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Suppose someone asked me the timeless question, "Why is there something rather

Suppose someone asked me the timeless question, "Why is there something rather than nothing?", is it reasonable for me to answer,"because if there is nothing, the question would still arise as to, why is there nothing rather than something?" Does the second question make sense in itself, and as a response to the first?

Hmm. I can't tell whether your answer engages the timeless question. But I think the timeless question is deeply problematic anyway, as I explain in my contribution to Tyron Goldschmidt's new edited collection of essays on the topic.

You seem to be saying that if there were nothing, then at least the following question would exist: "Why is there nothing rather than something?" (or, perhaps more properly, the question expressed in the actual world by the string of English I just quoted). In that case, it's impossible for there to be nothing. I suppose it's open to the timeless questioner to reply that questions don't exist independently of languages and hence independently of language-users, in which case the question wouldn't exist if there were nothing (else).

hello i would like to know at what point does something come into existence, for

hello i would like to know at what point does something come into existence, for an example take a painting does it come into existence the second the painter thinks of it and can see it in their minds eye(because can you think of something that doesn't exist)or is it when the painter first makes the first brush stroke on the canvas or is it only when the painting is completed and others can see it. It could also be said that the painting always existed because all the materials the painting is made out of was already here in one form or another, they were just never put together in that certain way before. What i really want to know is does something exist simply because someone can think of it and see it in there mind or does it have to be seen touched or smelled in the physical world.For another example, the computer you are reading this on definitely exists because you can see it and touch it and so can others but the programs on it like Microsoft word or excel do not physically exist, you can not...

You asked, "What I really want to know is does something exist simply because someone can think of it and see it in their mind, or does it have to be seen, touched or smelled in the physical world?" I'd say neither.

There's a sense in which I can think of a unicorn and see it in my mind: I can imagine it. But my feat of imagination doesn't show that unicorns exist. I can have an idea, or an image, of a unicorn, and perhaps then my idea or image exists. But that doesn't show that unicorns exist, because my idea isn't of an idea, and my image isn't of an image; instead, it's an idea, or image, of a unicorn.

On the other side, physicists tell us that neutrinos exist, but it's at best a stretch to say that neutrinos can be seen or touched, much less smelled! And it may well be that abstract objects such as numbers exist even though we can't see, touch, or smell them.

Hello, my question(s) is: could emotions, concepts and physical things that are

Hello, my question(s) is: could emotions, concepts and physical things that are opposite to each other, exist without each other? For example, if there were no such thing as hot, then could cold exist? What about joy and sorrow? Could we identify one without the other? Do they require our awareness of them, for them to exist? Obviously this isn't the case with some things, like gravity.

You've asked three different questions about three apparently different kinds of items: emotions, concepts, and physical things. So there may be as many as nine different answers, depending on which question is being asked about which kind of item (and some of those nine answers may be of the form "It depends"). I'll choose just one of those kinds -- concepts -- and try to answer your three questions about it.

1. It's controversial just how concepts themselves exist, but it's clear that a concept can be instantiated -- there can be instances of the concept -- even if the opposite concept isn't instantiated. Take the concept self-identical. Everything instantiates that concept, because necessarily everything is identical to itself. But nothing instantiates the opposite concept, self-distinct, because nothing could be distinct from itself. Or consider two more controversial examples, the concepts physical and nonphysical. Some philosophers say that everything is physical, so clearly they think that the concept physical is instantiated while its opposite, nonphysical, isn't (and maybe couldn't be) instantiated. Other philosophers have said that everything is nonphysical, so they hold exactly the reverse view about instantiation.

2. We can recognize self-identical things -- it's easy! -- even though we can't possibly recognize self-distinct things (there being none). Ditto for physical things, according to some philosophers, and nonphysical things, according to other philosophers.

3. I'd also say that self-identical things existed (such as meteors and dinosaurs) long before we arrived on the scene, and plenty of self-identical things exist of which we will never become aware. It's a big universe, and it will outlast us.

I have been reading a recently published book about the existence of all things

I have been reading a recently published book about the existence of all things (e.g. addressing the question, "Why is there something rather than nothing?"), and am struck by an interesting issue I see in the book and others like it. The author interviews philosophers (among other professionals) who often speak about the existence of things based on what one can imagine (e.g. one imagining something about possible worlds). It seems to me that there should be some kind of theory about how thoughts relate to the universe before anyone can conclude things about its nature. I know there are philosophers who have raised the question that the "laws" that govern thought/logic may be very different than the physical laws that govern the universe (and hence whatever theories we have about the world may be nothing more than our own ideas); so why is there such emphasis placed on imagination when discussing metaphysical issues? Why is the intelligibility of an idea about the universe (e.g. whether there are many...

