There Must Be Something Before There Can Be Nothing

David Cowles

Jan 2, 2022

From Aristotle to Whitehead, from Sartre to the 20th century ‘quantum mechanics’, there is a broadly held view that Being at its core is Pure Potential. Potentiality is selectively converted to actuality through the agency of something other than pure potentiality itself.

That agency is called ‘Creativity’ by Whitehead, ‘Le Neant’ by Sartre, or ‘Collapse of the Wave Function’ by Schrödinger. In none of these cases, however, does pure potentiality alone determine its own actuality (that would be Determinism and would negate the concept of ‘potentiality’ entirely). Something other than pure potentiality itself must convert what could be to what is.

The Apostle John expressed the same idea: “In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him and without him nothing was made.” (Jn 1: 1 – 5)

According to John, “the Word of God’ (Christ) is what converts potentiality to actuality. Everything that is comes to be through that ‘Word’ and without that ‘Word’ nothing comes to be.

In final analysis, I think that all the world’s ontologies (philosophical, theological, or scientific) fall into one of these two camps: (A) Some sort of Determinism (where the ‘actual’ is ultimately embedded in what is falsely called the ‘potential’) or (B) some sort of Indeterminism (where potentiality is selectively converted to actuality through an agency that transcends pure potentiality per se).

Group A would argue that there must be nothing before there can be something; Group B would reverse it: there must be something before there can be nothing.

From Aristotle to Whitehead, from Sartre to the 20th century ‘quantum mechanics’, there is a broadly held view that Being at its core is Pure Potential. Potentiality is selectively converted to actuality through the agency of something other than pure potentiality itself.


That agency is called ‘Creativity’ by Whitehead, ‘Le Neant’ by Sartre, or ‘Collapse of the Wave Function’ by Schrödinger. In none of these cases, however, does pure potentiality alone determine its own actuality (that would be Determinism and would negate the concept of ‘potentiality’ entirely). Something other than pure potentiality itself must convert what could be to what is.


The Apostle John expressed the same idea: “In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him and without him nothing was made.” (Jn 1: 1 – 5)


According to John, “the Word of God’ (Christ) is what converts potentiality to actuality. Everything that is comes to be through that ‘Word’ and without that ‘Word’ nothing comes to be.

In final analysis, I think that all the world’s ontologies (philosophical, theological, or scientific) fall into one of these two camps: (A) Some sort of Determinism (where the ‘actual’ is ultimately embedded in what is falsely called the ‘potential’) or (B) some sort of Indeterminism (where potentiality is selectively converted to actuality through an agency that transcends pure potentiality per se).


Group A would argue that there must be nothing before there can be something; Group B would reverse it: there must be something before there can be nothing.

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