This chapter is about how we ask and answer the deepest questions posed by existence. If wisdom is about anything it relates to the inheritence of wisdom we come about just by being who we are in space, time and history. This Debate about Nothing is interesting because of what it includes and excludes and more. Existentially, the somethingness of existence is undeniable, but it is hard to get away from the idea that something must be related to nothing.

Something ≠ Nothing,

Something Exists (Descartes in cognito is asserting his own existence as a thinker, and by implication the thinker exists. This is about all that is reliable in Descartes, he may demonstrate that thinking exists, but knows nothing about what it is or where it takes place) This is another link in the arc that critiques pure idealism and dualistic philosophies, we need the cognitivists integrated with three category semiotics to ground process/systems biology and process/social theory as well. A modern pragmatism is critical to understanding.

∴ The Universe ≠ Nothing

A lot of the difficulty that these panelists have is related to this incomplete project of modern pragmatism that incorporates logic and idealism not so much as the a priori of Lewis, but following Quine obliterates the analytic/synthetic divide. It is clear that Logical Positivism fails along these lines. What is taken to be the eternal Ideal is nothing more than an artifact of the inquiry of a particular kind of mind with particular habits of action inherited by virtue of being a certain kind of animal living (autopoetically) in a web of other living beings in a particular finite environment. It is remarkable that we have discovered some key relationships that are not limited to any particular experience, but that can give us knowledge of regularities of experience and contribute to survival by guiding action to pragmatically significant outcomes. Because they are beyond any particular use, they have a sort of universality, but they are also necessarily incomplete. The a priori might be just as true for any being who discovers some part of it, but what parts will it find? We expect that other intelligent being would learn to count and to do Boolean arithmatic and basic logic, but would they discover quantum field theory?

If your philosophy includes the creation of the universe from nothing, I think you show whether creation Ex Nihilo is a necessary axiom of all theories, and if necessary, then we must explain why most of the time, somethimg comes from something.

Nothing -> Something

This is a transition from an eternal perfect symetry to something else.

If Something can be Anything, the we have something like a super version of the many worlds interpretation of super-symetry. Worlds with any set of consistent rules are possible, and some of them are interesting in the sense that something complex like life and consciousness can occur within it.

Could all of the branches of this be real? The only thing we can know for sure is that ours exists.

If you want to believe in God, that's fine, because if God is what created everything, then God == Nothing. And if God is equated to the whole thing, Nothing + Multiverse, you have an awefully extravagant theory that can't be decided anyhow. I agree with Sean Carol that this sort of God is essentially rhetorical and possibly empty.

Pragmatically, on the other hand, we can look at religion it its role of shaping and guiding the development of public morality. In other chapters of this book we will show that good religion will be essential to ataining a sustainable future. Whether future generations keep it and evolve religios practice to support a mindful and sustainable material culture. I care less about whether you believe in God or not than about how you might try to impose that belief on me.

If you trace the foundations of pragmatism through Peirce to both Kant and Hegel, you will realize the importance of the necessary conditions for knowing that we cannot effectively question because it is necessary to even ask questions. All of these philosophers predate the important scientific discoveries of relativity and quantum mechanics and so they can be forgiven for coming to a more absolutist position than current science finds empirically. If the Absolute is contained a the Universe defined as all that any knower can possibly know, then I think we can accept a certain sense of absolute because it is really the same one we find in the philosophy of mathematics. In physics as with Peircian semiotic, the final interpretation is more of an asymtotic attractor in the infinite (potentially) future.

It is frustrating that so many important fields of inquiry that a deeply tied to human behavior and evolved social structures are in no way approaching any concensus on the truth. Economists, political scientists and philosophers are all over the map and if there is a global understanding, something like the standard model of physics, nobody can tell you what it is. Or more to the point, the truth is ideologically contested. The funamentalist atheists have little more to offer here than the religious proponents because there is nothing to be known a priori, or at least not in current terms.

Our thesis is that Kantian synthetic a priori isn't really a priori be emerges in a particular kind of emergent, embodied mind. It is one thing to point out that we understand spacial-temporal coordination of solid bodies because that's what we are at some level of emergence. All of our biological cousins also solve practical problems of coodinating in time and space in order to eat, sleep, reproduce. Species whose individuals hunt and/or are hunted will have a vast array of evolved behaviors, some active and direct and others perceptual and regulatory. That sort of thing is so deep in our beings that it is hardly surprising that it appears as a kind of transcendant knowledge as Kant describes. I note that Kant's picture is only wrong in the same way that Newton is wrong, it isn't a complete picture but it is the best that can be expected in the historical context, that is, given what they knew then.

Kant and later the pragmatists already have a bead on the reductionists. It isn't actually that clear whether Plato was a reductionist but later Platonists certainly took it that way. Pythagorous inspired more of a mystical reverence for what the math meant, and combined with the views of the early atomists we already have the ingredients of quantum mechanics. If you ask me what I have faith in, it is that the reason that math works so well in modelling the world is that at some deep level there is nothing but a mathematical description. Kant is already able to show in his time that reductionism is fatally flawed because it anticipates an exact and complete description of the world as scientific law. For that law to be law it has to be held up by some framework that is beyond anything we can possibly experience. There can be no Laplace's daemon that iterates the world equation, the Universe is such that it just exists and we are just in some part of that vastness.

In particular we are in a part where the conditions for self awareness are present and it actually has developed. We can guess that our part is not unique in this and we may or may not be able to contact any other minds. What certainly is clear is that if God exists, (S)He expects us to read H(er)is mind, and that any claim of direct contact is suspect unless it is personal. It is a deep and interesting question to ask whether other minds, that may have even developed where physics is different (locally, say inside a neutron star as an example) and intuitions of space and time also different. My conjecture is that they might have different intuitions based on distinct phenomenology, but that mathematics itself is more basic. An alien intelligence might start in a different place with different intuitions and tools, but must converge on the same insights in some way. If we encountered such aliens and learned to communicate well enough to debate math, physics and philosophy, we might have different insights but we could confirm each others unique work in explicite isomorphisms or by extending the science on one or both sides.