Monday, April 21, 2014

Why the World Does Not Exist

In 2013 Markus Gabriel, the young philosophy professor at the University of Bonn, wrote a book with the provocative title: Warum es die Welt nicht gibt (Why the World does not exist).

On June 23, 2011 Gabriel had lunch with his Italien colleague Maurizio Ferraris in Naples. When they had finished their ristretti they had also finished or rather founded a new approach to philosophy. This so-called New Realism is an advancement of both metaphysics and constructivism. Somewhat simplified Gabriel states: Whereas metaphysics claims that the world is different from how it appears to us, constructivism claims that we construct things in recognizing them. New Realism, however, claims that when we recognize something by seeing, hearing, or sensing there is really something.

Gabriel's reasoning starts with a common definition of the World: The World is the totality of things and facts. Things have certain properties but facts consist of concepts and concepts are never fully settled. Gabriel then introduces Sinnfelder (fields of context) and formulates the first law of New Realism:

Existence is the recognition in a field of context (FOC).

According to Martin Heidegger the World is - in Gabriel's language - the field of context of all FOCs in which all other FOCs appear.

©Ullstein Verlag
We now assume for a moment that the World appears in a field of context S1 being one of many other FOCs S2, S3, etc. If the World is the FOC in which all other FOCs appear then any other FOCs appear in S1 as subfields, for in S1 the World appears and in the World everything appears. This situation Gabriel illustrates in a few sketches: The World does not appear in the World or for short: The World does not exist.

Another argument goes like this: A thing cannot exist isolated; it has to appear in a field of context. This field of context can only exist if it appears in another FOC and this again in another one. When we continue the argumentation we shall never reach the last field of context, i.e., the World in which everything appears. Ergo: The World does not exist.

We always look at things, i.e., items, notions, and concepts under certain aspects and place them into specific fields of context. A table can be regarded in the FOC of physics as an ordered ensemble of elementary particles. That is different from the FOC of furniture where a table could be placed and that again is different from the community FOC, i.e., the table as a place where people eat, drink, and communicate. Gabriel continues: Some things are connected but not all things are connected, again an argument that The World does not exist. Here shall I stop. For further explanations of New Realism you must read Gabriel's book.

For Hamlet To be or not to be that is the question but it was Heidegger who asked the question of all questions: Was ist Sein? (What is this: To Be?). Young Markus Gabriel asks offhand: Was soll das Ganze alles? (What is the purpose of all this?)

Whereas constructivist epistemology and metaphysics look for the authenticity beyond the fields of context - we may know or miss - Gabriel claims that there is nothing behind that settles things. Since an overall structure does not exist we are not determined by it. That means that we are alone but we as free autonomous human beings have the privilege of infinite possibilities of exploring.

Comforting, isn't it? Watch Markus Gabriel on You Tube.


  1. UNBELIEVABLE similarities between Markus Gabriel's ideas (Bonn University) and Vacariu's ideas (Bucharest University)
    About Markus Gabriel’s book Warum es die Welt nicht gibt, Ullstein: Berlin 2013 and his TED clip Why the world does not exist: Markus Gabriel at TEDxMünchen

    My name is Gabriel Vacariu (Lecturer, Department of Philosophy, Bucharest University):
    In the paper that is at my webpage/in attachment, I analyze the UNBELIEVABLE SIMILARITIES between my ideas from my works (2005, 2008, 2010, 2011, 2012) and Markus Gabriel’s ideas (Bonn University) from his book published in 2013 and his TED clip (2013).
    Also I have a talk about these unbelievable similarities on YouTube at:

    My ideas can be found in my paper “Mind, brain and epistemologically different worlds” at Synthese (2005), and in all my books (published in English at Bucharest University Publishing Company) that are on Internet at my webpage

    Also, in my last book (posted on my webpage, published few weeks ago, the appendix is about these UNBELIEVABLE SIMILARITIES between my ideas from my works (2005, 2008, 2010, 2011, 2012) and Markus Gabriel’s ideas (Bonn University) from his book published in 2013 and his TED clip (2013).

    Gabriel Vacariu
    Department of Philosophy
    Bucharest University

    1. Dear Professor Vacariu,

      Thank you for your comment. I am aware of your paper, yes, I even printed out a copy for a closer study. Although I noted similarities between your and Gabriel's work, I, as a physicist, am not entitled to judge on the gravity of the plagiate.

      I did not want to load my humble blog with the controversy but following your comment I am now tempted to write a special blog about it although again: my education in philosophy is scanty and I might get many things wrong.

      All the best, yours Red Baron

  2. Thank you very much for your comments. Everybody working in philosophy recognizes the plagiarism...