Why Does Everything Exist?

This is the second one, hope you enjoy.

Regardless of what one thinks of Heidegger, or his philosophy, he does raise a very important question, i.e. why does everything exist? He calls this the most dangerous question in existence and this may, perhaps, be due to his own philosophy, seeing how, if there is nothing more than meets the eye about the Universe, thinking about why all we might-not-have-beens have, for so long now wondered the Earth, which in itself is a gigantic might-not-have-been, which is really only a small spec of the Universe, the ultimate might-not-have-been. That progression of thinking is the definition of a man walking in the darkness. A man who walks in the light, however, need not fear the darkness and should be excited by the idea of exploring the land about him, because, if he is skilled in what he does, he will always find the way back. “All roads lead to Rome,” was a saying widely professed by many men of old, how much more so do all roads of thought lead to the Eternal City, where the Sun does not set, as long as he who walks them does not stray into the outer darkness?

When trying to find the causal thread that brings us into existence, it is useful to start with ourselves. Though we perhaps may not know ourselves the best (otherwise Socrates’ γνὀθι σεαυτὀν would make no sense), we are able to trace, rather easily the causal progression of our own existence. For myself, I was brought into this world by two parents, one man and one woman, on my birthday. I believe that the reader will find his or her own experience to be, for the most part, like mine, though I do not suppose that all or most were born on the same day. Each of my parents, my father as well as my mother, were brought into existence by their own parents, one man and one woman, on their birthdays. One could go on for several thousand pages about the parents of their parents and their parents in turn and so on and so forth, granted that they had a large enough family tree (which I do not have) and knew all the languages in which their family tree would have to be recorded (sadly, I do not have this either). However, after the several thousand pages, which I must skip due to lack of research, I would trace my existence back, through a long chain of derivations) to a rather surprisingly small group of people living a long time ago, the first group of humans.

From there, the theory of Evolution would guide us to find that man was evolved from a creature that shares common traits with both apes and modern humans. How this creature came to be, I would leave to the people who have made it their lives’ study to find these things and trust their conclusion that they came from a very primitive one-cell organism. Then, they would tell me that this organism was somehow formed from materials in the Earth. From there, they would tell me that every material element was once in the core of a star, long since exploded, which means that I ultimately derive my existence from an exploding star (an awe-inspiring thought, in my mind). From there, they would tell me that a nebula was what formed the star, which in term was formed by this and that (I forget the names) and ultimately trace my existence back to the beginning of the Universe. The latest theory is that the Universe was started from a flash of energy, which was converted (somehow) to matter and anti-matter, which makes up everything. Surely, many years from now, they will be able to tell that there was something else which caused the flash of energy to occur and so on and so forth.

It would seem, therefore, that my search has been useless, because I have found my own existence to have been a direct derivation of a flash of energy, which modern science cannot find a cause for. Science and scientific thinking, then, is to no avail. However, I have constructed a very long change of interlocking causes in my quest and have stopped at one particular link, whose preceding link seems to be invisible. Where science fails, however, thought must pick up. At this point, I have a long chain and I know that the chain continues on, but what is the next link?

There are three possibilities. First, there could be a set of links that are invisible, which connect the first visible link (the flash of energy) to the last (me at this moment). This view obviously cannot stand up to logic. If the chain of my existence is ultimately coming back to myself, then I must be living in a dream, because I know that other human beings cease to exist without causing a flash of energy which starts a new Universe.

Second, it could be that there is simply no end to the chain. The flash of energy was caused by another, previous, Universe that was radically sucked into itself and triggered a violent explosion. That Universe would have to have been created in a way similar to the current and so on and so forth ad infinitum. Some modern scientists have actually upheld this belief in trying to explain the origin of the Universe. Though it does explain the origin of this Universe, however (without a hint of fact), it does not explain the origin of the Universe and, hence, my own existence. Clearly, if we are to believe that strict laws guide the Universe as our scientists tell us, then we cannot hold fast to this view either.

Finally, there would have to be some cause that had a very different property from all the others. This Cause would be uncaused. This Cause, then, would be the ultimate origin of my existence. However, not only my existence or even human existence, because Evolution interconnects all the matter in the Universe, so this Cause would have to be the one Uncaused Cause that created all things.

