The Argument from Possibility per se

Possibilities have no actual existence in their own right. They concretely exist only in and as potential acts of some concrete actuality or other. And possibilities exist necessarily: for x ever to be possible in any state of affairs, x must in every state of affairs always have been possible in and for some state of affairs or other. Possibilities exist eternally. That possibilities necessarily and eternally exist means therefore that in every possible state of affairs whatsoever there exists an eternal, necessary concrete actuality, in whom all possibilities exist as potential acts.

If anything be possible, then, God necessarily exists.

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51 thoughts on “The Argument from Possibility per se

    • The argument shows that while it might *seem* possible that God does not exist, really it is not. Thus the statement “God might not exist” turns out to have the same truth value as “4 might not equal 2 x 2.”

      • Not all possibilities exist eternally…
        it is possible that the satan of the christian bible pretended to be god and that no other supernatural being exists.
        It is possible that if a god exists it is nothing like your idea of god.
        It is possible that your notions of a god are completely false.
        It is possible that an invisible pink unicorn exists.

        None of these necessitate the existence of your god.

      • To: myatheistlife,

        Actually none of the things you mention are possible. Firstly, the Satan of the Christian Bible was created by another supernatural being, thus he could not be the only one. The second and third points you make are proved impossible by the main post. And just how could a Unicorn be invisible and pink at the same time and in the same context.

      • myatheistlife, you’ve badly misconstrued the argument. God’s existence is not made necessary by the fact that this or that possibility might come to pass, but by the fact that there is any possibility whatsoever. There cannot fail to be some possibilities or other. So God exists.

  1. myatheistlife@
    If I understand Kristor’s argument, he is using the word possibility to denote “a known potential.” This is the sense of the word we are using when we say, “given these atmospheric conditions, there is a possibility of rain.” Your examples (except the last one) use the word possible to denote states of affairs that is “conceivable” or “not necessarily false.” This is the sense of the word we are using when we say “it is possible that I am the King of Spain” or “it is possible that space aliens will land tomorrow.”

    As Skeggy Thorson points out, your last item, as stated, is nonsense. Invisible entities do not have a color. However, they may have a potential color. So your invisible unicorn cannot be pink, so long as it remains invisible; but if there are conditions under which it becomes visible, it might very well exhibit the property of pinkness.

    This may clarify the distinction between possibility as “known potential” and possibility as “conceivability.” If the invisible unicorn enters into conditions where it is visible, under these conditions exhibits pinkness, and then returns to conditions where it is invisible, I could say, “that invisible unicorn is possibly (i.e. potentially) pink.” If, on the other hand, the invisible unicorn has never been visible, and I do not know that there are no conditions under which it might be visible, I could say, “that invisible unicorn is possibly (conceivably) pink.” Of course it is equally possible that it is green, or yellow, or polka dotted, since in this sense of “possibility” one is just making things up.

    • I find it in keeping with the tone and bent of the conversation to say that the god of monotheistic religions has similar properties to the invisible pink unicorn. Omniscience and omnipotence being mutually exclusive is but one example. Such a being cannot create an unknown future.

      The idea that known potential should be called a possibility is indeed confusing, but that boils the post all down to this statement: because there is existence there must be a god. There is nothing in the post which supports this statement. The existence of a god is a possibility in itself, not a known potential. For it to be a known potential kind of possibility there has to be evidence of the potential and the reality that there is existence does not provide evidence of such a potential, therefore while there remains a possibility of the existence of a god there is no credible reason to believe such is probable at all. For the very reasons that the invisible pink unicorn is dismissed as probable so too are the gods of all human religions.

      • Omniscience and omnipotence are not mutually exclusive. On the contrary; omniscience is a department of omnipotence.

        Your suggestion that an omnipotent omniscient being cannot create a future that he does not know indicates that you may be laboring under the impression that “omnipotence” means “the power to do anything whatsoever.” It does not. No one is potent to carry incoherent or meaningless strings of symbols into practice. No one can create an x that is not x, for example. God can’t create something he doesn’t know because “something omniscience doesn’t know” is a contradiction in terms.

        JM Smith, what do you mean by “known potential”? Not being quite sure, I can’t really tell what myatheistlife’s second paragraph is saying.

