The origins of the origin: points and cycles as cognitive attractors for ultimate explanations

 

The origins of the origin:

points and cycles as cognitive attractors for ultimate explanations

Clement Vidal  (ECCO, VUB)

 

Abstract:

All civilizations have developed myths explaining the origin of the world. They provide answers the fundamental worldview question: “where does it all come from?”. This childish question holds in fact four puzzling challenges, whose nature are epistemological, metaphysical, thermodynamical and causal. They can be summarized with the following questions: what are the epistemological characteristics of an ultimate theory? why not nothing? where does the energy of the universe comes from? what was the causal origin of the universe?
 

Our approach to these questions is cognitive and philosophical. What is a cognitively satisfying answer to the origin of the universe? What do we cognitively expect to be a satisfying answer to the ultimate origin? What are the limitations and biases of those explanations? We first outline four major challenges that an ultimate explanation must face. We then show that there are two cognitive attractors on which ultimate explanations tend to fall, the point and the cycle. They are similar to the fixed point and the limit-cycle in dynamical system theory. We analyze both the standard Big Bang model and the creation by a God as point attractors. We raise objections against cyclical cosmological models, such as the logical viciousness of cycles, or the idea of an infinite eternal return. We propose replies and remedies to these issues, and conclude that cycle-like explanations are more promising than point-like explanations.