Proceedings of the American Catholic Philosophical Association

Volume 94, 2020

The Good, the True, the Beautiful: Through and of the Ages

Chad Engelland
Pages 73-89

Three Versions of the Question, “Why Is There Something Rather than Nothing?”

In dialogue with Stephen Hawking, Martin Heidegger, and Thomas Aquinas, I argue that there are three different and compatible ways to understand the question, “Why is there something rather than nothing?” (1) The scientific way asks about the origin of the cosmos. (2) The transcendental way asks about the origin of experience. (3) The metaphysical way asks about the origin of existence. The questions work independent of each other, so that answering one version of the question does not affect the other two versions. Hawking and Heidegger are therefore mistaken to think that the scientific and transcendental questions render otiose the metaphysical question concerning the origin of existence.