mathematical structure into a material object? Please understand - really exists only physical (material) structures only. The Earth is a physical object, not mathematical. The mathematical model of Earth exists in heads (imagination) of...

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Florin Moldoveanu wrote on Sep. 21, 2009 @ 02:10 GMT
Dear Dean,

I have finally had the time to read carefully your essay in its entirety.

Let me start by saying that I do agree 100% with your conclusion, and my own essay shows how you unify math and physics. What I do disagree however, are your arguments for this conclusion.

The arguments are a bit convoluted in taking the pro and against positions and I need to sketch them to...

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Helmut Hansen wrote on Sep. 22, 2009 @ 05:12 GMT
Dear Mr. Rickles,

I have read your essay. For me it is an absolutely exemplary case for why metaphysics found little applause among scientists. But that does not mean, that I believe such investigations to be meaningless. On the contrary: They are enormously important, because only they can heal the break between philosophy and physics.

In the past metaphysical propositions were not...

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Lawrence B. Crowell wrote on Sep. 24, 2009 @ 03:03 GMT
I thought your essay made for an interestin read. I see you are into a bit of a debate over the ontology of mathematics. It is my thinking that we will never be able to figure that out.

Cheers LC

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Anton W.M. Biermans wrote on Sep. 25, 2009 @ 03:59 GMT
The way you speak about existence expresses the assumption that things can have an absolute, objective kind of existence, a reality which exceeds the borders of the universe itself, as if there’s some higher realm outside of it, an outside observer to whom these things exists, which is an essentially religious notion. As without some creator, the universe must have created itself out of nothing, meaning that everything inside of it, including spacetime itself, doesn’t exist as ‘seen’ from the outside, but only to an inside observer who’s part of it, objects only existing to each other as far as they interact, but having no reality outside of it.

“Cosmology and cosmogenesis were, until relatively recently, thought to be outside the ‘proper’ domain of science, to be relegated instead to the armchair speculations of metaphysicians and theologians.”

I’m afraid that cosmogenesis still belongs as much to the domain of metaphysics as it did in pre-Copernican times, never mind the impressive arsenal of instruments we have at our disposal today, the theories the ingeniousness of which seem to pass for proof, nor the huge amount of data which, if I’m right, can support a much simpler and consistent scenario of a self-creating universe which cannot but produce a homogenous, isotropic universe and answers questions Big Bang hypothesis doesn’t even try to like the mechanics and why of its creation.

As some other essays of the contest touch similar matters, I have posted my arguments among the discussion posts at my essay ‘Mechanics of a Self-Creating Universe’ –see my post of 25 september.

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Don Limuti (www.zenophysics.com) wrote on Sep. 29, 2009 @ 08:03 GMT
Interesting essay going for existence (the something coming out of nothing).

Existence will always presuppose nonexistence.

existence/nonexistence/existence/nonexistence/e
xistence/nonexistence/ etc.

When this chain is looked at with a poor resolution we get real objects and classical physics.

When we look at this chain with subtle tools and good resolution we get fuzzy objects and quantum mechanics.

And of course there is always that pesky observer. I am not sure if he/she is doing mathematics or physics?

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Anton W.M. Biermans wrote on Oct. 2, 2009 @ 09:53 GMT
Though I agree that ‘physics and mathematics have a common basis’, there is a fundamental difference. If in a self-creating universe the sum of everything inside, including spacetime itself somehow must stay zero (conservation law), then the physicist cannot treat physical quantities and phenomena like a mathematician does his numbers and symbols. Where his numbers and symbols exist only in...

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Jayakar Johnson Joseph wrote on Oct. 3, 2009 @ 06:11 GMT
Dear Dean Rickles,

As per my perception, I support 'Nothing is always Something' and thereby 'Existence' is true. The problem in unification of mathematics and physics to explain physical reality is due to the mathematical formulation of 'zero' that is not true.

With best wishes,

jayakar

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James Putnam wrote on Oct. 4, 2009 @ 18:13 GMT
Dr. Rickles,

In response to an earlier message posted by Dr. Casey Blood you responded:

Quoting Dr. Blood:

"(1) I agree that mathematical systems "exist." But I should think that the only ones of interest would be those which can lead to some kind of awareness. That is, I think the question of existence is somewhat tied up with awareness.

(2) It seems one could imagine existences--with aware beings--which are not based on mathematics. Are you saying that any kind of non-chaos, any kind of awareness, any ability to distinguish "this" from "that" implies mathematics?"

Quoting you:

I don't agree with your (1) here, though I appreciate the Wheelerish sentiment in it, but I think to make better sense of your idea I'd need to know what you meant by 'awareness' and 'existence'. On (2): I challenge you to imagine a world in which, say, the law of non-contradiction did not hold. Also, I didn't mention non-chaos, awareness, or identity and indiscrenibility issues. The point was that no matter what kind of situation you envisage (chaotic, non-chaotic, aware, non-aware, etc.) you will find that the same mathematical truths hold in all. So if you agree that these mathematical truths exist, and you agree that they are necessary, then you have to also hold that there is no conceivable situation in which they do not exist. That is enough to get the conclusion I need.

