Does "nothing" exist?

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Reply Wed 12 Nov, 2008 08:19 am
I've been debating this subject for some time with a lot of people and I've always taken the view that "nothing" does not exist. No matter where you are in the universe their is something.

One example that always gets asked is about space. If you take a small parcel of space in any given place in the universe their still is "something" because the way I see it their are gamma rays, light rays, etc. Even if "nothing" did exist you would have to witness it through something, which means that it is not nothing since the nothing would be in the presense of something.

Does this make sense? Any ideas? Is it a valid argument?
 
Theaetetus
 
Reply Wed 12 Nov, 2008 08:22 am
@The Dude phil,
Just by designating nothing with the word "nothing" suggests the existence of something. So in a sense nothing does not exist because to talk of it means that nothing is in fact something.
 
The Dude phil
 
Reply Wed 12 Nov, 2008 08:28 am
@Theaetetus,
Theaetetus wrote:
...So in a sense nothing does not exist because to talk of it means that nothing is in fact something.


Could it be a just a word that should not exist? Can the word "nothing" just be a man-made misconception?
 
VideCorSpoon
 
Reply Wed 12 Nov, 2008 09:18 am
@The Dude phil,
The Dude,late
 
sarek
 
Reply Wed 12 Nov, 2008 09:53 am
@The Dude phil,
The version of Nothing I believe in is the one I nicked from a Belgian writer, Stefan Denaerde.
It says essentially that if for everything that exists there is an exactly equal opposite then it would all cancel out, leading to nothing. Thus Nothing and Everything coexist and are inseparable. Everything contains not only that which can be but also that which has been and will be and even everything that has a possibility of being.

Nothing does have the advantage that you do not need a scientist to explain it. And in this concept our own existence is also explained.
Because if something is at all possible, it is there somewhere.

You don't have to explain why specifically this universe exists and not something else. You only have to explain that it is one of the possible universa, and presto somewhere in infinity it will inevitably be found, with us in it.
 
jgweed
 
Reply Wed 12 Nov, 2008 10:02 am
@The Dude phil,
Perhaps a distinction would help progress our thinking. The word "existence" is, like the verb "to be," replete with meanings and uses. We have A; not-A is its logical opposite, and we want to say: Being IS; not-being IS NOT.

In this discussion, existence can mean "real" existence: this computer exists and we can touch it, remember when we built it, remember when it didn't work, etc.

Existence here can also mean "conceptual" or "mental" existence: this kind of existence (say in my mind) can stretch from the existence of unicorns to the "logical" existence of non-being. Phenomenology would begin with an analysis of "lack" or "absence" as constructions of non-being.
 
validity
 
Reply Wed 12 Nov, 2008 04:20 pm
@The Dude phil,
I must agree with you The Dude.

The current question is a definite no. Since something exists, a state of nothing is not possible. Nothing has lost to possibility to exist in a universe of something. If a spot of nothing was to be discovered, there is something looking at it.

Could nothing exist, is another question with a different problem. The definition of existence requires the subject to have being or reality. How is it possible to have being or reality without an observer?
 
sarek
 
Reply Thu 13 Nov, 2008 01:43 pm
@The Dude phil,
Is it not so that nothing can only exist if it is equal to everything?
But never as a part of anything else. And never outside or inside anything else.
Because the concept of anything looking at or interacting with or containing nothing is indeed not thinkable.
 
rhinogrey
 
Reply Fri 21 Nov, 2008 12:20 pm
@VideCorSpoon,
VideCorSpoon wrote:

The conception of nothing (i.e. zero)


VideCorSpoon,

I have to disagree with the notion that nothing = zero. Zero has a definite value within a relative set of abstractions (ie, numbers). Nothing has no such property, because if nothing were, there'd be no context in which to assign value. You can subtract 1 from 0 and get a different value within the same relativistic scheme. If you subtracted something from nothing....well, you simply can't do that.
 
xris
 
Reply Fri 21 Nov, 2008 03:06 pm
@rhinogrey,
Nothing in my mind is the limit of something beyond something there must be nothing...nothing is eternal so beyond something there is nothing..it does not exist nothing because it has nothing to exist in but it does lie beyond something..is there a future after this moment??no because it is always this moment...infinity is a moment away..well i know what i mean..
 
