Proof Universe Came From Nothing?



Consider the following proof:

(1) Let the Universe be defined as the set of all things.

(2) It is impossible for a thing to come from itself. (You can't be your own parent)

(3) 2 implies a set of things cannot contain its own source.

(4) For all things X:

   (5) Assume the Universe came from X.

       (6) 1 implies X is a member of the Universe

       (7) 3 implies X cannot be the source of the Universe

   (8) 5 and 7 contradict - therefore 5 must be false.

   (9) 8 implies the Universe did not come from X.

(10) 4 implies For all X, the Universe did not come from X

(11) 10 implies the Universe Came From Nothing.

How would you characterize this reasoning? Does the reasoning hold? What is a counterargument? How does this reasoning relate to historical positions in philosophy and logic?

Andrew Tomazos

Posted 2012-09-12T17:04:47.197

Reputation: 195


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 . So your proof will have to be much more rigorous (including logic and set axioms) to work.

– Koeng – 2012-09-13T18:22:56.763

I 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



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.


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.


Posted 2012-09-12T17:04:47.197

Reputation: 1 164

Good answer, +1. Besides, we have the transposition from logical to ontological. That kind of argument requires the universe existence to obey the laws of logic, which may not be the case. – Koeng – 2012-09-12T19:18:45.580

@Koeng: What is an example of something that does not obey the laws of logic? I thought everything obeyed the laws of logic by definition. – Andrew Tomazos – 2012-09-12T19:32:09.023

@user1131467 I have just answered something related: . We don't know really what is the relation between logic and the universe. Logic works very well, but that doesn't mean we can assume the universe has to obey it. Gödel incompleteness theorem, for example, is based on a variation of the statement "This affirmation is false", which indicates some limit of logic.

– Koeng – 2012-09-12T19:46:48.043

@Koeng: Logic (like mathematics) can ("only") infallibly state implication. That is to say if A->B and always A then always B. There is only one premise A however that we can say with 100% certitude (I think therefore something is). My premise 2 may be false. Maybe there is a time loop in spacetime and someone is their own parent for example. However most people would accept premise 2 as true. I want to show that if you accept premise 2 for whatever reason, than it inexorably leads to the conclusion 11. Refuting 11 is to refute 2, always. – Andrew Tomazos – 2012-09-12T20:14:36.943

@user1131467 I understand, and overall I agree with that. But that is already inside logic, accepting its structure. Inside logic, everything is fine. The issue is that for you to use logic like that to conclude things about the universe you have to assume first that the universe behaves in the same way logic does. So there is a hidden premise, which is: (0) Logical conclusions necessarily lead to ontological truths. Another thing philosodad was right on is that "you can't use concepts relating to time and space outside of time and space". So you don't need a time loop for (2) to be false. – Koeng – 2012-09-12T20:40:08.990

@user1131467 I think you may have missed a minor point. Premise 1 and 2 do not conclude 11, they conclude that the universe was not generated by a "thing". You still must show the equivalence between "nothing" and "not a thing"--what do you mean by these terms? A formal argument requires strong definitions, and you do not have them. – philosodad – 2012-09-13T14:27:04.370

@philosodad: I consider "nothing", "no thing", "not thing" and "not a thing" synonyms. – Andrew Tomazos – 2012-09-13T15:19:08.677

@user1131467 Given that I am perfect, and given that there can be only one perfect person, I'm the only perfect person in the world. If you ask, "what does it mean to be perfect" and I answer "It means to be me", do you think there might be a flaw in my proposal? – philosodad – 2012-09-13T18:49:56.183

@user1131467 Also (see edited answer) it isn't clear that the universe is a member of the set of all things, because it has unique properties distinct from the properties of all other things. – philosodad – 2012-09-13T20:09:27.697

@philosodad: Well two things, you are stating the conclusion as true without qualifying them with a condition of your two premises being true. Also you need to define the words you use in your premises if there is some controversy over what they may mean in the context. What words have I used that are unclear? "thing", "any thing", "some thing", "no thing" ? I consider the definition of these words uncontroversial. thing is any entity. It is the "base class" of all in the universe, all that exists, and the universe itself. – Andrew Tomazos – 2012-09-13T20:10:16.157