You asked, among other things, "Why is the intelligibility of an idea about the universe...a criterion for determining the truth-value of the idea?" I wouldn't say that an idea's being intelligible to us is a criterion for its being true: that would be thinking too highly of ourselves! But an idea's being intelligible to us is necessary for our determining (i.e., ascertaining) its truth-value and even for our entertaining the possibility that it's true. If an idea is unintelligible to us -- if we can't make any sense of it -- then we can't make sense of the assertion that the idea is true, or even possibly true, or false, or even possibly false. I think we can understand the claim that some unspecified aspects of reality are unintelligible to us. But we can't understand the suggestion that some particular unintelligible claim about reality might be true (or false, for that matter). That limitation applies to science just as much as to philosophy.

I suspect that the book you're reading is Jim Holt's Why Does the World Exist? If you're interested in a more scholarly approach to the question "Why is there something rather than nothing?" you might check out Tyron Goldschmidt's edited collection of essays, The Puzzle of Existence (Routledge, 2013). For what it's worth, I think the question is defective when construed in the way it's typically intended, as I try to show in my contribution to the collection.

Everything needs a cause, right, or it couldn't happen, right?

Everything needs a cause, right, or it couldn't happen, right? But, if everything needs a cause, how could anything happen? Because the thing that would cause it to happen would also need a cause. So does that means the universe can't happen/could never get to now? Or is time a cause in and of itself? And "drags" things as time goes forward, like a replay in a video game? But then time would need a cause too, right?

A classic, important question that philosophers have grappled with for a loooong time .... Look up "cosmological arguments" on wikipedia or via google, you'll find LOTS of discussion of this sort of issue. Especially important for centuries in discussions of religious matters -- Just a couple quick thoughts. One possibility is that an infinite regress is fine -- the universe has always existed, and everything that occurs has a cause, which earlier had a cause etc., to infinity. If you don't think that's possible you need to offer specific reasons why it isn't. One famous one is hinted at in what you say -- for example, as presented by St Thomas Aquinas (in preparation for refuting it) the objection is raised that an infinite regress IS impossible: for since an infinite journey can never be completed, there could NOT be an infinite amount of time (or sequence of events) prior to the current moment -- for that just would mean that the universe HAS completed an infinite journey (from the infinite past to now ...) .... However Aquinas offers a fascinating response to this particular argument you might look up -- I think he holds that reason cannot determine whether the past extends to infinity or not, or whether the cosmos had a 'first moment' -- that said, there are various other kinds of arguments to the same conclusion, suggesting (e.g.) that the universe could not be intelligible if it extended back to infinity, so there must have been a first moment ....

Then, once you've convinced yourself there must be a 'first moment' (or a 'first event' or 'First cause') -- you can grapple with the question of what this implies for the idea that 'everything has a cause' ... One common move is this: if the 'first cause' is quite different in nature from ordinary things, then perhaps it might count as 'self-caused' or 'self-explanatory' -- e.g. if the first cause is a 'necessary being' of some sort (as opposed to 'contingent being') then the fact that it exists needs no further explanation, its own nature (as a necessary being) explains its existence -- so everything DOES have a cause: most ordinary finite things are caused by other finite things, leading back to a First Cause which is 'self-caused' or 'self-explanatory' ....

That's too quick a sketch -- but look up 'cosmological arguments' for more, especially as found in Aristotle, Aquinas, and Descartes (for classical sources) -- and then you can work your way up to contemporary versions ....

good luck!

ap

The word abstract generally connotes something which is general rather than

The word abstract generally connotes something which is general rather than particular and consisting in the mind or realm of ideas rather than a concrete and actual instance. Metaphysics is often described as an abstract inquiry into being. Yet being (or at least beings) are particular and actual. How do philosophers grapple with this seeming contradiction?

How about an enquiry into the general nature of particular actual things? For example on might ask: what, if anything, do all particular and actual things have in common? What distinguishes them from non-particular and/or non-actual things, if any such there be?

Hello everyone. Quixotic Question: has anyone written anything on a materialist

Hello everyone. Quixotic Question: has anyone written anything on a materialist versions of reincarnation? I mean, suppose you cut all the baggage, from karma to "reincarnation research" and the like, and keep strictly to a physicalist worldview (particles and field, say). If you do this necessary surgery, is there anything left to say on the subject (if so, I'd be happy to read about it, so long as the aforementioned surgery has been applied)? Gracias, just a bit curious...