      • As I understand it, a potentiality is not at all the same as a possibility. We may use the words interchangeably in everyday language, but in philosophic discourse they denote quite different things. A potency is a power or a capacity and a possibility is a future state of affairs whose probability of coming into existence is not zero. Now if I think only of myself, I would say that I must have in me the potentialities (powers) to realize all of my possible futures, but I also have in me the potentialities (powers) to realize futures that are not possible. They are not impossible because I can not do them, but because I know with absolute certainty that I will not do them. I think I have the potential to apply this to Kristor’s argument, but it is not possible for me to do so, at least not this early in the morning.

      • That much I knew; what I was confused about was the difference between a potential and a “known potential.”

        Myatheistlife is I think correct in saying that my argument from possibility per se is equivalent to an argument from existence per se. The argument depends upon the premise that a possibility is not really possibility at all unless it is a potential of some actual state of affairs. For anything to be possible, some actuality or other must exist, to which it is potential. And after all, the only reason we know that things are possible is that there are things. So the argument works the same, whether we argue from the facticity of possibilities, or of actualities.

        I’m still not quite clear on “known potential.” It’s probably obvious, but I’m not seeing it.

      • That it might rain today is a known potential and a possibility. That there is an invisible pink unicorn is a possibility in that we cannot say it is not possible but it is not a known potential because we have no reason to believe that such things exist in that or other forms.

        A creator being for existence is a possibility but not a known potential possibility. That is to say that it is a possibility without probability.

        Existence is a possibility with a probability of 1. It has moved from possibility to actuality. Nothing about this state change infers anything about WHY this would be or how.

        We may find further evidence of how but there is no reason to think that we will find out a ‘why’ existence is. Every opinion on that topic is conjecture, some of it better than others but all of it conjecture. Science may show us more of the how.

        The inference of a creator implies a why and to make this inference without supporting evidence is merely blowing hot air. All possible answers have the same probability but the creator theory has a couple of strikes against it because it contains claims which cannot be supported and it offers nothing more than the other possibilities in the end.

        It’s just philosophy porn. Look simply at the facts: existence is. Yes, that was the entire list in regard to this discussion. Everything else is unsupported.

        We know that this universe seems to have been created by a singularity. We do not know that ‘true nothing’ exists anywhere nor that it ever existed at any time. All supposition of creators has failed and remains unsupported. When the argument against naturalistic explanations is to simply say they can’t be so, the argument fails. Any claim that goes further than ‘we exist.’ requires evidence and support.

  2. Possibly the least convincing proof of the existence of God ever.

    The fact that certain things like possible worlds and mathematical objects “exist” in some sense (and it’s obviously not in the same sense that physical objects exist) does absolutely nothing to show that some anthropomorphic absolute also “exists”.

    • It shows that an eternal necessary actuality exists. The God of classical theism is such a being.

      The argument does not show – does not try to show – that the eternal necessary actuality whose existence it demonstrates is anthropomorphic, or even absolute. Other arguments are needed for those purposes.

      But it does demonstrate the existence of a being that, like the God of classical theism, is eternal and necessary.

      I’m not surprised to learn that you find the argument unconvincing. This is not uncommon with arguments that turn on terms that are basic, like possibility and existence. Such modal arguments are less immediately arresting, because they seem at first to be nothing more than verbal tricks. I had the same reaction to Anselm’s Ontological Argument, which I thought contemptible when I first studied it. Having pondered it for a few decades, I now consider it one of the strongest arguments of all, a thing of immense beauty and power.

      • Well, that is quite right. I think that the term “existence”, especially, is being flung around in a completely sloppy if not fraudulent manner. We know, more or less, what it means in the physical realm. The chair I’m sitting on exists, and if it should suddenly stop existing, that would be surprising but not conceptually difficult to understand. So we also have operational knowledge of what non-existence means in this realm.

        But it makes no sense to say that an ontologically necessary being exists, because we can’t do the parallel mental operations that we do for physical objects. If it is truly necessary, then it can’t not-exist, and so it can’t really exist either, at least, not in the same sense that we use “exist” for everyday physical objects.

      • But it makes no sense to say that an ontologically necessary being exists, because we can’t do the parallel mental operations that we do for physical objects. If it is truly necessary, then it can’t not-exist, and so it can’t really exist either, at least, not in the same sense that we use “exist” for everyday physical objects.

        I can see that you’re having difficulty making sense of the notion of necessary existence. This may be why you think that, “the term ’existence’ … is being flung around in a completely sloppy if not fraudulent manner.”

