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Top 40 Philosophy: The Foo Fighters, “Something from Nothing”

Posted in Friendly Philosophy, Music, and Top 40 Philosophy

Now that we’re sufficiently nostalgic from doing a week on the Beatles, and sufficiently jolly from doing a week of Christmas songs, let’s do a week of rock and/or roll. Specifically, let’s do the top five songs on Billboard’s “Mainstream Rock Songs” chart.

Billboard has quite a few charts that claim to be “rock,” but if you want to be guaranteed songs that actually rock, you have to go with the “Mainstream” chart. #1 this week is the Foo Fighters philosophically titled, “Something from Nothing.”

“Something from Nothing” is the Foo Fighters’ contribution to the ancient philosophical discussion of where everything comes from. Philosophers have pretty much always agreed with Dave Grohl, when he sings, “But in the end we all / come from what’s come before.” In Latin, philosophers would say, “ex nihilo nihil fit“; out of nothing nothing comes. (Or, as Richard Rodgers put it, “Nothing comes from nothing / Nothing ever could.”)

Later in the song, however, Grohl claims to have come from nothing — though he also claims to have a fuse, which means he doesn’t actually come from nothing. This claim that something can come from nothing, combined with a specification of a something (an originating thing, substrate, support, or “matter” from of which things actually came) reminds one of recent claims by a certain physicist. But, while self-contradiction is unacceptable in physics, it is perfectly acceptable in poetry.

“But don’t Christians believe God created the universe from nothing?”

Most do, yes. But they still believe the universe comes from God, so it doesn’t come from nothing. They just mean God created the material out of which the universe is made, rather than taking a pre-existing material and shaping it into objects.


The Hidden Track

Q: What kind of philosophy were we doing today?

A: MetaphysicsCosmogony.

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