@user But the definition of these words is neither simple nor uncontroversial, nor is it clear that the universe is a thing in the same sense that things inside the universe are things. You are using the definition of "thing" the same way that I'm using "perfect", that is, I'm tailoring the definition to make my argument work, rather than basing my argument on strong definitions. – philosodad – 2012-09-14T13:35:26.730

@user1131467 also, if an argument is of the form "given x, then y" then it is qualified on a condition that x is true. That's what "given" means. – philosodad – 2012-09-14T13:38:56.880

@philosodad: In the broader context of your comment you did qualify it but in the body of the answer "it means to be me" there is none - but ok, a nitpick, fine. Than by any definition of perfect if your premise is true than so is the conclusion. By almost any definition of things my argument follows. Give me an example of a definition of thing that it doesn't work. If you are implying that a set of things is not a thing, or the set of all things is not a thing - than I would consider that a strange position tailored for counterargument. – Andrew Tomazos – 2012-09-14T19:04:16.430

@user1131467 No problem: A thing is something that can be said to exist within the space time continuum. Therefore, the space time continuum itself is not a thing. Your turn. Defend how the space time continuum itself--which creates new space and time constantly--is a "thing". – philosodad – 2012-09-14T22:41:18.380

@user1131467 Definition 2: A "thing" is something that can be seen, from the perspective of a human, to be a discrete composition of ordinary matter. Everything else is "stuff" which seems to follow different and largely unknown rules--antimatter, dark matter, dark energy, etc. While 2 is true of "things", it is not known whether it applies to every category of "stuff". The universe is composed of both stuff and things, so the 2 cannot apply to the universe. I can do this all day... if I were you, I'd define my own terms. – philosodad – 2012-09-14T22:49:57.857

1@philosodad: Statement 1 is a definition, not a premise - as such I assert you cannot assign it true or false, you can only argue that you don't understand what it means. All 1 says is that you can replace occurences of the word "universe" with "all things" or "everything" in the body of the proof - without changing the semantics of the original proof. I assert my proof is independent of the definition of thing. Whatever your definition of thing is the proof works, even in the narrowest or broadest sense. (provided everything and nothing are literally derived fromyour definition of thing). – Andrew Tomazos – 2012-09-15T01:14:04.870

@philosodad: I implicitly consider a set of things also a thing by definition. That is a fair comment, and I agree it is a required constraint on the definition of thing for the proof to be valid. – Andrew Tomazos – 2012-09-15T01:27:50.453

@user1131467 how do you consider the set of all things to be a thing without defining thing or set? That's just an assertion--I submit that the person who doesn't know what your statement means is not me, it's you. You have to use a set theory that allows a set to be a member of itself without encountering Russel's paradox... so which formal set theory are you using? – philosodad – 2012-09-15T01:48:31.060

@user1131467 more so, the conclusion you derive is invalid. The correct conclusion is that the universe was not generated by a thing--even if I accept P1, P2, and the unspoken P3. That is not the same as saying it was generated by nothing. You must show that the universe was generated at all, your unspoken P4. I could also argue that if I assume that something cannot be generated by nothing, P1 is simply contradicted and cannot be true. There simply are no tidy proofs about the origins of the universe that can be expressed in English. – philosodad – 2012-09-15T02:53:18.083

@philosodad: Russel's paradox simply asks whether the set of all things that do not contain themselves, contains itself. If yes, than it leads to a contradiction. If no, it also leads to a contradiction. This is no more interesting or relevant than "This statement is false". We can have a simple definition of set and thing and still leave this part of set membership undefined. – Andrew Tomazos – 2012-09-15T02:53:50.003

@philosodad: If something is not generated than I than this is the same as coming from nothing. What is an example of something that is not generated but does not come from nothing? – Andrew Tomazos – 2012-09-15T03:03:04.220

@user1131467 Interesting. Well, if all sets are things, than the set of all things outside the universe is itself a thing and is inside the universe. Except that it isn't. Ah, well. – philosodad – 2012-09-15T03:03:06.990

@user1131467 the universe is an example of something that is not generated and does not come from nothing, according to your proof. – philosodad – 2012-09-15T03:03:42.857

@philosodad: There is nothing outside the universe by definition, so your sentence makes no sense. – Andrew Tomazos – 2012-09-15T03:04:10.710


let us continue this discussion in chat

– philosodad – 2012-09-15T03:05:49.797

@philosodad: My proof shows that the universe comes from nothing, so it is not a valid example. (not "does not come from nothing") – Andrew Tomazos – 2012-09-15T03:05:56.433


I would characterize it as an empty sequence of syllogisms that only superficially resembles something that anyone calls a proof. The relation "comes from" is vague, and it is used in ordinary speech to refer to links between objects we observe--- so a donkey comes from it's parents because we observe donkeys and parents.