        Consider that it might be your understanding of the notion of existence that is deficient, rather than its use in the argument of the post; for, what you say here is simply false. That the idea of necessary being is not amenable to the same sorts of mental treatment as contingent being does not begin to show that it is incoherent. It shows only that necessary being is different from contingent being. To expect that a necessary being would exist in the same way that contingent beings exist – i.e., contingently – is obtuse.

        [I'm not saying that *you* are obtuse. Obviously you are not. But extremely intelligent and thoughtful people can have quite obtuse expectations or notions. Indeed, I sometimes think that the more intelligent and thoughtful a person is, the more is he prone to profound intellectual lacunae.]

        I’ll substitute in a term that should make what I’m getting at a bit clearer:

        But it makes no sense to say that an ontologically necessary mathematics exists, because we can’t do the parallel mental operations that we do for physical objects. If it is truly necessary, then it can’t not-exist, and so it can’t really exist either, at least, not in the same sense that we use “exist” for everyday physical objects.

        Maths of course are not actualities, like God. Their ontological status is more like that of the Realm of the Possible, or of the Platonic Ideas. But the substitution should suffice to show that treating an eternal idea as if it were a contingent physical or corporeal entity is incoherent.

        Modal arguments are hard. It might take you decades of rumination to see how the argument of the post makes sense. Or, you might be a lot smarter than me, and get there a lot sooner.

      • How could your chair “suddenly stop existing?” Surely you are not saying that it might vanish into thin air, as if by magic. You must mean that the material of the chair might be transformed in such a way that it no longer functions as a chair, since functioning as a chair is all it means to “exist” as a chair? Let’s say a leg might break off and the chair is transformed into firewood. Lets say that this is burned and the firewood is transformed into heat, smoke and ash. Yet despite all of these transformations nothing “physical” has ceased to “exist.” If you want to use the word “existence” to describe nothing but physical objects, you can’t help yourself to something so metaphysical as a chair.

      • Hello, Kristor! I have been going through this thread, deeply appreciated your intelligence, patience, and objectivity all over again. I’m currently suffering through a Philosophy of Religion course (the democratic nature of these courses is sickening), and we have just gone over the cosmological arguments, arguments from design, the ontological arguments, and their respective criticisms. I’m writing an essay about which I prefer and discussing its strengths and weaknesses. I immediately go toward the ontological argument per St. Anselm, which I have loved for years now. The problem is that each time I study it I find myself peering at it through seemingly various aspects that become obscure to me as the next one approaches (this also could be linked to sleep issues, but anyway). I would love to get your perspective on it. What do you make of St. Thomas’s criticisms of it? Can a Thomist use the ontological argument? Do you think that there are really two ontological arguments made by Anselm? How do you approach Kant’s criticism and does it reject the traditional notion of God as Being? Is modal logic orthodox? (ha…seriously). Lastly (at least for now), what about Plantinga? I’m very unfamiliar with analytic philosophy, so I hardly even tried to tackle his writing on it. I wrote on a paper for a concise summary of his argument, “If it is possible for God to exist, then it is impossible for God not to exist,” and yesterday morning it CLICKED, wonderfully (but at the same time I feel as though there’s a strange gap between the two statements that I need to work out). Is it possible to reconcile this with Anselm’s, whose I am assuming can be thoroughly defended (double question)? What about Aquinas? Please, Kristor, don’t be vague (not to say that you tend to be); I really could use your help even from a personal position. Thank you.

  3. It shows only that necessary being is different from contingent being.

    Right, I agree. So using the same word “exist” for two completely different things is confusing (deliberately or not).

    The analogy with mathematical objects is good. Pi has a certain necessary being to it, but it is obtuse, to borrow your word, to say that it “exists”. Philosophers of mathematics waste a lot of time on this question; there the argument is between Platonists and formalists, and it is pretty clear to me that neither of them are right, or the question would be settled. They too are confused by the inadequacies of language. Most practicing mathematicians are functional Platonists and don’t pay attention to the philosophers.

    • Just because they are different does not mean that they are completely different. You yourself mention their similarity. Both a necessary being and a contingent being are both beings, i.e. they exist, or in the case of the necessary being it is the ground of being in which the contingent beings participate in so that they may have being and exist.

