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“Why is There Something Rather Than Nothing?” Sorry, Wrong Question.


Author(s): Scott Douglas Jacobsen

Publication (Outlet/Website): Medium (Personal)

Publication Date (yyyy/mm/dd): 2019/02/01

One of the perennial buggaboos of formal theology for centuries and in several traditions right into the present remains the belief in a powerful argument, in which the notion of a nothing — even in a nuanced consideration of different flavors of nothing — becomes contrasted with the something around us: indeed, why is there something rather than nothing?

This notion reflects a longstanding tradition of the Abrahamic traditions, in particular, and in modern theology in general, which creates the foundation for a respectability politique within the community of literate theologians and believers. However, this argument, more than 2,000 years in the making, harbours some false assumptions for a number of reasons, but this form of argumentation for the existence of a god requires a something emergent from nothing.

A nothing without an ability of self-actuation, where a nothing in this manner must then pivot into another conceptualization of a being or some thing with the property of aseity, of self-existence, of an existence without any formal requirement of contingency. In a manner of speaking, this specific form of nothing would lack the trait of self-actuation, which remains different than another definition of a nothing, perhaps seen in some Chinese philosophical concepts, with things simply being, just emerging, and, thus, inheriting, by the nature of their being, the property of aseity.

The nothing seen in some modern physics explanations looks to a way in which radiation, time, space, and matter define a material model of something and then the negation of these — non-radiation, non-time, non-space, and non-matter — would define a proper non-universe or non-physical structure, i.e., a nothing defined as an opposition of the something seen in cosmology and physics.

But these can be arcane, and incorrect in some ways, and the issue can be boiled down into another formulation with the notion of a something as the total set of possible existing things, in reality and in principle, and then this becoming the complete set of possible instantiations of somethings and arrangements of the things in those somethings. The set of a true nothing would, in essence, amount to an absolute negation of this infinity of arrangements, with nothing as the complement of true infinity. One being the opposite of another in an abstract or platonic, or mathematical and logical, sense.

This becomes a possible set of nothings as 1, or a nothing and not many nothings, and a possible set of somethings as infinite, which comes back to the original question: why is there something rather than nothing? If we look into the formulation of a something as infinite and a nothing as 1, in terms of possible states, then this implies a particular ratio of infinite to 1, of somethings to nothing. A Probability Argument for Existence Over Non-Existence, let’s call it, it becomes overwhelmingly obvious; we have been working on false premises. It is not “why is there something rather than nothing?” The true question: why wouldn’t there be something? In the light of the overwhelming odds in favor of something, this exists as a near fundamental fact of the nature of the world with the implication of a something as the far more likely option than a nothing while the original theological question implying a form of nothing as default and the proper question, posed above, implicating a default of something.

If nothing was default, it would need the explanation; but then, we wouldn’t be here to ask the question in the first place. However, we are here, and here to ask the proper question: why wouldn’t there be something?


In-Sight Publishing by Scott Douglas Jacobsen is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License. Based on a work at


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