When applying this relation symbol to the universe, one is making an error, in that the different things that the universe could come from cannot be distinguished observationally from one another. So there is no meaning one can assign to this argument, it is a meaningless sequence of words.

This is the position of the physicists and the logical positivists. It is not the position of philosophers, which is why one can ignore almost everything in the whole field of philosophy.

I should point out that it is ridiculous to phrase arguments of this form in logical proof form, as all the deduction going on is of the trivial Aristotelian variety. The nontrivial aspects of logic involve quantification, and this is not included in any non-mathematical logical system, which makes those systems a hinderance rather than a help. Aristotle didn't develop anything even remotely close to something which one should call a real logic.

Ron Maimon

Posted 2012-09-12T17:04:47.197

Reputation: 1

By your reasoning the question "Where did the universe come from?" is a meaningless sequence of words, because you cannot "apply the relation symbol to the universe". – Andrew Tomazos – 2012-09-12T18:20:31.563

@RonMaimon: is your statement tantamount to saying that when speaking of properties of aggregate systems (concieved roughly as collections of objects), it is forbidden to consider the universe as a system? Or rather, do you mean that that uniquely among systems, it is forbidden to consider the universe as one of the subjects of a two-place relation between systems? – Niel de Beaudrap – 2012-09-12T19:12:28.317

1@user1131467: I mean, stop using words which pretend to have meaning. Give me a procedure to make sense impressions which will tell me where the universe came from, or else stop wasting people's time. – Ron Maimon – 2012-09-13T08:01:36.957

@RonMaimon: Give me an example of a possible universe in which a "procedure to make sense impressions which tell you where the universe came from" exists and roughly what that example procedure is. There are many abstract concepts that transcend sensory experience, higher mathematics for example. No one asks for a sensory experience of "every integer has an additive inverse", but we can infer it without our senses. – Andrew Tomazos – 2012-09-13T15:27:17.840

2@user1131467: I can't, there isn't any such universe, so "where did the universe come from" is a nonsense question, it makes no sense, I never ask it, nor do I consider it meaningful to talk about, and stop wasting people's time – Ron Maimon – 2012-09-13T16:27:53.593

2@NieldeBeaudrap: I just mean the relation "come from" doesn't mean anything at all when applied to the universe and something else. It's nonsense, and there is nothing to consider. – Ron Maimon – 2012-09-13T16:38:51.490

@RonMaimon: The majority of people do not consider it a nonsense question. In fact it is one of the central questions of philosophy. If you think philosophy is a waste of time, than stop hanging out on philosophy sites. – Andrew Tomazos – 2012-09-13T17:06:57.037

3@user1131467: I don't think all of philosophy is a waste of time, just this question and related questions. When the "majority of people" come to understand this, the field will make some progress, so I just tell them, and wait. – Ron Maimon – 2012-09-13T18:33:02.160

@RonMaimon: From your previous assertion about the almost whole field of philosophy and the last one, one can only conclude you think philosophy comprises almost wholly of these kind of matters. "Waste of time" is so subjective and even more void of meaning than wondering where X may "come from". By your own assertions, it's not the OP that's wasting people's time, since he is with its similars, but you are, and not only that, but "waiting" and losing your own time and that of others. – pepper_chico – 2012-10-24T11:21:44.310


I think your argument is essentially correct, but that you have to take care in how you describe the universe. Do you mean everything that is, or everything that ever was? Or, bearing relativity in mind, are you interested not in matter but in the collection of events which have happened throughout space-time?

