Explaining the existence of the cosmos



The following is a reference request, not an invitation for argument. However, I do welcome argument if that's what you feel like doing.

By the "cosmos" I mean all that exists---not just physical stuff but mental stuff too, and anything else that exists. So for instance if God exists then God is a part of the cosmos.

Intuitively, it seems to me that you couldn't ever have an explanation for the existence of the cosmos. After all, if you want to explain why something exists, it seems like you should appeal to the existence of some other thing. But you can't do that with the cosmos, on pain of circularity.

But then I don't really know how to defend the premise that in order to explain something existing, you must appeal to something existing. The alternative strikes me as impossible, but I don't know how to prove it.

Are there any philosophers who take this view? If so, how do they go about defending it?


Ben W

Posted 2019-11-02T18:40:23.643

Reputation: 365

Logical reduction must ultimately rely on brute facts - facts which have no explanation.

– Nick – 2019-11-02T22:35:08.457

1Your definition of 'cosmos' will put you at odds with standard usage. Typically, 'cosmos' is reserved for the cosmic order, i.e., the ordered universe in which we live. If you're looking for a word extends to whatever exists in case there is anything outside our ordered universe, then this would typically called 'being' or something like that. God is being, but saying that God is 'part of the cosmos' could get you killed or locked up just a couple hundred years ago, and could get you released from a professorship in some corners as recently as one hundred years ago. – transitionsynthesis – 2019-11-02T23:13:58.610

The idea is similar to the cosmological argument and objections to it.

– Conifold – 2019-11-03T00:09:08.123

Is the reason there is a cosmos part of said cosmos ? It seems the concept of cosmos itself makes it difficult to formulate a meaningful question about it. – armand – 2019-12-03T12:17:32.290

Spinoza recognized that the only way to understand the existence, essence and being of the cosmos is to recognize it as 'causa sui', or cause of itself. This is not wordplay; you can work your way through Spinoza's "Ethics" Part 1 Concerning God (your Cosmos), and go through the definitions and axioms (Wikisource) or do a search for books and essays on Spinoza's 'causa sui' [there are many of them]. It takes a while to absorb it but ultimately it makes perfect sense. CMS – None – 2019-12-03T18:02:59.053

You seem to have discovered that our usual view of 'existence' is logically flawed. The next step would be to see that Nagarjuna;s view of existence is logically coherent. Your problem arises from reifying existence. At the bottom of this is 'Russell's Paradox', which you might like to examine. . . – None – 2019-12-04T13:28:50.913



This is an old question in Eastern philosophical systems and has been dealt with extensively by the Advaita Vedanta and Mahayana Buddhistic schools. I would suggest reading the Mandukya Upanishad with Gaudapada's Karika (Karika - commentary), Swami Nikhilananda's translation in his Volume 2 of The Upanishads is good for Westerners; Nagarjuna's Mulamadhamakarika, Fundamental Wisdom of the Middle Way, I prefer Jay Garfield's translation; and Suzuki's Asvaghosha, Discourse on the Awakening of Faith in the Mahayana. All deal with the theory oftentimes called the doctrine of no-origination. An online reference for the above is in Chandradhar Sharma's book A Critical Survey of Indian Philosophy which contrasts and compares the two - https://archive.org/details/IndianPhilosophyACriticalSurvey. Another reference for the above is Dasgupta's History of Indian Philosophy, volumes 1 and 2 - https://www.wisdomlib.org/hinduism

Swami Vishwananda

Posted 2019-11-02T18:40:23.643

Reputation: 3 667

Just to clarify a point - the key idea in this tradition would be that existence is not fundamental. The idea that existence comes from existence doesn't fly and is not entertained. It is not borne out by experience. For a useful presentation of the theory that is endorsed there is George Spencer Brown's 'Laws of Form' or Bradley's 'Appearance and Reality'. They share the view of Nagarjuna, and the problem is solved by making all of existence reducible. . . . – None – 2019-12-03T13:11:32.150


This is closely related to the "Cosmological Argument" for the existence of God. In one form it says that everything has a cause, the chain can't go back for ever, so the primary cause of everything must be God.

You are including God in the cosmos so as presented that argument isn't going to work out of the box.

A way out of this might be the "Ontological Argument", where you try to show that the existence of the cosmos is as mathematically necessary as the fact that 7 is a prime number. This kind of argument has been made (and of course extensively criticized) for the existence of God rather than of the cosmos but since God creates the cosmos it also works as what you're looking for-- an argument for the existence of the whole cosmos.

You asked for a reference request. The ontological and cosmological arguments go back to medieval times but a good more recent discussion is to be found in Richard Swinburne's The Existence of God and J. L. Mackie's The Miracle of Theism.


Posted 2019-11-02T18:40:23.643

Reputation: 171