I'm not sure who has written on the topic under the specific guise that you ask about, but a good deal of work on personal identity certainly bears on it. The philosopher's question would be whether reincarnation (or something like it) is possible on a physicalist view. And on at least one important account of personal identity, the answer is yes. That account is the "psychological continuity" view. It would say that if there's enough psychological continuity (apparent memories, beliefs, attitudes...) between an earlier person and a later one, then (depending on the version of the view) we either have a case of one and the same person at two different times or of two stages of one and the same person. This would be so regardless of whether we had bodily continuity, though there might well be added clauses about the later person/stage being causally connected to the earlier in the right sort of way, and/or that there not be any "competition" (i.e., no duplicates).

For example: suppose you step into a teletransporter that scans all the information about you, disintegrates your body, beams the information elsewhere and then uses it to assemble a person at the new location. Someone like Derek Parfit would say that so long as there's no duplicate at the end of the process, the newly-constituted being is you -- even though s/he is made of different matter. (Parfit would add that even if there is duplication, everything that's important for survival is still there; Parfit doesn't think identity is important for survival.)

There are other views that have the same upshot. In general, any view of personal identity that doesn't require bodily continuity will likely allow at least in principle for something like reincarnation.

We can close with a small, obvious caveat. The word "reincarnation" suggests the re-embodiment of a non-physical soul or whatnot. If someone insisted that this is what they meant by reincarnation, then what's been described above wouldn't count. But it' alreadt clear from the way you've posed your question that the notion you're interested in doesn't have that restriction.

Here's a quote from Hume: "Nothing, that is distinctly conceivable, implies a

Here's a quote from Hume: "Nothing, that is distinctly conceivable, implies a contradiction." My question is this: what is the difference between something that is logically a contradiction and something that happens to not be instantiated? For example, ghosts do not exist. Could you explain how the concept of a ghost is not a contradiction? Thanks ^^

What is the difference between something that is logically a contradiction and something that happens to not be instantiated?

As I think you already suspect, it's the difference between (1) a concept whose instantiation is contrary to the laws of logic or contrary to the logical relations that obtain among concepts; and (2) a concept whose instantiation isn't contrary to logic but only contrary to fact. Examples of (1) include the concepts colorless red object and quadrilateral triangle. Examples of (2) include the concept child of Elizabeth I of England. Concepts of type (1) are unsatisfiable in the strongest sense; concepts of type (2) are merely unsatisfied.

Could you explain how the concept of a ghost is not a contradiction?

Good question. I'm not sure the concept isn't internally contradictory. Can ghosts, by their very nature, interact with matter? Some stories seem to want to answer yes and no. If I recall correctly (it's been a while) the movie Ghost (1990) depicts the rookie ghost struggling to interact with matter well enough to move just a penny, despite the fact that he has no trouble standing on the floor rather than passing right through it. It's as if he can interact with matter only when he's not consciously trying to. I seem to recall that Field of Dreams (1989) has similar inconsistencies. But it may be that both movies can be interpreted as internally consistent if we import enough ad hoc principles of ghostly metaphysics.

What is an instantiated concept in philosophy? My class has a question asking

What is an instantiated concept in philosophy? My class has a question asking TRUE or FALSE: A sphere made of solid gold is an instantiated concept. However, I am confused as to what they mean by that term. If someone could help me better understand that would be great!

If a concept (say tame tiger) is instantiated that means that there is in fact an instance of the things falling under it: there is at least one tame tiger. An uninstantiated concept, square triangle, for example, is one that has no instances: there are no instances of square triangles. But the phrase "instantiated concept" is bad grammar or "usage", it seems to me. Just as an abstract concept is a concept which is abstract, so an instantiated concept is a concept which is instantiated. That ought to mean that there is an instance of it. But "it" here is that concept, so to say that there is an instantiated concept is to say that there is one of it, one of that concept. Something is wrong here, obviously. Of course one can twist the language to give "instantiated concept" a conventional meaning, or any other meaning, but why bother?

Is existence a property? The way I became confounded was an example like this: a

Is existence a property? The way I became confounded was an example like this: a phoenix is a bird, it has feathers, and it is born from ashes, but it does not exist, whereas a penguin is a bird, has feathers, exists, and is born in snow. As in, existence and being born in snow are properties of penguins, but not of phoenixes. I feel there might be some mistake, but I certainly lack the expertise to puzzle through this on my own.

Why not think of it this way? The concept phoenix is the concept of a bird, with feathers, that arises from ashes, etc. The concept penguin is the concept of a bird, with feathers, that's (typically) born in a cold climate, etc. As it happens, the first of those concepts isn't fulfilled: nothing answers to the concept; there are no phoenixes; phoenixes don't exist. As it happens, the second concept is fulfilled: something answers to it; there are penguins; penguins exist. Both concepts exist, but only one of them is fulfilled. Our having the concepts phoenix and penguin doesn't imply that either concept is fulfilled, nor does it imply that there's any sense of 'exist' in which phoenixes (or for that matter penguins) exist.

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