Consider a simplified account of the universe as just "everything that ever was". Then you potentially have a problem of double-counting. I am made up of many particles. I have not always existed, nor will I always exist; nor am I identical to the particles that make me up at any given point in time. I am rather a pattern of information in those particles, and furthermore a dynamical system supported on them, like the crest of a wave on the ocean. But nevertheless, we're interested in the particles that make me up, most of which have been around for a very long time. Does it make sense to distinguish between the particles that make me up now, as they are now, from the way they were two hundred years ago? Of course, particles aren't really distinguishable, so it doesn't make a lot of sense to talk about individual particles except to the extent that they are accidentally localised and trackable as crests in the particle field. And the gloss of "two hundred years ago" ignores the relativity of simultaneity. So in fact you have to be careful about what you mean by "the universe" and "ever was".

I think the most careful approach to talking about the Universe, or anything that might be 'caused', is to talk about "all dynamics". What do I mean by 'dynamics' in this case? I'm going to be evasive but inclusive; whenever anything which causes another thing to happen, that happening is 'dynamics'. We might refer to that happening as an 'event', as would be typical in relativity theory; matter, antimatter, energy, and so forth correspond to relationships between events. That is to say, any causation corresponds to an event; and the Universe is the set of all events and relationships between them.

A category theorist would describe the events in the universe as objects, and the relations between them as arrows — assuming simple two-place relations between events, that is. Anything which took part in causing the universe would have to be an arrow pointing into the Universe "from nowhere"; and it's not clear what the point of entertaining such things would be other than to give the Universe a "cause" just for its own sake. It's not very strongly motivated. Perhaps if one insists on complicated many-place relationships between events a more sophisticated argument than this would be necessary, but ultimately I think that a "relationship between events" in which some events are "missing", in order to allow these relationships to "cause the Universe", is contrived.

Now your reasoning applies directly. The Universe U is the set of all events and relationships between them. If something else E were to cause the Universe, this would seem to mean that the 'causing of the Universe' is an event which E relates to. But if E is a relationship on events, it seems that it should be part of the universe. If you suppose (as you've postulated) that no part of the Universe can have caused itself (along with the rest of the universe), it then follows that nothing can have caused the Universe.

The weakest parts of this argument are your postulate that nothing can be its own cause, and the notion that I've used that "the causation of the Universe" is an event. It is possible that the Universe is something sufficiently complicated that it doesn't make sense to talk about a singular event as "the creation of the Universe". But then it doesn't necessarily make sense to talk about a singular cause. Perhaps we should consider instead a collection of 'initial' events for the Universe, which taken together constitute the creation of the Universe; but then anything which caused them would fall subject to the same argument.

Niel de Beaudrap

Posted 2012-09-12T17:04:47.197

Reputation: 9 640


6 is broken.

You cannot derive from the definition of the Universe as the set of all things, that the Universe is itself a thing.

It's easy to see why one might make this mistake. After all, if the Universe isn't a thing, then what is it? The problem is that what you are actually saying in premise 1 is that the term "Universe" is used to refer to the set of all things. This does not entail that there is such a thing as a Universe, any more than a mention of unicorn entails that there is such a thing as a unicorn.

The inference of 11 from 10 is also broken. Since you are talking about things in terms of sets, "Nothing" would by convention refer to the empty set. While there are acknowledged problems with the concept of a "universal set", every axiomatic set theory will account for an "Empty Set". Therefore, any Universe or "universal set" will necessarily contain the empty set. By saying that the Universe came from the Empty set, you are refuting the very logic that you used to draw your conclusion.

A more elegant formulation of the idea that I believe you are getting at is known as Russell's antimony. Different branches of logic and set theory propose different solutions to the apparent paradox. Most involve some form of distinction between a "set" and a "class" or a very particular definition of a universe (such as a Grothendieck Universe). If you google any of these terms you will find plenty of information that you can use to twist your brain into deeper circles.


Posted 2012-09-12T17:04:47.197

Reputation: 1 429

The main complaints here are definitional, not structural. Specifically I can define the universe as the collective every thing, the universe as a thing, and "nothing" as synonymous with "no thing", "not a thing" - and to "come from nothing" is synonymous to "not come from a thing". You are making up and imposing your own definitions, rather than using the authors. – Andrew Tomazos – 2012-09-21T08:47:04.293

@user1131467, I am using the definitions that are implied by the language in the "proof". When one speaks of the "set of all things", I think it is safe to assume that the common definition of a "set" is valid within the context of our discussion. When every single formal set theory equates the concept of "nothing" to the "empty set", I believe it is fair to make that further jump as well. Unless you are prepared to redefine every word in your post, you have to accept that readers will rely on their commonly accepted academic definitions in order to proceed with a discussion. – smartcaveman – 2012-09-21T08:54:31.013