The reader familiar with Aquinas should have seen my ploy for some time now. However, though I did not purpose from the beginning to end up in Aquinas’ arms, there is really no other path that we can take. The ultimate cause of why I and everything else exists is because there is an Uncaused Cause that has brought everything into existence. This Cause will hitherto be referred to as the Demiurge, or the Craftsman. In having bumped upon Aquinas one must not really stop at him, but rather examine the source of his reasoning, upon which we would learn that it is derived from Aristotle. In its turn, Aristotle’s thinking is derived from Plato. In Plato’s Timaeus, the Demiurge is that which has always existed and which will always exist, the Α and Ω, so to speak. If we are to take Plato’s thinking as valid, the first link, which anchors all the other links, is more like a hand. As to why Plato says that this Uncaused Cause is a rational and self-conscious being, I must cede to Plato, since I have neither the wisdom nor the time to explain it for myself.

In the Timaeus, Plato goes on to state that the Demiurge is entirely good and, because of this reason, created everything that exists, because He has no shade of jealousy in His heart. It is quite clear that a very obvious parallel can be made between the Demiurge and the Good in the Republic. If, then, the Demiurge is the Good, which would necessitate the statement that the Demiurge is good and His heart holds no jealousy, He must then hold love in His heart. Plato then goes on to state that he made a separate Universe of the Forms, which seems to be a self-contradiction with the Republic, where the Forms flow from the Good. In the two choices set between us, the option given in the Republic seems to make more sense than the one given in the Timaeus, since Plato’s whole corpus relies on the idea that following the Forms to their end leads us to the Good, union with which (eudaimonia, which is present as a term first not in Aristotle, but in Plato’s Phaedo 115d) should be the goal of our lives.

Quite surprisingly, there is a religion that fits in very well with this mode of thinking. It is none other than Judaism. Within Judaism, God, Who is perfect, good, and all-powerful creates the world out of nothing. Given these two converging spiritual authorities, one must wonder as to why God created the world. The obvious answer comes to us through Neo-Platonists as well as the Bible itself, the idea that goodness shares goodness. It would seem, therefore, that God created all of creation because of the goodness of His heart, which should say something terrifying to us concerning how often we use it as an ironic statement.

Of course, the question of whether the creation was needed to be created by God should be treated at this point. Some people within the Scholastic tradition have argued that God’s goodness is like the sun, which cannot shine only for itself, but which must light up everything around it with its rays. Of course, accepting this conclusion would deny one of our premises, because if we are to say that God is perfect (having crossed from Plato into the Christian world, we should use Anselm’s definition of God as our guiding principle), then He must not lack anything, but if he must create the world, then its non-creation would leave him lacking the world, which would make Him not perfect. Therefore, the creation of everything must be taken as a voluntary choice. Of course, the fact that compulsion in itself is antithetical to love and goodness is a very obvious point as well.

At this point, one may ask about God’s cause. It is obvious that if God is to be defined as the Uncaused Cause, then it would follow that He has no cause, but an argument that has been made before is that God is God’s own cause. Though we can use language to construct this sentence, it is essential to understand that it has no logical meaning. It is a lot like asking for the beginning point in a theoretical line or trying to disprove the omnipotence of God by trying to argue that God can never create a rock heavier than He can lift. It cannot be refuted because it stands outside of logic to begin with, but to stray outside of logic would be, for our purposes, to wander into the outer darkness.

It would seem, therefore, that the question regarding why everything exists is dangerous on two different levels for Heidegger. First, it sprays everything with an air of hopelessness, knowing that there are useless chunks of useless everything everywhere (useless here is to be contrasted with purposeful). After all, how can one have a hopeful view of the Universe if Hope has been removed from it (i.e. the Eternal Hope, Jesus Christ)? Second, it logically leads to a philosophy that clashes very violently with Heidegger’s. For those of us who are not Heidegger, however, the question of the cause of everything is not only not dangerous, but highly beneficial, if we follow where our logic takes us, because it leads us, by two different roads, into the arms of Christ and Christianity, which gives us hope. In addition, as another of Aquinas’ Five Ways dictates, this Uncaused Cause that we have accepted to mean God is also the purpose-giver for everything, so if He is the ultimate Cause of my existence, He is also the ultimate Giver of my purpose, which is to bind my will to Him, or as St. Augustine most beautifully puts it, “you have made us for Yourself, o Lord, and our hearts are restless until they rest in You.”


2 comments on “Why Does Everything Exist?

  1. davor says:

    I am not sure that I understand this properly: ”Clearly, if we are to believe that strict laws guide the Universe as our scientists tell us, then we cannot hold fast to this view either.” Do you suppose that the natural laws begin and end together with a universe, so there would be no laws to guide next big bang after a big crunch?

    • I guess I was going for a little irony there. What I mean is that if there is an infinite regress, there is still a problem regarding where the “first” Universe came about. If one believes the law of conservation of matter, there is no way one can believe in infinite regress.

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