    • But they aren’t two completely different (sorts of) things. They both exist. In that, they are alike.

      Your objection is like that of a man who objects to saying of Little John and his quarterstaff that both are lying in the stream, as being a confusing way of speaking, given the fact that Little John and his quarterstaff are completely different sorts of things.

      • Oh come on, don’t be deliberately obtuse. Littlejohn (at least, the aspect of him that is lying in the stream) and his staff are both physical objects, and thus both capable of lying in the stream in exactly the same sense. Littlejohn and the square root of 3 are utterly different kinds of things, the latter will not be found lying in streams or anywhere else, and while English lets you apply “exist” to both of them, it doesn’t mean the same thing in the two cases.

      • We’re talking at cross purposes here, a bit. I substituted “mathematics” for “being” in your paragraph above to show that your assertion that “… it makes no sense to say that an ontologically necessary being exists, because we can’t do the parallel mental operations that we do for physical objects” is false. That we have to treat non-physical things with different sorts of mental operations than we use for physical things does not mean that non-physical things are nonsensical. I adduced mathematics as a counterexample: we can’t treat pi as if it was a physical object, but it is definitely not nonsense.

        So, it is false that necessary being is nonsensical on account of the fact that it is not amenable to the same sorts of treatment we might apply to contingent physical beings.

        You then said:

        “It shows only that necessary being is different from contingent being” Right, I agree. So using the same word “exist” for two completely different things is confusing (deliberately or not).

        Now it is one thing, and obviously true, to say as I did that necessary being is different from contingent being. But it is quite another to say, as you then did, that they are *completely different.* I responded to that assertion by saying that necessary and contingent being are *not* completely different, because they both exist, just as both Little John and his quarterstaff exist, despite being quite different sorts of things.

        But never mind all that! For, your most recent comment makes my argument in a most satisfactory way, because just as you won’t find pi lying in the stream next to Little John, neither will you find his age lying there, or his wealth, or his sonship, or his masculinity, or his size. Nor, most pertinently, will you find lying next to him in the stream the possibility that he might leap to his feet and knock Robin off the bridge with his quarterstaff. All the things that Little John is and might do, once he finds himself lying in the stream looking up at Robin, are implicit in him, and by extension in the whole state of affairs at that moment. All the possibilities that might come to pass, given the situation between Little John and Robin, and the Sheriff, and weather in Paris, and the strategic situation in Outremer, and the price of tea in China, etc., are pregnant in subsistent beings. These possibilities are aspects of the forms of subsistent beings (whether physical, or not).

        Possibilities have to be possibilities of and for some actuality; forms can’t be forms of nothing at all; and ideas can’t have themselves. If then we find, as we do, that forms must necessarily exist prior to any of their contingent instantiations – any contingent instantiations whatsoever – we must conclude that the forms have that prior existence in and as aspects of a necessary subsistent being.

      • That we have to treat non-physical things with different sorts of mental operations than we use for physical things does not mean that non-physical things are nonsensical.

        I didn’t say they are nonsensical; quite the inverse. I said they can’t be thought about the same way as physical things, except metaphorically. “God exists”, at least in most interpretations, strikes me as a bad metaphor.

        We use physical metaphors for non-physical things all the time, it’s really the only way we manage to reason about abstract concepts, but that doesn’t mean we should take the metaphor literally. God has to be beyond existence/nonexistence or he’s just another thing in the universe of things.

        All the possibilities that might come to pass, …are pregnant in subsistent beings. These possibilities are aspects of the forms of subsistent beings (whether physical, or not). Possibilities have to be possibilities of and for some actuality; forms can’t be forms of nothing at all; and ideas can’t have themselves. If then we find, as we do, that forms must necessarily exist prior to any of their contingent instantiations – any contingent instantiations whatsoever – we must conclude that the forms have that prior existence in and as aspects of a necessary subsistent being.

        Now that I would have to classify as nonsensical. Or to be more polite, it makes no sense to me. Actually, that is not quite true, I can discern the outlines of the argument, I just think it’s weak at all points.

      • I apologize. My writing was imprecise. I should have said,

        That we have to treat non-physical things with different sorts of mental operations than we use for physical things does not mean that it is nonsense to say that non-physical things exist.