In general, I believe that if you took the time to express the "proof" in formal first order logic, it would become clear that there its current formulation involves unresolved blend of first-order logic and unquantified predicate calculus. – smartcaveman – 2012-09-21T08:57:39.870

@user1131467, You have the right to define anything however you'd like. The problem is that the philosophical community recognizes predefined meanings for the terms you are using and there has been extensive study on the relations between these meanings. If your objective is to declare your cleverness, then congratulations.. However, if you are actually interested in finding out more about how people much smarter than either of us have addressed the same problems over the past 200 years, you will be get a lot further by starting from their established interpretations. – smartcaveman – 2012-09-21T09:01:26.290

Your implication is that my definitions are somehow unusual, which I refute. The synonyms listed above are fair and uncontroversial. Once you say the "empty set" (which you did, not me) you have to define it, and you also have to define whether or not it is a thing. If you say it is a thing, than it cannot be nothing - and visa versa. So long as you pick one the proof remains intact. And either way, whether the universe came from the empty set and/or nothing is practically equivalent and the distinction is uninteresting. – Andrew Tomazos – 2012-09-21T09:18:07.547

@user1131467, Every single formal axiomatic set theory that is academically studied accounts for the "empty set". Read: .

– smartcaveman – 2012-09-21T09:22:28.627

@user1131467, perhaps our disagreement is actually in the definition of a "thing". I have been understanding a "thing" as any X such that X is an element of some set. Does your definition differ? – smartcaveman – 2012-09-21T09:24:10.170

@user1131467, Also, let me give you the opportunity to define "Nothing" in terms of sets, if you mean something other than "the empty set". I believe this is necessary, because this is precisely the criteria you use to define the "Universe" – smartcaveman – 2012-09-21T09:26:33.333

@user1131467, I am also taking the term "set" to a particular that is defined uniquely by its elements. If you have an alternative definition for this, please share this as well – smartcaveman – 2012-09-21T09:28:47.057

You are introducing axioms which are not assumed or relied upon. Your definition of thing is strange. I would say a thing is an existing entity. A collection (group) of things is also a thing. The collection of all things is also a thing. Nothing (no-thing) is that which is not a thing. That which does not exist. There is no need or use of set theory axioms in this context. The logic is more fundamental than that. – Andrew Tomazos – 2012-09-21T10:05:52.963

@user1131467, is a "nonexistent entity" necessarily contradictory? By your definition, it would seem that a unicorn is not a thing, because it does not exist. Am I understanding you correctly? If so, it would seem that a unicorn would have to be a "nothing"... does quantification apply to your concept of nothing? In other words, are all nothings equal? (Is a unicorn the same as a griffin, because neither are existent entities?) – smartcaveman – 2012-09-21T19:39:26.033

It's kind of beside the point isn't it? Are you suggesting existing entities can come from nonexisting entities? I would expect the answer no to be an implicit premise. – Andrew Tomazos – 2012-09-21T20:55:31.640

It isn't really beside the point at all. The absurdity of the statement "the Universe come from a unicorn and/or a griffin, which are in fact the same thing" coupled with its consistency with your definitions might help to make the error in your definitions immediately clear – smartcaveman – 2012-09-21T21:41:26.433

Coupled with an obvious premise that the universe could not have come from a nonexisting entity, the implication that the universe did not come from an existing entity is that it came from nothing. It's easy to lose sight of the fact that this is a search for truth, not some stupid word game. – Andrew Tomazos – 2012-09-22T12:56:50.603

@user1131467, You will do better on your search for truth if you use consistent semantics. – smartcaveman – 2012-09-24T16:17:14.907

My definitions are consistent. – Andrew Tomazos – 2012-09-25T02:57:31.143


This question is essentially asking: "does the set of all sets contain itself".

(1) Let the Universe be defined as the set of all things.

premise accepted

(2) It is impossible for a thing to come from itself. (You can't be your own parent)

premise debatable but accepted for the sake of arguing

(3) 2 implies a set of things cannot contain its own source.

