On the Alleged Insignificance of the Primordial Existential Question

Studia Leibnitiana 44 (2):212-228 (2012)
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Leibniz’s question “why is there something rather than nothing?”, also known as the Primordial Existential Question, has often been the focus of intense philosophical controversy. While some authors take it to pose a profound metaphysical puzzle, others denounce the alleged lack of meaning or the inconceivability of the idea of nothingness. In a series of articles, Adolf Grünbaum develops an empirically informed critique with the aim to demonstrate that the Primordial Existential Question poses a “non-issue” which does not require explanation. Grünbaum’s critique prompted heated debates in the recent literature. In this paper, I examine each step of Grünbaum’s reasoning and argue that it fails to show that the Primordial Existential Question is ill-founded. Moreover, I identify and rebut several strategies that one may employ to amend Grünbaum’s critique. In doing so, I address various issues related to the Primordial Existential Question, including the alleged need for its proponents to rely on contentious metaphysical presuppositions and the purported availability of empirical evidence which answers or dissolves such a question.
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