Friday, October 05, 2007

Flimsy Sketch of an Ironclad Universe

I would call this 'An Argument for the Necessity of the Universe', riffing off the WMU post where I've been commenting, but I don't really have any arguments to offer. Just a nice picture. Here's how it looks:

The world (universe) is essentially spatiotemporal. Each so-called 'possible world' constitutes a different form the physical manifold might take -- a way the world could be. Collectively, they exhaust the possibilities. That is, the world must instantiate one of them. The manifold is given; all that varies is its form -- but it must take some form or other. Big or small, the one necessity is that it is something, rather than nothing at all.

Pretty, no? (Admittedly, there's still the question why it takes this form rather than some other.)


  1. If everything exists then that would be the second most simple thing to explain the most simple being "nothing exists".
    Anythign else requiresthe universe to have more and more variables that beg to be explained.

  2. your image puts alot of emphasis on the spatio part of the universe. What if I asked for an image of time? (loose association: you should see Tarkovsky's Stalker if you ever get a chance)

  3. Oh, I meant to include the temporal dimension in my talk of the manifold's "form".

  4. I like how the infinite manifold seems to imply you would subjectively live forever (a curse or a blessing of course).

    I wonder if any philosophers or scientists have explored the implications (all those crazy kids who take risks were right hehe).

  5. I'm not sure about that - each moment only occurs at that one time, after all. It is not repeated at all other times, or anything like that. Compare: supposing that space is infinite, it doesn't follow that I am infinitely large. I am spatially and temporally bounded. It remains true at other times and places that I am over here, but that does not mean that I am everywhere.

  6. Richard,

    The world could have two spatial dimensions, right? Or six temporal dimensions? Or three spatial dimensions and no temporal dimensions (a so-called time-slice), right?

    So why not a universe with no temporal and no spatial dimensions?

  7. Would it then be a dimensionless point, at least, rather than nothing at all?

  8. My point is related to personal identity which you were looking at here . here is a fun quiz

    the Ship of Theseus thought experiment when applied to humans shows we clearly don’t see identity as a matter of our component atoms, and your thought experiment does damage to the 'bodiless soul' argument - so what that leaves is psychological continuity.

    Now consider that there are an infinite number of Richards all identical but as time goes on making very marginally different choices.

    Are you more continuous with the you who is crushed into jam by a bus accident OR are you more continuous with the you who just misses being killed? And there will ALWAYS be a you who avoids being killed. (Of course there might be a slow deterioration but I’ll skip that for now)

    It doesn’t matter that they are in 'different universes' firstly because that concept is not entirely coherent and secondly and more importantly because this is just a simulation of a teleportation hypothesis. (i.e. a 'you' is created and that you is psychological continuous from you now so you might be willing to 'teleport')


    It has been suggested that there are for example 10 dimensions and that this is just what happens when you do that. Also apparent directionality of time could just be a side effect of the removal of contradictions. Time isn’t all that dissimilar to a space dimension.

    Is a dimentionless point more than nothing? afteral it is mathmatically speaking = ?*0*0*0*0

  9. Where did the "infinite number of Richards" come from? (Are you thinking of the Lewisian 'multiverse', whereby every possible manifold really exists? That is no part of my picture.)

  10. well statistically in an infinite universe a you with good continuality to you now would exist again somwhere

    but anyway yeah your right, I missed the point. Your possible worlds as an entirely theoretical concept just throws up a huge contradiction sign in my head, nevermind.

  11. It's an interesting side issue, though. We may think that mere qualitative psychological similarity is not enough to secure the sort of 'personal identity' we care about. We may also care about causal connections. That is, any future 'me' must causally depend upon the present me, such that my present decisions will influence how they turn out. Mere fluky clones would not qualify on that count.

  12. hmmm...
    there might be a difference between what we care about and what we subjectively experience, although in some ways that sounds 'crazy'. (if the unit of analysis in your moral system, e.g. utilitarianism is an aspect of subjective experience)

    I guess a person with that position sees themselves as most importantly "the sum of my free will decisions" Maybe spilling out into their effects on others (is this required? maybe it is?) which is actually a reasonably attractive position ('I will live on in your thoughts...' - not the thoughts of me per se, but the thoughts of what I have chosen to do).

  13. I like "nothing exists" as the ultimate explanation. Very simple and elegant. It's just a shame it's so obviously wrong. But "everything exists" isn't a bad second best.

    I don't see any reason to treat the manifold as a given. Seems less arbitrary to assume 'all possible worlds' includes all possible manifolds. What ties all the different worlds together isn't some common physical manifold but the fact that they can all be described without contradiction (i.e. each is a self-consistent logical/mathematical system). Nothing existing corresponds to an empty system.

    Whether or not the other possible worlds really exist, doesn't make any practical difference to us. I prefer to say they exist, just because it seems simpler. What does make a practical difference is the 'measure' that determines the relative probabilities of different worlds. This affects what we expect the future to be, since we expect our future to correspond to that of a probable world (a world with large measure) consistent with our past. And it would also go towards explaining why we are in this particular world (i.e. because it is a probable one).

    Whether or not "nothing existing" was possible is equivalent to whether the measure of the empty world is zero. I can't think of any way to attempt to get at the answer to that question.


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