You are arguing that the universe cannot come from itself by (2), because it's a thing. But by definition (1), universe contains all things, so it must contain itself. This contradicts with (2), thus the proof is self-contradictory

what is sleep

Posted 2012-09-12T17:04:47.197

Reputation: 139

I don't see the contradiction sorry. The universe is a thing. Something cannot come from itself. The universe cannot come from itself. I fail to see how whether or not "the universe contains itself" is relevant. I think you are conflating "contain" with "comes from". – Andrew Tomazos – 2014-08-11T22:26:10.737

You are saying the universe is a thing, and the universe is the set of all things, you have implicitly stated that the universe can "come from" itself, which contradicts with (2). – what is sleep – 2014-08-12T15:31:18.677

I'm sorry, but you are not making sense. Where did I implicitly state the universe can come from itself? I don't think X can come from X (that's a premise), as that is contrary to the very definition of "coming from". – Andrew Tomazos – 2014-08-12T17:41:05.870

According to your definition (2) and (3), A contains B implies B comes from A. Since the Universe contains itself, then it must come from itself, by your definition. – what is sleep – 2014-08-12T19:18:05.390


First of all, about your primary assumption: "Let the Universe be defined as the set of all things." it is your assumption which is not necessarily true in reality. I personally don't agree with you (and have reasons for that but examining it will be a book), as I think of the whole universe of ours as the set (or class) of all possible things --w.r.t. a background set of logics this universe being based upon-- which come to be possible (in different forms, with an eye open to evolution in the course of time) following the causality. Based on this viewpoint we can easily have universes instead of a single universe, and the number of these universes can be infinitely large, equal in number to the number of all sets of background logics upon which a self-consistent universe can be based. This is why the first assumption is misleading to me, it can at most trivially say "Let the Universe be defined as the set of all things in that universe", and although of course only the trivial expressions are the absolute truths, but such a trivial assumption would make the rest of proof all lame. You say this universe comes not from inside itself, trivially true, but there is still a possibility that it comes from a group of elements of another universe! Note that according to the definition of universe above, not all distinct universes would be contradictory w.r.t. each other. (Mention that causality needs a starting point and one set of background logics can yield different universes according to different starting points for their causality chain. Although not all consistent universes are required to have exactly a same set of background logics, one universe may be able to exist as a sub-universe to the other although it can exist on its own as well. Also there may exist universes which are just partly contradictory.)

However, you can then talk about the class of all universes and bring again a similar proof that the class of all universes would have come to existence from nothingness. It is just this point that believers in God introduce God as the source of all sources, the cause for all causes, the reason for all reasons, the creator of all possible sets of logics, the organizer of all the possible sets of initial conditions, the originator of causality, and the creator of all the infinity of universes including ours. For this to be able to be true but the believers in God need to introduce him as something out from the set of all universes already defined, so he would be for example a single perfect existence whose existence is not confined to time (all the universe had time as they had causality), so no start and no end, and this solves your problem since you will no longer need to find a parent for him! That he creates the universe from nothingness but is somewhat the same as what you have proved, there in your proof all the universe(s) should have come to existence from nothingness spontaneously and this idea of the believers in God introduce a cause for that "coming to existence", the will of God! There would of course arise then many questions on hows and whys, but this answer was only to address your question and nothing more.


Posted 2012-09-12T17:04:47.197

Reputation: 345

Statement 1 is a definition, not a premise. You can't "disagree" with it as such, you can simply say you don't understand the meaning of it. I am simply stating that when I say the word "universe" in the proof I mean the set of all things. Everything. This includes at least the physical universe, and at least every other thing that exists, at minimum. So when you say there could be other universes, this is by the definition I am using, impossible. (Clearly the set of all things must be unique.) – Andrew Tomazos – 2012-09-15T01:23:55.123

(In the same way that for example the set of all cows must be unique) – Andrew Tomazos – 2012-09-15T01:37:53.313

Ok, got it! maybe my comment could be regarded as a help to complete your answer, only, as you are giving a statement about the real world and when you say "let the universe be defined ..." one may see if it is ok to be defined such, in math everything is up to you how to define and how to assume but in reality things are different slightly! Anyway, that was only one suggestion and the proof was nice on its own, thanks – owari – 2012-09-15T17:49:18.933


By (1), Universe contains all causes, all sources, i.e., there is no cause, no source, indeed, nothing, that stands apart from, independent of, Universe.