        That modification does not at all vitiate my argument that physical and non-physical things can both be truly said to exist. We could not of course say that they exist in just exactly the same way, or they wouldn’t be different sorts of things in the first place. But that two things don’t exist in exactly the same way doesn’t mean that their modes of existence have nothing at all in common, which is what you seem to be saying.

        You are quite right of course that God can’t be just one being among many. He must be sui generis, if he is to be properly God. But his categorical distinctness from all other beings is neatly furnished by his necessity, which no other being shares. The radical, incommensurable difference between the existence of God and the existence of any or all beings is that he is necessary, while they are not.

        A necessary being is beyond the disjunction between existence and non-existence that characterizes all contingent being, and in whose terms we are so prone to think. The non-existence of a necessary being is strictly inconceivable, so the question of his non-existence, and ergo of his existence, cannot really arise (even though it may seem to). But that a being cannot fail to exist cannot mean that it fails to exist!

        As to the weakness you perceive throughout the argument of the paragraph you quote, I can address no part of it unless you are willing to be a bit more expansive and specific in your critique.

      • As with any metaphorical mapping, some things are in common and others are different. You seem to think the similarities are more salient; I am more interested in the differences, because it seems like your way of thinking has led to thousands of years of utter confusion.

        If God is a necessary being, and so transparently and obviously so that any form of thinking must be based on his being, what do you think atheists are doing? Are they too stupid to see something so obviously necessary? No, they don’t object to the idea of a necessary being, because it would be stupid, you might as well object to the number pi. They object to (a) anthropomorphizing this being and (b) assuming that the being is deeply concerned with our behavior. In short, overapplying a metaphor.

      • So you don’t dispute that there is a necessary being, any more than you dispute the existence of pi, because such disputations would be stupid?

        That would be a good start!

        As I already said, the argument of the post doesn’t try to establish that God – the customary title of that necessary being – is anthropomorphic as well as necessary, or that he is concerned with us. Other arguments are needed for that.

        As for confusion, I’ll take the confusion of theist cultures over that of atheist cultures any day. The atheist regimes of the 20th century make the Aztecs look like sweethearts.

      • So you don’t dispute that there is a necessary being, any more than you dispute the existence of pi, because such disputations would be stupid?

        Both sides of the dispute would be equally stupid, which is probably not what you want to hear.

      • Any rule of reasoning is stupid if misapplied. They are tools, not masters. The rule of non-contradiction works great in mathematics, it doesn’t work so great for metaphysics or even ordinary human relations (is x really your friend? Well, yes and no).

      • The answer “well, yes and no” would indicate an ambivalent relationship: what my children refer to as a “frenemy.” The law of non-contradiction would state that I could not simultaneously be ambivalently attached to a person and unambivalently attached to the same person. “Yes,” “no,” and “yes and no” are three distinct and mutually exclusive answer to the question “is he your friend.”

  4. Why think that possibilities must be grounded in concrete actualities? Why not abstract objects, like properties/universals, propositions, and so on? Or, to put it in other terms, the false premise in your argument is that possibilities are grounded in the existence of concrete things. If one is a Platonist of a suitable sort, one can think that they are grounded in eternally existing abstract entities instead. In that case, your conclusion that there is a necessarily existing concrete thing does not follow.

    The above is a widely held position among realists in the metaphysics of modality, so I would think that you have a response to it. I imagine that you will say that abstract entities must be grounded in God (or some concrete actuality), but then you’re off on a separate (and, I think, implausible) argument of its own.

    • Thank you, Arnauld. This is the most interesting and important line of attack upon the argument, that will therefore I think prove most fruitful.

      By definition, a possibility is of a definite state of affairs – which is to say, a concrete, actually existing state of affairs; or else, it is not thus a possibility of any such state of affairs; which is to say, that it does not exist in any way at all. A possibility that cannot possibly be actually realized under any conceivable state of affairs is not a possibility. It is an impossibility.

      Possibilities, then, are nothing at all if they are not possibilities of some concrete state of affairs, in or by or from which they might come to pass.

      Possibilities exist necessarily, and eternally. So some concrete state of affairs, some actuality or other, necessarily and eternally exists, no matter what else may or may not happen. The absolute minimum number of subsistent beings that actually exist in any state of affairs whatsoever, then, is one.

      • Your argument still wrongly asserts that if the potential of actual existence exists then there must be a necessary being. Nothing you’ve argued provides evidence which supports the position.
        “The absolute minimum number of subsistent beings that actually exist in any state of affairs whatsoever…” has not been shown to be more than zero.

