Why there is Something rather than Nothing by Bede Rundle

Waking up on New Year 2018 may have brought some random thoughts like ‘Oh! God’, ‘Why me?’ ‘Why here?’, accompanied by a general sense of apprehension. Pressing the doubt and unease further may lead to a question which has troubled many for centuries, namely ‘Why is there Anything rather than just Nothing?’ The question was given formal definition in Thomas Aquinas and Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz, and it has tormented thinkers to this day.

Bede Rundle (https://www.theguardian.com/world/2011/oct/31/bede-rundle), an Oxford philosophy tutor has tackled the problem and been bold enough to offer a solution. In 2004 Rundle published ‘Why there is Something rather than Nothing’. Why not see if this satisfies you?

The argument goes as follows. It starts by giving some airtime to a famous argument in favour of the existence of God presented by Thomas Aquinas in the 13th century. Since this universe is contingent, that is to say it might not have existed, at some point it did not exist, and at a later point it came into existence. Since something can only begin to exist in relation to something else already existing (for instance, a football match can only start if the players are on the field), a non-contingent, necessary thing, God, must have existed for this universe to begin to exist. Had there been no necessary Being, there could be no created world.

Unlike most recent philosophers, Rundle found some truth in this argument. In his version, we must indeed agree that if nothing had existed, nothing would exist now, in other words that it is impossible that nothing at all should have existed. For to say that there might have been nothing ‘then’ (before the Big Bang) presupposes a temporal framework. A temporal framework is not nothing. Indeed the whole notion of ‘Nothing’ is inconceivable. When people imagine ‘nothing’ they picture empty space between galaxies, or a vacuum in a flask from which air has been sucked away. In either case there remains a spatio-temporal fabric through which light may pass. That is not ‘nothing’. As it turns out, recent physics is now saying that empty space is a seething matrix of quantum fluctuations and is filled with ‘dark matter’.

None of this vindicates Aquinas, for, according to Rundle, ‘the only thing which would provide a setting into which our universe might make an entry would be another universe’. There is no necessary Being, rather material existence is necessary. If correct, this argument has dramatic consequences for most humans and their religious or scientific beliefs about the origin of the world, for it undermines the idea of an absolutely first event of the world, whether Creation, Big Bang, or anything else. Rundle also casts doubt here on the notion of divine agency and indeed the coherence of the notion of god(s). All bracing stuff, the equivalent, perhaps, of the ‘Loony Dook’ in the Forth (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Loony_Dook) Plunge in.

Watch Bede Rundle in an interview with Robert Lawrence Kuhn (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Robert_Lawrence_Kuhn) here https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GG-nwIcmfoo

Also watch Anthony Grayling respond to the same problem here https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Bds92P1wkZU.  Grayling takes the view that the question is vacuous.

Get the juices flowing with this hard metaphysical think. Check if the title is in stock at your local library. Consult the online catalogue at https://www.sllclibrary.co.uk/cgi-bin/spydus.exe/MSGTRN/OPAC/BSEARCH

or treat yourself this New Year with a marvellous purchase at https://www.amazon.co.uk/There-Something-Rather-Than-Nothing/dp/0199270503/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1514891146&sr=8-1&keywords=rundle+nothing

220 pages in Oxford University Press

First published 2004

ISBN 978-0199270507

Bede Rundle

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