In today’s spotlight I wish to discuss the idea of being and nothingness. I just read a wonderful philosophical discussion regarding the question, Why is there something instead of nothing? If you enjoy philosophy, I highly recommend the book by Jim Holt, Why Does the World Exist?: An Existential Detective Story. If you seriously give this idea some thought, you are driven to ask, “Why is this question meaningful?”
Why Being and Nothingness Matters
All together too often we take the obvious for granted; oh we may look around the world and see beauty and even find a moment of awe—but how often do we really consider the question: why a world at all? This ‘why’ question typically leads religious people to God, but that’s not a sufficient reason in and of itself, especially when they define their god with characteristics such as eternal and all knowing. No—in fact, the solution God only begs more questions, such as why did God create the world? I mean an all knowing God knew in advance the outcome of this world—who would suffer and what horrors some may bestow on others. So again, the question ‘why’ maintains its meaningfulness.
There are those of course who insist that a reason for why something instead of nothing is not necessary. Many things occur without a reason, they insist. The universe just is. This too seems unsatisfactory, at least to me. Perhaps it is in my nature to seek causal sequences, for even the Big Bang theory in physics offers at least a beginning. That said, one can fairly ask, what preceded the Big Bang?
Why Do I Exist?
It seems that the question, “Why does the world exist?” is essentially a personal question—why do I exist at all? If an all-knowing God created the world—why? Is it possible that we’re nothing more than a sophisticated version of I-Life—creatures in a computer simulation? Are we possibly only characters in a dream, and all of this world is but an illusion? There are many myths, stories, legends, allegories, and the like offered to answer my ‘why’ question, but they all fail either when tested logically and/or they’re tautological.
I recently enjoyed a conversation with my friend Richard about this very subject. He grilled me on the logic of matters and finally then asked, “Why do you believe?” My answer was simple, “It is because of the persistent anomalies, the miracles that defy explanation, many of which I have witnessed, that I believe.” Richard remarked, “We need a word or term for those persistent anomalies, because they’re everywhere.” I agreed, and then he offered this term, Paulian Paradox. He explained, “St. Paul said, ‘Faith is the evidence of things unseen.’”
So for me it is the Paulian Paradox that must satisfy my ‘why’ enquiry. Perhaps the finite in the end has no way of comprehending the infinite. Now I am very aware that some of my associates, specifically those in the camp of the Reductionistic Materialist, may find this position hard to swallow; but then, as Soren Kierkegaard put it, these folks are often “pharisaical scholars, who strain at a gnat and swallow a camel.”
My thoughts anyway. What are yours?