Where there is nothing, there is no thing as there. That’s the usual response to ‘what’s outside the universe’. Evidently, this stands at the very edge of meaning: meaning in the scientific sense, meaning derived from being able to observe and measure some thing.
This response would satisfy those engaged in scientific observations and measurements. They can sleep easy in the knowledge that even if they don’t know, they are making the attempt to know (am not saying they do sleep, but that they can sleep). In the end, this is probably the most rational way to proceed. But, what about ordinary mortals like you and me, who are not so engaged? How do we sleep now that a conundrum has crept into our minds and is chipping away at our fragile everyday epistemological edifices?
Knowledge is in the end based on acknowledgment said Wittgenstein. He was talking about talking, about language and how what we know is completely dependent on the use of language (language games). The opening sentence of this post is a good case. The perceived muddle in it is the result of us travelling on two roads from opposite ends and hoping that they would meet. They don’t, atleast not exactly. One is the road where language is used sensibly. And, the other is where language is quite an encumbrance, where mathematics makes all the sense there is to be made.
In the end, for us who are in the audience where modern science is up on the stage, acknowledgment is, of course, more than mere words, it is the very real acknowledgment of tax payments, and the acknowledgment of our engagement with the past, present and future – our collective identity; our bold acknowledgment that proclaims this is who we are and this is what we do.