Παρασκευή, 2 Δεκεμβρίου 2011

Why is there something rather than nothing?

My short answer: "How long is a piece of string?"

Neil Tyson's short answer: "Words that make questions may not be questions at all!"

Both are along the same lines. Mine is shorter but his is still within the limit that Steven Colbert set to him and, I'm afraid, better overall!

23 σχόλια:

  1. Wittgenstein on the other hand said that whenever there is a question, there must be an answer...

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  2. @skakos

    He also said, however, "Whereof one cannot speak, thereof one must be silent", did he not?

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  3. @skakos

    In that case what is the answer to the question "how long is a piece of string?".

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  4. Of that science cannot be sure! Every time we measure with more accuracy, we end up with a different number. In that case, we should abandon "exact" science and trust our own experience...

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  5. ...which means that the length of a string is what you see. Nothing more, nothing less. "It is what it is". It may sound budhhistic in a sense, but it is the best answer we seem to have...

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  6. Of that noone can be sure! Every time we observe something we are part of that something and, having a brain that evolved within something and as a result is incapable of processing nothingness, let alone reasons before nothingness became something, if that has any meaning at all, we become utterly confused by this specific sequence of words ending in a questionmark.

    In that case we'd better abandon our innate curiosity, which also evolved to secure our survival but is not aware of its own limits and often considers as valid questions meaningless utterances, and trust our utter confusion to mean that it is indeed not a meaningful question.

    We also had better abandon out intuition, also evolved as a result of our long lives in a world where it is valid and useful, that everything has reasons, as we have very good reasons nowadays to think that this is by no means always the case at all...

    ...which means that something is what you see. Nothing more, nothing less. "It is just there". Reasons do not apply to it. It may sound budhhistic in a sense, but it is the best not answer we don't have to a not question we seem unable to not be unjustifiably curious about... :-)

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  7. We cannot stop being curious. That would mean stop having science... And I love science.

    We cannot give up our intuition. It works very good many times (actually much better than any scientific analysis of things), so I cannot trust you...intuition that intuition is useless... I love my intuition too.

    Indeed the world is "what it is". So indeed people should trust what they feel.

    Many people feel that we are something more than dirt, that we are not just inorganic matter organized in a complex way, that we are not computers. Analyzing life and humans "scientifically" is what takes all that away and leads to nihillistic thoughts about "everything being random", about "everything having no purpose", about "every human being just a robot with no free will"...

    In the words of Wittgenstein, "Man has to awaken to wonder – and so perhaps do peoples.Science is a way of sending him to sleep again"...

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  8. @skakos

    I did not advice that we give up our curiosity!
    I did not advice that we give up our intuition!

    On the contrary I was explicit that they both evolved for a good reason, that they are "...valid and useful".

    Still they are not infallible, either of the two.

    According to my intuition a mirage is real, and I don't have a blind spot in my vision.

    According to my curiosity, I will keep searching for the mirage at the wrong place for ever.

    There are cases for both when I'd better distrust them.

    You invoked Wittgenstein. It was he who wrote in Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus:

    "4.003 Most of the propositions and questions to be found in philosophical works are not false but nonsensical. Consequently we cannot give any answer to questions of this kind, but can only point out that they are nonsensical. Most of the propositions and questions of philosophers arise from our failure to understand the logic of our language. (They belong to the same class as the question whether the good is more or less identical than the beautiful.) And it is not surprising that the deepest problems are in fact not problems at all."

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  9. Intuition is what helps people formulate the axioms on which science is based. That alone makes it more fundamental than any other tool we have to search for the truth. (see related post http://harmoniaphilosophica.wordpress.com/2011/12/04/science-vs-religion-the-intuition-arguments/)

    And the quote from Wittgenstein does not prove anything towards the point of discussion here. Yes, I agree that some questions are nonsensical, but I am quite sure that we disagree upon which these nonsensical questions are...

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  10. @skakos

    I agree that intuition is indispensible, not only to science but to science as well definitely. Comparison against evidence is indispensible also. Between two indispensible characteristics which is the more fundamental?

    Now that could be another nonsensical question... :-).

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  11. @skakos

    We can disagree on whether this particular question is one of them, certainly. You would agree however that it is one of "the deepest problems", wouldn't you?

    Furthermore, if your position is that it is not nonsensical, then you (and you only) are left with two outstanding items:

    1. Explain what it means.
    2. Answer it.

    Can't wait... :-).

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  12. @skakos

    It is besides the point of the post still, I cannot resist the temptation to induldge my curiosity (we are both all for curiosity after all! :-) ).

    So please let me know of one question that you would agree is nonsensical in the Wittgensteinean sense.

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  13. I'm confused. Which question I am supposed to show that it is nonsensical?

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  14. @skakos

    Any one philosophical question of your choice.

    S h o w i n g that it is nonsensical is much beyond the expectation of my question. Your a g r e e m e n t that it is, would well cover it.

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  15. For me the great fundamental questions of philosophy like "why do I exist?" or "why does the cosmos exists?" are questions with meaning. However I cannot "prove" that they are not nonsensical, if you need the answer in order to prove it! But this is an antiphasis we all have to live with: you cannot tell if a question is nonsensical unless you try to answer it first! And how do you decide when to stop trying? Do you rely on your instinct and feelings for that? For me the quest for answering such questions like "why do I exist?" can form the life of a man. And in that sense, they cannot be nonsensical...

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  16. Not so clear. But the world isn't clear as well! If you find the discussion about relition and science nonsensical, I would be happy to hear your thoughts here http://harmonia-philosophica.blogspot.com/2011/12/blog-post.html.

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  17. @skakos

    I honestly did find it clear!

    What is not entirely clear is why would you invoke Wittgenstein (twice in this discussion) if you are at a fundamental disagreement with him.

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  18. Wittgenstein has been always used for the purposes of theism and atheism alike. However the philosopher himself talked about a "purpose" that can only exist outside the boundaries of this world. He talked about "staying silent for the things we cannot talk about", but he thought that those things were the most important in life.

    PS. Such misunderstandings were the reason for Wittgenstein never attending the sessions of the Vienna Circle.

    PS2. What about Circle of Athens? Is there any hope for that?

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  19. @skakos

    I was referring to the specific issue of the post. Wittgenstein states that "the deepest philosophical problems are non-sensical" and you believe on the contrary, that all make sense and it's worth our trouble and effort to keep searching for answers. Still you invoked him to argue that an answer to the question "must exist". Seems to me like invoking in a court the lawyer of your adversery to defend you own position.

    The thing with Circle of Athens is that it tended to ... run in circles ... :-)

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  20. Nonsensical meaning that "they cannot be expressed in human language". Not nonsensical meaning that "they have no meaning".

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  21. @skakos

    Now I'm confused.

    The question of the post is obviously expressed in "human language", right? Does it have any meaning, according to you, or not?

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  22. It is a question that has no answer, so in that way you could say it is nonsensical. On the other hand it is a question the answer of which we "know by living" every day. We see at the string. We see its length.

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