If you make the supposition that no thing inside the universe could generate the universe and that every thing that exists is inside the universe than the direct conclusion is that the universe was not generated by a thing, which is *similar* to saying that it was generated by nothing.

The difficulty here is that you have to ask yourself what you mean by "thing" and "nothing" and whether "nothing" means the same thing as "not thing". The field of philosophy has historically been very interested in questions of this nature.

There are several places that this argument can be attacked. The first would be to attack the premise, and argue that there might be entities outside of the space time continuum. Platonic forms would be an example of proposed entities that exist but are not "things" inside the universe.

We could also attack the application of cause--saying that the universe "came from" something implies rules of cause and effect that only exist inside the universe itself. The universe didn't "come from" nothing, because the words "come from" have no meaning outside of the universe. That would be the scientific position... that you can't use concepts relating to time and space outside of time and space.

Based on the former point, you can't assume that a universe can't create itself. Since time, space, and the laws of cause and effect don't apply outside the universe, some form of cosmic event could be occurring inside the universe that somehow reaches outside the universe and in fact is what creates the universe. So premise 2 could be invalid.

## Edit

There is another flaw in this proof, which is that it defines the universe--that is, the space time continuum itself--as a thing bounded by the same rules as every other thing in the universe. However, there are properties of the universe which are not properties of any thing within the universe, for example, the universe itself can expand (that is, generate additional space and time) without apparently getting that space and time "from" anywhere. So it isn't clear that the universe is a "thing" in the sense that a particle is a "thing". It all comes down to definitions.

## Further Edit

Based on comments, you seem to believe that we cannot reject 11 without rejecting 2. That isn't true. As I've pointed out, we can reject 1 *or* 2. Most people reject 1, that is, the majority of humans believe that there is more to reality than the universe of things, and given the nature of the universe, 2 is not supportable when applied *to* the universe since cause and effect are only valid *within* the universe. We could point out that since anti-matter exists and moves backwards in time, 2 is invalid even *within* the universe.

Further, we could accept 1 and 2 and still reject your argument by questioning whether the universe is itself a "thing". This is a major unstated premise of your argument, and without it your argument does not hold at all. In fact, it would be just as valid to use your reasoning to show that the universe is not a thing! If you insist that the universe *is* a thing, we could point out the difficulty of having a set contain itself, since this leads to Russel's paradox, and question what version of set theory you are using and attack *that*.

The fact is, it's difficult to prove things about the origin of the universe. That's why there is a field of cosmology at all, and why the field of philosophy continues to have new ideas despite having thousands of years of literature to draw on.

4

The discussion in @philosodad's answer made me notice something else: (1) defines the universe as the set of all things and in (3) you conclude a set cannot contain its own source. But for that you have to assume the universe is also a thing, which would make the universe a member of itself. But in ZFC (current common set theory), a set cannot be a member of itself. See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Axiom_of_regularity . So your proof will have to be much more rigorous (including logic and set axioms) to work.

– Koeng – 2012-09-13T18:22:56.763I do not think math is involved here. – mick – 2012-09-14T22:02:54.400

@Koeng: I don't think that is correct. You are imposing optional defintions/axioms that are used to build up certain useful mathematical implications, but the context of my definition of "universe", "set" and "all things" are more rudimentary and I think all I am using is propositional logic and existential quantification. Put another way there are an infinite set of possible axioms that you could use in any systematic proof, it only needs to be clear which you are using so that the proof can be evaluated in the proper context. – Andrew Tomazos – 2012-09-15T00:57:39.073

2@user1131467 What I mean is that in order for your proof to be really consistent, since you are talking about borderline complex cases (universe, thing/non-thing, causation outside time, etc), you'd have to be really rigorous, including dealing with axiomatic issues of logic (and set theory). You could simply specify a so called "naive set theory", but you would end up with other paradoxes. It doesn't seem to me as a proper proof on the beginning of the universe if you simply state "I'll just use these axioms, because then my proof works", without really tackling the foundational problems. – Koeng – 2012-09-15T05:31:57.883

1@mick I'm not sure if you are refering to my comment, but in any case: logic and math are not completely separate things, specially because the former sets the foundations of the latter, including set theory. When you use propositions like "a set of all things" and syllogisms, you are talking about things that are closely related to math (even though we didn't directly cite math). On the edge of reasoning (as is in this case), it is very hard not to stumble of those related matters. – Koeng – 2012-09-15T05:42:08.407

@Koeng: If the paradox you are referring to is Russell's paradox, see my comment below on the matter. It really isn't a big deal to deal with. Following the proof doesn't need much in the way of set theory. – Andrew Tomazos – 2012-09-15T08:06:05.377

@user1131467 Yes, I was referring to that. But that isn't my point. My point is simply that if you want a rigorous proof about such a thing as the cause of the universe, you can't just dismiss it by saying it's not relevant. I mean, you may do so, but then your proof will simply be a loose one. Interesting nonetheless, but just as easily dismissed. But I think we're starting to go in circles. – Koeng – 2012-09-15T13:46:04.777

@Koeng: All Russell's paradox is asking is: Does the set of all things that contain themselves, contain itself? If yes, than its a contradiction - and if no, it's also a contradiction. This is the same as "This statement is false". If you think about it for a while, neither of these cases is really important in the context of my proof. – Andrew Tomazos – 2012-09-15T18:54:51.597

(typo in the above: should read "set of all things that do NOT contain themselves") – Andrew Tomazos – 2012-09-15T19:03:40.680

@Koeng, While I appreciate the reference to formal set theory, it is inaccurate to assert that ZFC is the only current common set theory. There is not universal agreement as to which set theory is "correct". Furthermore, you will find that in the very article you cited there is a heading "Regularity does not resolve Russell's paradox". We have to try to do a little better than this – smartcaveman – 2012-09-21T08:31:21.190

1@smartcaveman Again, not my point (but I'm willing to discuss those in a chat, if the case). My point is that if we are going to talk about things in the limit cases of logic and ultimate ontological affirmations, we have to deal with the details of foundations. Otherwise, as I said, it's just an interesting thought, without a strict rigorous base. You are exactly right that "We have to try to do a little better than this". – Koeng – 2012-09-21T18:40:02.710

@Koeng: You haven't shown how problems in the foundations of set theory have any effect on the logic of my proof. I don't think they do. – Andrew Tomazos – 2012-09-21T21:16:05.907

Looks like sound reasoning to me right up to your conclusion. The problem is found in your first statement. What you have proved is that the origin and source of existence is not a 'thing' (as Kant and the Perennial philosophy proposes). This is not the same as proving it comes from nothing. – None – 2017-10-23T10:42:06.077

@Koeng - I believe you are exactly right about this. The non-dual explanation of Origins works precisely because it resolves Russell's paradox, as is demonstrated by his colleague George Spencer Brown. A fundamental theory must resolve this paradox or fail. We cannot explain the origin of sets by reference to another set. As Kant notes we would need to reduce the categories-of-thought, thus transcend the idea of sets. – None – 2019-07-19T13:03:36.610