But the proper conclusion to draw from this is not that Universe came from Nothing but rather that Universe simply is. The premise that Universe must have a "source", indeed that it is even meaningful to speak of the source of all sources, is what must be rejected.

That there is something rather than nothing is self-evident, thus Universe exists, Universe is eternal.

Alfred Centauri

Posted 2012-09-12T17:04:47.197

Reputation: 315

What does it mean for something to "simply is"? By my definition things that "simply are" are eternal and don't come from anything, in other words there is nothing that they come from, or they come from nothing. This is all synonymous by my definitions. – Andrew Tomazos – 2012-09-21T16:38:37.573

@user1131467: ex nihilo nihil fit. I think the phrase "the Universe Came From Nothing" means something other than what you intend it to. – Alfred Centauri – 2012-09-21T16:44:03.337

Well it means whatever I define it to mean in the context of my proof - you can argue my definitions are unusual, but I assert they are not. – Andrew Tomazos – 2012-09-21T20:59:14.430

@user1131467, your arbitrary assertion is irrelevant and renders your "proof" meaningless except, perhaps, to yourself. – Alfred Centauri – 2012-09-23T01:34:46.550

Well as I have now made clear my intended definitions, my proof is now meaningful to you too, as it was already to everyone else with an ounce of common sense. Doesn't come from anything is a perfectly valid synonym for comes from nothing. – Andrew Tomazos – 2012-09-23T04:42:05.843

@user1131467, your "proof" is not meaningful to me because I do not accept your "definition". You are free to assert it as I am free to reject it. Since I do, your proof is nonsense to me. Moreover, were I to accept your definition, I would then point out that you equivocate, using the the phrase "came from X" in one sense and "came from Nothing" in another. – Alfred Centauri – 2012-09-23T21:04:19.907

You are not free to reject a contextual definition. It is the speakers right to define the words they use however they intended. I define nothing as "no thing" or "not a thing" in the context of my proof. Every thing must either come from some thing or no thing by definition. Eternal things or things that "simply are" fall into the later category - as do things that do not come from any thing. It really is very clear, consistent and simple. – Andrew Tomazos – 2012-09-23T21:20:20.647

@user1131467, of course I am free to reject it. I reject it thus. It is the speakers right to speak gibberish and it is my right to reject it as such. – Alfred Centauri – 2012-09-23T21:27:00.697

I reject your rejection. As I have clearly defined the words I have used it is not gibberish. – Andrew Tomazos – 2012-09-23T21:31:45.797

@user1131467, of course you reject my rejection and, of course, I think nothing of it. – Alfred Centauri – 2012-09-23T23:36:55.140


(1) Let the Universe be defined as the set of all things.

Are we to assume naturalism then? Deities may very well be a thing that is both a thing and by general consensus transcending the physical universe. Seems like that first premise just needs some further clarification.

Now there does seem to be a ambiguity on what we are discussing here. Are we trying to prove creation ex nihilo or is coming from nothing an accidental euphemism for coming into existence uncaused.

Neil Meyer

Posted 2012-09-12T17:04:47.197

Reputation: 2 161

Say a deity created the physical universe. The Universe in (1) includes at least both the deity and the physical universe. So where did the deity come from? The proof just shows (derived from some reasonable axioms) that there has to be something that came from nothing, and that the Universe as a whole (deity included or not) came from nothing. Whether the physical universe came from nothing, or a deity that came from nothing created it, or a deity created it that came from something else that came from nothing, etc - it doesn't say. – Andrew Tomazos – 2014-07-17T11:13:56.303

As for "coming into existence uncaused", I consider that a synonym for both "coming from nothing" and likewise "being eternal". – Andrew Tomazos – 2014-07-17T11:15:17.390

@AndrewTomazos I think your conclusion should be rephrased, then - "came from nothing" and "had no beginning" do not mean at all the same thing to me. ("is eternal" implies "had no beginning", but it also implies no end, which I don't think you want to address here.) – Brilliand – 2014-07-17T19:07:56.667


Your point (2): is any god a "thing"? Because no religious person is worried with the question "where did God/some god came from?" For them, the gods may have always existed.

Is the Universe a "thing" in the same sense as us?

