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Erkenntnis

, Volume 81, Issue 6, pp 1305–1322 | Cite as

What Do We Mean When We Ask “Why is There Something Rather Than Nothing?”

  • Andrew Brenner
Original Article

Abstract

Let’s call the sentence “why is there something rather than nothing?” the Question. There’s no consensus, of course, regarding which proposed answer to the Question, if any, is correct, but occasionally there’s also controversy regarding the meaning of the Question itself. In this paper I argue that such controversy persists because there just isnt one unique interpretation of the Question. Rather, the puzzlement expressed by the sentence “why is there something rather than nothing?” varies depending on the ontology implicitly or explicitly endorsed by the speaker. In this paper I do three things. First, I argue that other proposals according to which the Question has one uniquely adequate interpretation are false. Second, I give several examples of the way in which the meaning of the Question can vary depending on the ontology to which it is coupled. Third, I explore the implications of my thesis for the manner in which we should approach future attempts to answer the Question.

Keywords

Abstract Object Ontological Commitment Concrete Object Wide Domain Ontic Structural Realism 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.

Notes

Acknowledgments

Thanks to Toby Brenner, Nevin Climenhaga, Peter Finocchiaro, Jack Himelright, Michael Longenecker, Chad McIntosh, Callie Phillips, Alex Rausch, Bradley Rettler, Amy Seymour, Monica Solomon, Daniel Sportiello, David Squires, Peter van Inwagen, and several anonymous referees for very helpful comments on earlier drafts of this paper.

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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PhilosophyUniversity of Notre DameNotre DameUSA

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