      • Even if I agree with you here for argument’s sake, your statement does not infer a god of any kind.

        Further, you did not define nothing nor validate the inference that existence came from nothing. It is possible that there has always been existence without a creator.

      • I was responding only to your suggestion that there is no basis for my statement that the minimum number of actualities in any state of affairs is one. There is in fact such a basis. To show that there is always at least one thing does not show that there is a God; it does not try to.

        To state that “it is possible that there has always been existence without a creator” is to beg the very question addressed by the argument of the post, which is to the effect that it is *not* in fact possible that there has always been existence without a creator. When you respond to the argument with that statement, it is as if you had responded by saying, merely, “no,” without providing any counterargument. It’s a vacuous response.

        I’m not going to define every single term I use in every single comment. “Nothing” is a straightforward term. If you don’t understand what “nothing” means, go read the (short) post I just linked, and you’ll get a glimmer.

      • why do you think that we can’t get something from nothing? Seriously, on what principles do you base this conclusion?

        Bear with me here. The answer is important. Your reasoning is important to where the next bit will go.

      • I think the burden of proof is on you when it comes to this question. Nothing, correctly defined as not anything at all, yields not anything at all. 0=0. Maybe this could be called the principle of identity.

      • The claim is *obviously* not that there is an absolute nothing. No one suggested that there is. Indeed, “absolute nothingness” may be an incoherent concept.

        It was you who challenged the universally accepted law of logic that you can’t get something from nothing. It’s an interesting notion. Why don’t you show us how it can be done? Take the quantity 0, and operate on it to generate something other than 0 – not using operators, numbers or quantities, mind, because they are things, which under conditions of nothingness would not exist.

      • Kristor, absolute nothingness is not an incoherent concept but we have no reason to think it is probable.
        The universally accepted law, as you describe it, would be applicable only in the natural laws as we understand them in this universe we are trapped in. Agreed?

        That being so, either there was a state where absolute nothingness was everything, or there has always been existence of some sort.

        The universe we know did not need a creator to look as it does now, the natural laws have shaped it like this – including life.

        To posit that the universe comes from nothing – a possibility actualized from zero potential requires magic as this universally accepted law states. That is unless nothingness is wont to pop out universes now and then on its own. Since we don’t know the nature of whatever is outside of this universe it is not possible to say what that looks like or how it behaves and under what laws it operates.

        To posit that a creator created the universe or must exist because there is a universe implies that this creator was created from nothing or exists without cause. This is an extra step that is not necessary. If something is to exist without cause, it is far more probable that existence exists without cause… and universes are natural byproducts of non-nothingness.

        The truth is that we don’t know and may never know. To claim or argue that a creator must exist requires supporting evidence. What we know of the laws of nature do not tell us that they must exist or have sway outside of this universe. Laws based on them do not necessarily apply outside this universe.

        “That possibilities necessarily and eternally exist means therefore that in every possible state of affairs whatsoever there exists an eternal, necessary concrete actuality, in whom all possibilities exist as potential acts.”

        That statement is not supportable. Nothingness is a possible state of affairs. A void containing no life, matter, or intelligence is a possible state of affairs. A void containing one or more universes like or similar to our own yet having no creator is a possible state of affairs. These states do not require a creator. Arguing that they do requires evidence.Arguing that because anything exists there must be a creator is ludicrous.

      • One small point: nothing is not a “state of affairs” and a void is not nothing. Extension is something, and for all I know extension might entail other things. Also, there could be nothing outside of absolute nothingness since having an outside would be a property, and nothing has no properties. Nothing is not a teeny, tiny amount of something, but rather nothing whatsoever.

      • @JMSmith, I assume that extension was meant to be existence?

        I do not understand how others comprehend the vastness of what could be outside of this universe. To me it seems logical that this universe could exist in an infinite void, not unlike a gas cloud in the space of this universe. I don’t find it necessary to presume that the universe must be bounded like air in a balloon.

        Stating that there must be nothing outside of nothingness is a presumption on how existence operates. In a void 5 googol times the size of this universe there could be nothingness in which this universe resides. The point is that we don’t know, so saying what is out there is wishful thinking.

        We might also exist in a simulation in which case there might be nothing outside of this universe… see?