If the gods may have always existed, why can't the Universe?


Posted 2012-09-12T17:04:47.197

Reputation: 1 364

Yes, if a god exists, it is a thing under my definition of thing. I don't see the relevance to the proof of what questions a religious person worries about. If an eternal god created the physical universe, then that god came from nothing so collectively the universe came from nothing. Yes the Universe is both a thing and a collection of things, as is a person a thing and also a collection of things. My proof shows that something must have come from nothing, it doesn't comment on whether that was a god or a big bang or whatever else. – Andrew Tomazos – 2014-07-18T21:00:02.900

I think you're stumbled upon the term "came from". Why do it have to "came"? Universe is not an animal, a cloud, a planet. These things come, these things go. Not the universe, I guess. – Rodrigo – 2014-07-19T02:33:50.037

It can it just is not. That is if we are to believe what the cosmologists have to say. – Neil Meyer – 2014-07-19T17:34:40.733

nobody knows the final truth of the cosmologic and of the microscopic, both may be infinite, who knows they meet each other again, on the other way around? We have to believe nothing. – Rodrigo – 2014-07-19T23:52:41.250


You have proven that the argument did not come from a thing - not that it came from nothing. The other alternative reading of "did not come from a thing" is that it has always existed (which as you are making it the set of all things ever, is the more reasonable reading)

Sorry for the brief answer, late for work!


Posted 2012-09-12T17:04:47.197

Reputation: 726

Where did an eternal thing come from? It came from nothing. This seems a satisfactory answer based solely on the definition of eternal. – Andrew Tomazos – 2012-09-21T11:29:51.840

No, an eternal thing did not "come from" at all. It always was. This is different from "came from nothing".

Of course, this (in combination with the other comments on answers here) is reading like "I define the universe as coming from nothing, therefore it comes from nothing" - even when your definition of "coming from nothing" doesn't fit. – Ryno – 2012-09-21T13:14:48.740

Based on my definitions of words "not coming from anything" is synonymous with "coming from nothing". Further the proof has more substance than you give it credit for with your characterization of it as a definitional tautology. – Andrew Tomazos – 2012-09-21T13:16:28.830

Based on your definition of words, you can prove anything you like. The rest of us have a shared definition that we like to use however. Good luck with your theories. – Ryno – 2012-09-21T14:07:05.350

Your implication that my definitions are somehow uncommon is incorrect. – Andrew Tomazos – 2012-09-21T16:34:17.093

So you keep saying, but we can continue contradicting each other without adding any more explanation all day. There are many people who have told you that you are using uncommon definitions as answers to your question here, and nobody who has stepped up to say they agree. This should prove something to you, but you refuse to accept it. This makes attempting to explain something to you absolutely pointless. – Ryno – 2012-09-25T09:27:29.387

It's hardly an unbiased sample, I specifically asked for counterarguments, it is possible those that see my definitions as reasonable simply didn't have anything to say. Also those that have responded and have objections are not consistent with each other. – Andrew Tomazos – 2012-09-25T16:29:39.690


You start with 'the set of all things'. This already involves a contradiction. See Russells Set Paradox. From a contradiction anything can be proved...

Mozibur Ullah

Posted 2012-09-12T17:04:47.197

Reputation: 1

The set of all things does not contain a contradiction. Whether the set of all sets that do not contain themselves contains itself - is a self-referencing contradiction (in that if it does than it must not, or if it does than it doesn't). This is the same as "this statement is false". You wouldn't suggest I can't use the word statement and false because of this, in the same way Russells Paradox has no bearing on the proof. – Andrew Tomazos – 2012-09-21T11:21:15.050

Yes you're right I've misquoted Russell. However the point still stands. In Set Theory, formalised by ZFC you cannot form the set of all Sets. Its disallowed because of a line of reasoning that starts from Russells Paradox. This forced set theorists to invent larger set theoretic universes, like NBG where the set of all sets form a class and not a set, and grothendieck universes. Naively put, I'd say we cannot conceive of everything, whenever we try, there remains stuff outside our conceptualisation. – Mozibur Ullah – 2012-09-21T17:49:16.750

Sorry I don't accept your reasoning. The proof does not rely on ZFC set theory axioms. – Andrew Tomazos – 2012-09-21T21:01:39.170