My question:

You are aware that mathematics exists. You are aware that theoretical physics relies upon it for its definitions of the nature of the universe. You are aware that you have thought extensively about the nature of existence. You are aware that you have reached a conclusion. If your view of a mathematical universe explains your awareness for you, would you please say something about how - a sophisticated collection of shortcuts to arrive at sums without having to do all of the counting otherwise necessary - accounts for your awareness of counting? Did counting preceed intelligence? Is counting the cause of intelligence? How is the act of counting (not the sum result) viewed as timeless?

James

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Terry Padden wrote on Oct. 6, 2009 @ 10:12 GMT
Dean

You write (3rd paragraph) as the keynote of your essay

" Why is there anything at all? This is really the ultimate question: why is there something when, presumably, there might not have been?

Who or what is doing the "presuming" of nothing ? ? Presumably another different (?) nothing (a God ?) .

"and so ad infinitum .." Dean Swift

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Narendra Nath wrote on Oct. 7, 2009 @ 14:15 GMT
Dear Dean,

your boldness approach i like, but that boldness need some basis. May eb the way Physics has proceeded thus far need a change in methodology, i agree. Widening the base by having close links not only with logic/Maths. but also with life sciences apppears to me to be essential. I have mentioneed it at the end of my own essay on this forum. The erason lies in 'consciousness' / awareness. nless the level is high we go on doing routine studies. Now, consciousness is a term that has been sicentifically associated with the brain , a sa process of thinking. i do not like this limitation. Consciousness involves the entire body as well as its interaction with its cosmic counterpart. That is what happened even to Einstein when he privately admitted that he had the problems in his mnd in the early 1900 and all the solutions he could think about failed in implementation to provide the solution. Then, all of a sudden, out of the blue, he got the ideas that were not a part of his thought processes. He could discern their significance and immediately applied the tools he had by way of mathematics, that worked out the solutions!

This analysis is very important to understand. Only an open and highly discerning mind can achieve such success, no methodology can provide a solution. The importance lies in strenghtening the human mind. It has a lot of contents full of random thoughts. One needs the silent moments to have larger duration through disciplining the mind and then the individual consciousness through interaction with the cosmic consciousness , may result in a miracle!

Both maths and experiments are mere tools in Physics. Unless one conceives the right idea, things only may proceed routinely.

yes, programming through Computers today helps but only in solving the complexities of calculations that need to be done, as per the conceptual ideas, their mathematical format and the expyal data available already.

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Mark Stuckey wrote on Oct. 15, 2009 @ 14:58 GMT
"At the root of my explanation of existence is the notion that it is not possible for there to be nothing: existence is necessary."

I agree that "nothing" cannot "be," since "being" entails existence and "nothing" entails nonexistence, i.e., not existence (as I infer from your arguments, anyway). Thus, to say "nothing" has "being" is to say "nonexistence exists," or "not existence and existence" which violates the principle of non-contradiction. Thus, as long as reality conforms to logic, "it is not possible for there to be nothing" is tautologically a true statement. Of course, one could argue that we've introduced a "contingency that enters in to an explanation," i.e., that reality conforms to logic, which then "will leave open a logical gap that renders the explanation incomplete." But, this is a fun essay and I would have to say you're tackling the most ultimate of possibilities!

This essay deserves to win "something rather than nothing" :-)

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George Schoenfelder wrote on Oct. 16, 2009 @ 19:57 GMT
Dear Dean,

I very much liked your essay’s statement, “More explicitly: the only way one can explain existence…is to demonstrate that non-existence is a logical impossibility.”

I am an engineer not a philosopher. Has philosophy argued the word nothing is an oxymora? If so why? If not why not? I argue in my essay the concept is not scientific and should be suspect in physics, but it would help if logicians have too.

Sincerely,

George Schoenfelder

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Narendra nath wrote on Oct. 17, 2009 @ 10:26 GMT
it amazed me to see that your introduction has the same title as my essay on this forum. i also appreciate your philosophical approach to physics and great support for it through pure Mathematics which is not limited by space/ time as concepts.

However, i am unable to see how some physical concepts to build the mathematics for physics does not provide the right methodology to conduct physics.

Physics is tied to the understanding of our physical universe. How can it get tied to pure mathematics except through the relevance of such mathematics to the concepts developed that have achieved success already. One can however chose an alternate set of concepts to represent the realities of the physical universe and then devlop theories with the help of Mathematics relevant to the same.

Existence is tied to awareness and that in turn gets tied to consciousness. The latter has evolved the entire existence through its intelligent logic.There is an essay in this forum by Klingman that explains physical phenomenon purely on the basis of gravity and consciousness, the latter also tied to the material mass in rotatory motion around the mass configuration.

May be the author prefer to comment on such aspects.

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Andreas Martin Lisewski wrote on Oct. 29, 2009 @ 19:28 GMT
For me, a perhaps subtle take-home-message of this essay contest is that non-classical logic such as modal logic and fundamental mathematical structures such as sets, ordinals and natural numbers emerge as the ultimate source and possibility of physics.

In my opinion, your essay contributes nicely to this outcome.

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Eckard Blumschein wrote on Nov. 6, 2009 @ 12:08 GMT
Dear Dean,

While common sense tells us that even the best model or immaterial copy of something real is less comprehensive that the real object itself. Physics of believers like Einstein ignores this at least by equating real time with our abstract time. I do not expect you sharing my belonging conclusions. Are you at lest ready for taking issue with respect to my first sentence?

Regards,

Eckard

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