|In our recent debate, Leibniz argued that it's possible for nothing to have existed; therefore, there had to be an explanation for existence, which is God. I countered that it is not possible for nothing to have existed, because possibility and impossibility apply only to what already exists. The possible depends on the actual; therefore, existence could not not have existed. The question, "Why is there something rather than nothing?" is invalid, to begin with, because explanations presuppose an already existing universe and can only be formulated in terms of what exists. |
Not surprisingly, our pseudonymous Leibniz ("Dubya" for short) held the same view of possibility as the German philosopher himself, while nevertheless claiming that God exists outside of time and space as a necessary being from which all "contingent" forms of being -- i.e., material existents -- emanate. In claiming that God is a necessary being, Dubya was therefore implying that God could not not have existed. He was assigning to God the same status that Objectivists assign to existence itself. One then has to ask how God differs from existence, from the basic stuff of the universe? Well, of course, the answer is that God is a pure spirit or consciousness, whereas the basic stuff of existence is matter -- the primary constituents from which everything else is made.
So why couldn't a pure spirit exist as a necessary being that created the material constituents of the universe? I like Richard Dawkins answer, which is that since consciousness or spirit evolved from non-sentient organisms, it depends on a process of material evolution. Matter created consciousness; consciousness did not create matter. Moreover, as Rand points out, consciousness presupposes an external world; if nothing existed prior to consciousness, there could be no consciousness, because there would have been nothing to be conscious of. A consciousness conscious of nothing but itself is a contradiction in terms; before it could identify itself as consciousness, it would have to be conscious of something (other than itself).
Now Dubya is found of replying that a consciousness could be conscious of its own content (which is how he describes God) without being conscious of anything else. But the content had to come from observing something outside itself. We are able to introspect only because we have extrospected -- only because we have perceived a reality external to ourselves from which we obtain the material of introspection.
Moreover, a consciousness must have a material means of cognition -- a brain and physical sense organs -- without which it couldn't perceive reality or process sensory information. Consciousness is always conscious in a particular form. A pure, disembodied consciousness, would have no material form of awareness and could not therefore be conscious.
So, the primary existent(s) could not have been a disembodied consciousness; it had to be the material constituents out of which consciousness eventually evolved. The primary or necessary being is therefore material existence, not God.
Granted, if God is a pure spirit with no dimensions, then I suppose it would make sense to say that he doesn't exist in time and space, but that's because he doesn't exist at all!
That does not mean, however, that if something exists, it must exist in time and space. The universe exists, but it doesn't exist in time and space, because time and space are relational concepts, which apply to events and entities within the universe, not to the universe as a whole.