It’s one of the oldest debates ever, dating back at least as far as Plutarch. The issue can be viewed as a frivolous brain-teaser or as an investigation into elementary ontology. So, philosophers of The Tylt, which came first, the chicken or the egg? 🥚🐓
Which came first—the chicken or the egg?
The essential conundrum runs as follows, if an egg must be laid by a chicken and a chicken must hatch from an egg, which came first? At its heart, the question asks if an object’s existence as an individual phenomenon can be observed independently of the causes and conditions from which it arises. Is existence a series of discrete entities with a free-standing, clearly definable nature? Or are all phenomena like points on a grid, observable as existing only so far as they are aggregates of other phenomenal relationships?
If the former is correct, the linear nature of causality demands that for a thing to exist, it must have come from somewhere, hence the paradox of chickens and eggs. If the latter is right, the non-duality of causes, conditions and individual phenomena would imply an interdependence in which neither chickens nor eggs can be said to possess unique natures, and can only be understood as two facets of the same causal relationship. Thus, neither is first. Chickens and eggs are two in aspect but not two in nature.
Leaving aside matters of Platonic philosophy versus Dharmic perspectives, can a clear answer be ascertained? Let’s investigate.
One possible answer to this may lie in evolution. Imagine thousands of years ago in China, where a farmer breeding fowl has manipulated generations of the Tyrannosaurus Rex’s distant cousin. At some point, a mutation occurs, and the proto-chicken fowl lays the egg of the first modern chicken, from whom all other chickens descend.
The answer, then, must be that the egg comes first.
It’s splitting hairs (or feathers) to think that, as the previous argument claims, once there was a chicken-like ancestor who could not, itself, be called a chicken. What exactly is this mutation supposed to be, that clearly delineates chicken-ness from non-chicken-ness? The chicken, or reasonably chicken-like bird, is necessary, regardless, for that argument to be valid. Thus, the answer must be that the chicken comes first.
Further, this assumes that science is a valid metric in philosophical inquiry—rather than non-overlapping magisteria—which is a problematic position to hold anyhow.