Why can't matter be Self-Existent (the "First Cause")?


Except observation of how everything other than an atom has characteristics determined by a prior cause…that observation he refuses to engage in and engages in willful blindness.


Well he would say the atom (or whatever) just is — never created or destroyed.

I responded by saying, if there were only 50 atoms, why are there 50 and not 51 or 49?

Of course there is WAY more than that. But he didn’t seem to get my point. He said the number of atoms was infinite. But I thought that was incorrect…


Please note that when I say atoms, I’m just meaning whatever happens to be the bottom-most level of physical reality or matter/energy. That’s what we meant when we were talking about atoms.

Sorry for the confusion there.


Empirical observation is pretty much dependent upon the PSR, but there are plenty of PSR deniers who’ll try to argue otherwise. Though where they then draw the lines without falling into solipsism is rather adhoc/arbotrary. It gets more complicated talking with idealists, too… but I’m rambling.


Can he conceive as possible a world in which that atom didn’t exist but another one did instead?


The principle of PSR is not universal. It would lead to an infinite descent. You know: “it is turtles all the way down”. :slight_smile: There needs to be a starting point to all the explanations. For Christian believers it is God, who is the ontological foundation of all existence. In other words, for the Christian believers God is a “brute fact”, someone who has no explanation, and requires no explanation. Which means that the concept of PSR is NOT universal, God is the exception. For other kinds of non-materialists there can be a different “final cause”, but all of them must posit a brute fact.

For the materialists the ontological foundation is the “universe”. The word means everything that exists. So the question: “what exists outside the universe?” or “what existed before the universe?” or “why does the universe exist?” are all nonsensical questions, all expressing the “fallacy of the stolen concept”, applying a concept outside its epistemological realm.

Now, it may be possible that the universe is not restricted to the “physical universe”. It may be that there is a “spiritual universe”. Moreover, that this “spiritual universe” is primary, and it is the ontological foundation of the “physical universe”. This concept cannot be excluded based purely on logical ground, but it leads nowhere. Of course Ockham’s razor is not an epistemological tool, which can be used to decide whether hypothesis “A” is a better explanation than hypothesis “B”. But it is an excellent selection method.

The existence of the physical universe cannot be denied, though there are some solipsists, who attempt to deny it. All we need to do is take them at their words, and ostracize them. When they attempt to communicate with others, don’t answer them. After all we are only the figment of their imagination. :slight_smile: If they wish to interact with others - for example they want to buy some food, leave them alone. Eventually they will have to abandon their misconception, or die. :slight_smile: And they will not be missed.

So the denial of the physical universe leads nowhere. Not even the deniers can do it consistently. The assumption of the “spiritual realm” also leads nowhere. How can the “spiritual realm” even be detected? How does the “non-physical” interact with the “physical”? There is a very wise principle: “nihil est in intellectu quod non prius fuerit in sensu”. Of course such a principle cannot be “proven” either, but since the PSR is already shown not to be universal, there is no need for it.

We can build a good model based upon science - physical science, of course (no need for bogus pseudo-science). The model does not provide an “explanation”, but it is the best tool to investigate the reality - the physical reality, of course.


As an epistemological solipsist I find such misunderstandings quite humorous. If however, you would like to demonstrate that you are indeed a self-aware, rational, intelligent being please feel free to do so. Biased, dismissive, poorly reasoned arguments really don’t help your case. But oddly enough, they’re exactly what I would expect from someone who isn’t quite as real as they may appear to be.

The ball’s in your court, convince me that you’re real, do something intelligent.


The atom is little understood. Scientists have managed to image one. However, where do protons and neutrons come from? What about electrons? It gets more complicated when sub-atomic particles get added in.


Yes, the quantum field is mystical to most of us.


False. There are weak and strong forms of the PSR, but God does not even violate the strong form of it. A distinction must made between a reason, which can either be an intrinsic principle or an extrinsic principle, and a cause, which is a subset of reasons, in which the reason is extrinsic (a dependency of one thing on another). A strong form of the PSR might be stated as “every thing has a reason for its existence, either in itself or from another.” God, upon analysis, is that which has its reason from itself, and this would be based on his simplicity and him as Subsistent Being, on the principle that what we mean by God is him whose essence is identical to his existence. I’d reject the notion that God’s existence is an ontological brute fact or that there is a fallacy of special pleading, though you’re right that a series of extrinsic reasons would necessitate an infinite regress.

For further reading, I’d recommend Saint Thomas Aquinas and the Principle of Sufficient Reason by Scott M. Sullivan.


Sorry, I have no idea what you mean by “epistemological solipsist”. Solipsism can have many “flavors”. The basic one is that only “you” exist, and everything else is merely a figment of your imagination. In other words, there is no external reality. Maybe you have a different concept.

Sorry, meaningless words, like “essence” do not make an argument.


You not knowing terminology and lacking background knowledge does not make a counter-argument.

