We believe that God created the world out of nothing. Using this, the atheist might argue: “if you believe that the world can come into existence from nothing, then you have contradicted one of the premises you used in the proof of emergence (Burhan Al-Huduth). Namely, that something cannot come from nothing.”

We respond: you have assigned the words “from nothing” to two different meanings, and so your argument is based on an equivocation.

When you say “you believe that the world can come into existence from nothing”, “from nothing” here means without a material cause. In other words, God did not use matter that pre-existed the emergence of the first event, in order to create the first event. This is what we believe, and we call this emergence out of nothing[1].

As for when you say “that something cannot come from nothing”, “from nothing” here means without a specifier. In other words, that no being brought this something into existence. It spontaneously popped into existence on its own. This is what we claim is impossible, and we call this emergence by nothing[2].

Thus, “from nothing” can mean either “out of nothing” or “by nothing”. And your argument is based on a conflation between the two meanings, so there is no contradiction.


 

[1] To prove this, we use the same proof we used to prove the emergence of all bodies. Since matter is either arranged into bodies, or exists as dispersed singular particles (Jawahir Farda). And in either case, matter would be inseparable from accidents, and whatever is inseparable from accidents is emergent, therefore matter is emergent. More on this here.

[2] To prove this, we say that an emergent being does not exist necessarily. For if it did, then its existence would not be preceded by its non-existence. And since its existence is not by virtue of what it is, then its existence must be by virtue of what is other than it. More on this here.

Further, we argue that “nothing” means the lack of everything, including the lack of ability to bring into existence. And so there is no potential for something to come into existence by nothing, by definition.

And if it is said: “when we speak of nothing, we don’t mean the lack of everything.”

Then we respond: in this case our disagreement may merely be a semantic one. For our meaning of “nothing” is what’s relevant when discussing Burhan Al-Huduth. And if you use the word “nothing” to signify some other meaning, then your claim “something can come from nothing” would not impact the proof.

2 thoughts on “Out of Nothing Versus By Nothing

  1. As salaam alaikum akhi.

    Can you please check out this video and give me your thoughts.

    [snip]

    The summary of the argument is :

    1. There is nothing logically impossible for something to come from nothing.

    2. There is logical contradiction between something coming from nothing.

    1. Wa ‘Alaykum Al-Salam,

      You’ve misunderstood what he’s saying. The two points you listed contradict one another. Since a “logical impossibility” (as he himself points out) is a “logical contradiction”. So to say that something coming from nothing is a logical contradiction, but is not a logical impossibility, is to say that it is both a logical impossibility and not a logical impossibility, and that itself is contradictory.

      In any case, his claim is that it is not a rational impossibility because he does not see the contradiction. But this is not a strong basis for claiming that a thing is not rationally impossible. Just because you don’t understand why something isn’t impossible, does not mean it is not impossible in of itself.And we demonstrate that it is indeed a rational impossibility, and that it does indeed entail a contradiction. And this is shown in the footnotes of this article, and elsewhere.

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