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The Procedural Universe: All Being Is Two Sides of the Same Coin – Absolute Nothing Does Not Exist

“We can only imagine independent origination in the light of dependent origination

In my first post regarding the procedural universe I explained why I think the procedural universe is eternal and infinite and why all boundaries are ultimately arbitrary and matters of definition. I now want to propose that the procedural universe is a type of ontological monism which may not be conceived of as neutral monism or materialism. The procedural universe is closer to process philosophy, though I am reluctant to call it process philosophy because I have not studied process philosophy well enough to assert this. Proceeding thusly I want to start with the two broadest definitions of them all: something and nothing. I propose that the proper definition of something is anything which has boundaries or the potential to present boundaries in the presence of an observer. Thus things which are not perceived may nonetheless exist. Thus something directly gives rise to nothing because something, any thing, can only be defined in regard to what it is not. All things find their definition in their boundaries, in their finitude. Thus there is no such thing as absolute nothing.

If a tree falls in the woods and no thing, no observer, hears it does it make a sound? No. A sound is not created in the absence of an observer for sounds only exist as the result of sense perception in an observer; sounds only exist for observers. The potential for a sound was created, but without an observer it will not be realized. Consider that it is the same waves moving through spacetime that agitate the nearby trees and the shrubs, brushes and organic debris on the forest floor where the tree lands that stimulate the senses of an observer and are processed into a sound. The sound of a tree falling is not the same as the energy transmissions caused by the trees collapse but those energy transmissions are partially the cause of sounds. The sound is the effect of causes that are external to our senses. The procedural universe is no kind of solipsism; there is a world beyond our senses. (The mere existence of our senses alone should be enough to expose the epistemological fallacy at the heart of solipsism.) Nonetheless I do contend that there is a bit of truth to be found in solipsism; we are limited to experiencing the world through our five senses, our imagination and our intellect.

Returning to the tree falling in the woods example one can see how nothing only exists in relation to something by considering that the absence of a sound arises causally as well. One might ask if the negation of all the causes that created the sound is the set of causes responsible for the absence of the sound. I don’t think so because the negations of the causes that created the sound would not exist outside of the mind; they would be hypothetical constructions. Yet it was the absence of a sound which created the space for the sound to exist because they share boundaries. Thus the absence of the sound is partially responsible for the sound, for silence is not the negation of sound, but the absence of sound. Silence is a thing in that it is the absence of sound. Sound is a thing in that it is the absence of silence. Keeping this in mind one can deduce that the causal chain responsible for the sound is the same exact same causal chain responsible for its absence. In this way something and nothing both arise from dependent origination; they are two sides of the same coin. This is also the nature of chaos and order.

First let me briefly explain that I don’t mean chaos in the sense of social chaos or economic collapse; nor by chaos do I mean indeterminism. In the same way that sound requires silence to be distinguishable chaos cannot exist without order to juxtapose itself in relation to. Recall that a fundamental axiom of the procedural universe is that no form is infinite; every thing has boundaries of some type because to not have boundaries is to be infinite, to be all things – everything. Forms depend upon their shared boundaries for their existence and thus if all forms depend upon their shared, mutual boundaries for their existence then they also depend upon their shared, mutual causal chains for their existence. For as sound exists only juxtaposed to silence, so chaos only exists juxtaposed to order. Chaos exists as a thing in that it is the absence of order. Order exists as a thing in that it is the absence of chaos. The chaos of the bubbling soup of virtual particles in empty spacetime, assuming they exist, only appears chaotic juxtaposed to the relative order of the Newtonian and Einsteinian world. Chaos is relative and ultimately an illusion.

Moving right along I further claim that indeterminism, non-causation, does not exist. In my first post on the procedural universe I posited that the universe must be fundamentally deterministic. Thus one might ask how one would go about verifying that something is truly uncaused. Well if a form or event were truly uncaused then there is no causal chain, set or web for it to be an element of and we would have to isolate it from all other causal chains to be certain it is uncaused. That is to say that we could deduce that it did not arise causally only by examining all causal chains which could be associated with it and eliminating all of them as possible candidates for its origin (and even then there could still be causal chains associated with it that we weren’t aware of or didn’t realize were associated with it). That means an uncaused form’s boundaries would not arise in relation to any other causal forms boundaries. Truly random things or events would have to be able to somehow define their boundaries independently which means they would have existence in their own right, which is not possible; they would have to be infinite to be truly random. Postulating the existence of non-caused forms leads to a contradiction in that the uncaused form would be finite and infinite simultaneously. Thus I conclude that indeterminism is a hollow notion because nothing does not exist independent of something.

In conclusion I would like to briefly address the relationship between modern science and philosophy. I have not read all of Lawrence Krauss’ A Universe from Nothing, but in it he openly admits that by nothing he does not mean philosophical or theological nothing which he considers a useless concept. The ‘nothing’ contemporary physics deals with does not exclude spacetime; it still includes spatial and temporal dimensions as well as the laws of quantum dynamics and general relativity. He says “it would be disingenuous to suggest that empty space endowed with energy, which drives inflation, is really nothing…one must assume space exists and can store energy”. The philosophical or theological nothing he opposes is absolute nothing. No spatial dimensions or time and no forces of any kind. I agree with him that this idea is useless, but I contend that it is also a non-possibility. The procedural universe necessarily precludes absolute nothing because nothing can only exist in relation to something – nothing must be caused to exist. It may be the case that it is impossible for spacetime to not exist. I don’t know I’m not a physicist, but I do know that absolute nothing makes no sense nor does the idea of a first cause. Further I don’t think the idea of an eternal multiverse is unreasonable in the slightest, but my opinion should be taken with a grain of salt in light of my previous admission. I do contend that process gives rise to matter though. I see no conflict whatsoever between dependent origination and modern science.



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"The essence of the independent mind lies not in what it thinks, but in how it thinks." - Christopher Hitchens

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