        A vast pocket of nothingness, so large would could never detect the edges of it is something that could have something outside of it. The nature of what is outside this universe is not known so all potential possibilities still have the same probability. Hopefully our science will help us figure out which is more probable, then this discussion has more room to make a conclusion other than we don’t know.

        That will always be the proper conclusion of what is the nature of existence (relative to non-existence) until we know more than the inside of this bubble of existence we call the universe.

        I disagree, nothingness is a state of affairs just as a vacuum would be a state of affairs.

      • Myatheistlife, I really appreciate your engagement with this topic, and I applaud you for your staunch determination. But you are just barking up the wrong tree here, and that is prompting you to offer all sorts of arguments that are simply inapposite.

        I’m not going to respond in detail to your last few comments, because, thanks to the fact that you are barking up the wrong tree, you are misconstruing so many things that to do so would require almost a phrase by phrase fisking, and I haven’t the time or patience for that, or enough bloodymindedness to put you and our other readers through it. I’ll just hit a few points.

        First, understand that this is not an empirical argument that we are talking about, as you seem to think. It does not, that is to say, depend on what we find to be the case in this or some other world. It is a modal argument. If a modal argument is valid and its premises are true, then its conclusion is true in all possible worlds.

        JM Smith did not mean to type “existence” when he wrote “extension.” A void is extended in at least one dimension. Nothingness has no dimensions, so it is not extended; so, in nothingness there is not even any void, let alone a vacuum.

        Nothingness is not a state of affairs, because in nothingness there exist no affairs, or states. In nothingness there is *nothing whatsoever.* No matter what you might think of, there is none of it in nothingness. This is (one of several reasons) why I say that nothingness may not be coherently conceivable.

        Among all the things that don’t exist in nothingness are laws of nature, or mathematics, or logic. So there is no way that laws of nature could somehow bootstrap nothingness into something.

        Nothingness is just a non-starter as a stepping off point for the existence of something. You just can’t get anything at all from absolutely nothing.

        There are only two alternatives to the incoherent notion of getting something from nothing. Either there are only contingent beings and they have always existed, or there is in addition to all the contingent beings we find scattered about the landscape a necessary being, who is the foundation of contingent beings.

        Take the former alternative first. If the chain of contingent events has always existed, then it stretches back infinitely far in time (this takes “time” as including the temporal orders of any precedent cosmoi, from which ours descends). But if it stretches back infinitely far, then there is no way that the infinite sequence of contingent events leading up to this present moment in our lives could ever be completed. You can’t count to infinity.

        In other words, if the sequence of contingent temporal events preceding this one is infinite, then this temporal event we are now experiencing has not yet happened, and nor will it ever happen. And this is so for any moment on the sequence of contingent events you care to specify. If the sequence of contingent events prior to every particular contingent event is infinite, then no particular contingent events – no contingent events whatsoever – can ever happen. I.e., if the sequence of contingent events stretches back infinitely, then no contingent events at all are possible. I.e., if the sequence of contingent events stretches back infinitely, then no part of that sequence is possible.

        But events do happen. Ergo, the sequence of events prior to this one is not infinite. It had a beginning.

        We already know that it didn’t begin in sheer nothingness. This leaves only the third alternative: the sequence of contingent events is caused by a necessary being. As necessary, that being has no cause: it is not contingent on any other thing whatsoever.

        You write:

        If something is to exist without cause, it is far more probable that existence exists without cause… and universes are natural byproducts of non-nothingness.

        That’s theism. The necessary being is existence per se, being as such. Here it is again, edited slightly so that you can see what you have said:

        If something is to exist without cause, it is far more probable that being as such exists without cause… and universes are natural byproducts of being as such.

      • Again you state that it is impossible to have existence without a creator. I don’t believe you and see nothing that requires a creator for existence to be. You still have not shown why a creator is necessary. Your claim is unsupported so to the question of do I beilef your claim the answer is a simple no, for the reasons stated. You’re making an extraordinary claim and have no evidence beyond convoluted argument that concludes it must be so without considering the other possibilities. Without evidence to support a probability, the possibilities for the origin of existence remain nothing more. That there is existence does not itself constitute evidence of a creator, no matter how many times or different ways you state it.

        You would give the creator status and attribute that existence itself might also have but discount this for no apparent reason other than you don’t want that to be the truth.

  5. Pingback: The Ontological Arguments | The Orthosphere

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