Besides, the rest of it up to the end should have been intelligible to you. I was not making a demonstration at the end, merely alluding to routes used to argue it that you and others may or may not have familiarity with already.


That’s correct, but it’s difficult for people to understand.


I am aware of the terminology just fine. The Thomistic concept of “essence” is a meaningless concoction. However, I am willing to listen to you. Let’s start with something that we all know. Tell me what is the “essence” of a “dog”. Start with this: “dog is an entity” or “a dog is a thing”.

The way to do that would be an enumeration of ALL the attributes of a “dog”, and then separate them into two sub-categories, the “essential” ones - which must be present for categorizing the “thing” to be a “dog”, and the accidents, which can be different or even nonexistent, but the “thing” is still “essentially” a dog. I suggest that you don’t try to refer to the “DNA”, because it cannot be defined in a suitably precise manner. Besides, the DNA is a biological term, not a philosophical one.

Oh, and existence is not an attribute!


To reason one must first know what reason is. Only then will somebody understand why they ought to think that some conclusion is true. You are speaking to people who do not really understand what metaphysics is and neither do they respect the epistemological principles that drives it’s method.

Don’t get into a never ending argument. Your goal is to show that your conclusion is necessary because the other options lead to a metaphysical-absurdity and the complete abandoning of reason itself. If they cannot see why an absurdity of this measure makes their position impossible, then that is a fault that you might not be able to fix. Metaphysics essentially relies on the principle of a reductio-ad-absurdum to win the argument. This is the method, or rather the principle of non-contradiction is the method by which we show something to be metaphysically absurd.

If a person is willing to either…

  1. Abandon the principle of non-contradiction


  1. Accept the existence of a brute fact (A being that neither exists because of it’s own nature or because of another nature. It simply exists for no reason at all)


  1. Is willing to entertain the idea that possibilities exist in absolutely nothing or that a thing can become actual in Absolutely Nothing.

…in order to avoid the conclusion of an argument, then the theist has won the argument regardless of whether an atheist or agnostic realises it or not.

There have been many atheists that have come to realise the error in their thinking and they have begun to see. But you can never truly know why a person does not see. So present the argument and let God deal with the rest.

Let those with eyes to see, see.


That simply is not true, and if it were true then everything in existence would be identical, which is absurd because that is clearly not what we see. It is self evident that not only do things exists, but also different kinds of things exist. This is not a controversial idea.

The Thomist describes this as the whatness of a thing, what it is. These distinctions are categorised in to essences and accidents. People may or may not get the particulars right when pointing to what they think is an essence or an accident, but that does not mean that real substantial differences in being do not exist holistically in reality.


Existence is NOT attributed to what a thing is! Hurrah! You got that one!

The essence-existence distinction doesn’t require an enumeration of any single essence to be argued for. That there must be such a distinction is one thing. What any specific essence is is a matter of empirical observation, and any such observation by us is never 100%, and is always open to possible revision.

Essence also isn’t just a concept used by Aristotleans and Thomists, it’s also used by many Idealist schools.

All that needs to be said is that – for all the things of our experience – what a thing is (what is essential to what a thing is) is really distinct from that thing actually being. The principle of what it is and the principle that it actually is are not reducible to one another. If you had never been to Earth, I could fully enumerate everything there is to know about what a lion is, what a tyrannosaurus rex is, and what a unicorn is, and I could tell you that of these three things one currently exists, one once existed but exists no longer, and one has never existed. You would have no way of knowing, simply knowing the what of each, which one is which. You can do this with universals as just shown or particulars if you must. I can demonstrate what a million sided polygon is, tell you everything there is to know mathematically about what such a thing is, and still you or I would have no means to know whether it actually exists or not. We have concepts in our mind about things that have been and are and might be, and these are independent of whether any such thing actually exists.

Essence is certainly not a meaningless term. That’s an absurd charge. And the argument is not dependent at all on whether any specific essence can be 100% explained, that’s a false bar. If anything, dispute realist or conceptualist views with certain types of anti-realist schools of thought, that would be the way to go, disputable, yes, but arguable. Your objection here though is specious and a strawman.


Nothing from nothing leaves nothing…

Ex Nihilo


I think you will find that when doing physics, all you can really mean by the universe is that it is everything that physically exists or is known to exist within the context of the empirical method (which itself can only measure physical effects or physical objects). Otherwise, philosophically, or should i say epistemological speaking, your conclusion is circular and can be safely ignored because it doesn’t present real objective knowledge.

Philosophically, we have no a-prior knowledge of what “everything that exist” is actually comprised of. From a scientific perspective alone we can never really know what the ultimate nature of reality is because the scientific method is limited to physical things and cannot tell us any more beyond that standard. As i said, your position is circular and you should abandon it because it is a very weak argument for materialism.


Matter cannot be self-existent. Or the “first cause.” However it is looked at, the Big Bang never had to happen. The Bang means actual material/energy streamed into an unknown vastness that contained zero energy is untenable. And the idea that it expanded into an unknown space, also with zero energy, is also untenable.

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