I agree that the universe exists independant of our understanding or beliefs, but I don’t see the value of hypothesizing the existence of an unseeable, unknowable nothingness that can only be seen in “its manifestations as matter/energy.” Why add the unknowable nothing behind the knowable? Isn’t knowing the knowable enough?
And you sound like you’re dismissing beliefs as irrelevant human constructs, but then you belief in something utterly unknowable, so how is that different? And if all beliefs are just something people make up, how can we actually know anything real about the universe? I certainly know next to nothing about Taoism, so I’m sure I’m missing a lot behind what you’re saying, but your post seems to dismiss other cultural ways of knowing casually and without thouht, yet I don’t see the substance that justifies the dismissal.
From the wiki on the Tao:
A cursory glance at life on Earth or what we know of the Universe as a whole reveals refined relationships of complexity, chaotic order, creativity and sublime organization. The beauty of the unspoiled regions of the world; the harmonious complexity of natural ecosystems, have a ‘just-so’ quality, an integrated wholeness that the ancient Chinese called Tao.
There is a flow and order in the Universe: this is Tao. Tao is never stagnant and is incredibly powerful and keeps things in the Universe balanced and in order. It manifests itself through cycles and transitions: change of seasons, cycle of life, shifts of power, time, and so forth. Tao is the law of Nature.
No, I do not dimiss beliefs as irrelevant human constructs, but is just noting that humans have beliefs based on living and surviving in the middle world between the very small and the very large. These beliefs might not hold at the extremes and are therefore limited. Consider the concept of nothingness in Western philosophy:
This survey starts with nothingness at a global scale and then explores local pockets of nothingness. Let’s begin with a question that Martin Heidegger famously characterized as the most fundamental issue of philosophy.
Why is there something rather than nothing?
Some philosophers conclude ‘Why is there something rather than nothing?’ is unanswerable. They think the question stumps us by imposing an impossible explanatory demand, namely, Deduce the existence of something without using any existential premises. Logicians should feel no more ashamed of their inability to perform this deduction than geometers should feel ashamed at being unable to square the circle.
Now, consider the scientific world-view on nothingness:
Indeed, the universality of Newton’s law of gravitation seems to require that the whole universe be filled with a subtle substance. Hunger for ether grew as the wave-like features of light became established. A wave must have a medium.
Or must it? As the theoretical roles of the ether increased, physicists began to doubt there could be anything that accomplished such diverse feats. These doubts about the existence of ether were intensified by the emergence of Einstein’s theory of relativity. He presented his theory as a relational account of space; if there were no objects, there would be no space. Space is merely a useful abstraction like your family tree. (There is controversy over whether Einstein’s characterization of his relationism is accurate.)
Even those physicists who wished to retain substantival space broke with the atomist tradition of assigning virtually no properties to the void. They re-assign much of ether’s responsibilities to space itself. Instead of having gravitational forces being propagated through the ether, they suggest that space is bent by mass. To explain how space can be finite and yet unbounded, they characterize space as spherical. When Edwin Hubble discovered that heavenly bodies are traveling away from each other (like sleepy flies resting on an expanding balloon), cosmologists were quick to suggest that space may be expanding. “Expanding into what?” wondered bewildered laymen. “How can space bend?” “How can space have a shape?”
Historians of science wonder whether the ether that was pushed out the front door of physics is returning through the back door under the guise of “space”. Quantum field theory provides especially fertile area for such speculation. Particles are created with the help of energy present in “vacuums”. To say that vacuums have energy and energy is convertible into mass, is to deny that vacuums are empty.Many physicists revel in the discovery that vacuums are far from empty.
Are these physicists using ‘vacuum’ in a new sense? If they are trying to correct laymen, then they need to couch their surprises in sentences using the ordinary sense of ‘vacuum’. Laymen are generally willing to defer to scientists when they are characterizing natural kinds. But vacuums do not seem like natural kinds because they do not seem to be substances — or anything at all. Plato introduced the notion of a natural kind with an analogy featuring a butcher cutting an animal at it joints. There do not appear to be natural boundaries between voids and objects.
Heidegger gives no intelligible answer to ‘Why is there something rather than nothing?’. In many turgid passages of Being and Time, Heidegger appears to be sinking deeper with each step “forward”. Logicians try to haul Heidegger out of the quicksand. They distinguish the quantifier ‘no’ from the logical operation of negation. The logicians prise apart senses of ‘is’ and clear up confusions about identity. They carefully compare and contrast ‘exist’ and ordinary predicates. Gradually looking more like philosophers, they pass to more elusive characters such as non-being, negative facts, and so on.
The professionalism of the first few steps in this rescue operation inspire confidence and optimism. Thanks to the remarkable advances in logic during the twentieth century, the rescue party enjoys an impressive grasp of quantifiers, variables, truth-tables, etc. But as they slog deeper toward Heidegger and their white coats get muddy, it becomes increasingly evident that the rescuers are themselves in need of rescue.
After all that mental acrobatics do we know what is nothingness? No, it is unknowable.