Let us consider the concept of the “universe”. Properly speaking, it refers to the “totality of all existence”, that is everything that exists. It does not refer to a “super-entity”, it is a collection of entities, in a similar way to how a “soccer team” has no physical existence, other than each member of the team of soccer players.
The “soccer team” is not a physical thing. It is simply a way to refer to all the players which make up the team. In a similar way, the concept “universe” refers to all the things that exist. Everything that exists.
Does the universe have a cause? No, it does not have a cause.
What does one mean by asking whether the universe has a cause? Perhaps one means: Is there is a reason the universe exists, and if so, how did the universe come to be?
But again, the universe is not a physical thing. It is not something that “came to be”. It simply refers to the things that exist. It makes no sense to discuss the cause of “the totality of all the things that exist”.
What does it mean to ask “what is the cause of the universe”? What is the cause of “everything that exists”? The only actual subjects of that question are the things that exist.
Right, remember, when it comes to the universe, there is no “it”. The universe is not a thing, we are simply referring to all the things that exist. It would make more sense to ask whether or not those individual things that make up the universe had a cause. But, that is a very different question.
Yes, perhaps one means to ask whether or not there was a time where no entities existed, and if so, what happened to cause the very first entities to come into being. In other words, when did nonexistence become existence?
Well, hopefully, one can see several problems with that. The question poses a meaningless false alternative, an alternative to existence. There can be no causes, no actions, independent of entities to act. An event, including the Big Bang, if it happened, is simply the actions of one or more entities.
It is meaningless to discuss actions without entities to act. Try to talk about billiard ball motion, without billiard balls to act, and you might begin to see the problem!
There are no actions, hence no events, without entities. Actions are the actions of entities. There is no alternative, there is no escaping this axiomatic fact.
What is true of entities, is true of the universe, which is simply a collection of entities. There was not a point during which the first entities arose out of nothingness. There were no actions of nothingness, no disembodied actions of an empty nonexistence which somehow lead to the first entities existing.
There has always been a universe, that is to say, there has always been something that exists. There can be no cause of this fact, cause something that exists, presupposes existence. To claim that nonexistence can cause existence is a contradiction.
Okay, but one might sensibly wonder if the universe has always existed in its current configuration?
By the “form”, or “configuration” of the universe, I mean how the entities that exist are related to one another.
This question is no doubt, a valid, and important question. To which, I have no complete answer and anyway we are not here to discuss the physics, remember. It is a question which physics, not philosophy, might attempt to answer.
The point is that assuming the Big Bang occurred, prior to it there was a universe, which is just another way of saying that something existed. Then, actions occurred that lead to the Big Bang, and as a result, the configuration of the universe changed and took the form we know now, roughly.
Well, the point of this episode is not to debate whether or not the Big Bang occurred. The point is that if it did happen, then it was not the genesis of existence, it was not the creation of the universe. It was at most, a very dramatic reconfiguration of the universe, a rearrangement of the things that exist.
So, in short, the Big Bang was at most, the genesis of the universe in its current configuration. Prior to the Big Bang, again supposing it occurred, there was a universe, there were entities that existed in some configuration. Existence exists. No escaping it, is there?
Alright, we are just about done for now. Before, we wrap up though, a few more things.
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In the upcoming episode, we will be discussing artificial intelligence and the meaning of the word “possible”.
Thanks for listening! Please tune in for the next episode and start thinking of some questions! Until then, stay rational!