Whoever
 
Reply Sat 29 Nov, 2008 07:06 am
@The Dude phil,
It is being assumed here that something exists. But it is impossible to demonstrate this, thanks to the unfalsifiability of solipsism. Of course, solipsism requires the existence of experience, but the existence of this is undemonstrable.

For a strictly scientific view, therefore, the existence of mental and corporeal phenomena is an assumption. Yes, I know this might seem like a pointless philosophical splitting of hairs. But it is crucial. The moment we say that the objects of the everyday world are truly real we have dismissed all worldviews for which they are not, and thus prejudged the issue.

In Three Roads to Quantum Gravity Lee Smolin writes this.

"When we imagine we are seeing into an infinite three-dimensional space, we are falling for a fallacy in which we substitute what we actually see for an intellectual construct. This is not only a mystical vision, it is wrong."

From the logical proofs given by the second century Buddhist sage Nagarjuna, and by Francis Bradley, Hegel, and Kant (in my interpretation), and others, we see that this vision of an infinite three-dimensional space would not only be fallacious and wrong, it would also be the opposite of a mystical one.

If one respectable scientific view is that extended space and time are a wrong-headed vision, then this puts a differerent complexion on the question about Nothing.
 
xris
 
Reply Sat 29 Nov, 2008 07:34 am
@Whoever,
Sorry not that clear what you are saying..something might not exist? because certain mystics ponder on reality ? if you take away the certainty of something you have to be precise in the reasons for doing it or at least explain on what grounds...nothing is not something and im sure that something is not nothing..
 
Whoever
 
Reply Mon 1 Dec, 2008 05:46 am
@xris,
xris wrote:
Sorry not that clear what you are saying..something might not exist? because certain mystics ponder on reality ? if you take away the certainty of something you have to be precise in the reasons for doing it or at least explain on what grounds...nothing is not something and im sure that something is not nothing..

True enough. Likewise, if you take the existence of Something as certain you have to justify yourself. What I'm suggesting is that in metaphysics when we examine the relationship between Something and Nothing we should not simply assume that naive realism is true, we have to prove it. Before we say, 'Nothing cannot exist' we need to prove that Something does. Obviously Nihilism is not true, but it is only obvious to us as conscious individuals. In physics and philosophy it is not at all obvious, as we see from that quote from Lee Smolin. The physicist Victor Stenger proposes that the universe is created by the laws of Nothing.

A less contentious way of putting this would be say that before we can reach any conclusion about Nothing we must be sure we know what we mean by Something. If we simply assume that the objects of the everyday world have some extended essence to which their attributes adhere, as we do for the naivest form of realism, so that these objects would have an inherent existence, then we are not doing metaphysics but making guesses. The world is clearly a far stranger place than simple realism would suggest.

Whether Buddhism's theory of emptiness is false is an empirical matter, we can't simply assume that it is. For this theory, by reduction nothing really exists and nothing ever really happens, just as Parmenides, Zeno and Heraclitus propose. Our usual categorical distinction between something and nothing would be a category error, one that leads us to undecidable questions such as, Did the universe begin with something or nothing?

Does that make more sense?

Edit: I just remembered Kant. He concludes that the universe as a whole is not an instance of a Category. This means that it cannot be characterised as Something as opposed to Nothing or vice versa. The significance of his conclusion is too often overlooked imho.
 
xris
 
Reply Mon 1 Dec, 2008 06:14 am
@Whoever,
All i can say from my perspective as human..something i can understand nothing is beyond my comprehension..before the big bang we have only evidence of nothing...by that we can believe what we choose by logic or by fanciful pondering..a creator or an unknown cause..there is nothing else..
 
Whoever
 
Reply Mon 1 Dec, 2008 06:19 am
@The Dude phil,
I think you set your sights too low.
 
xris
 
Reply Mon 1 Dec, 2008 06:26 am
@Whoever,
Maybe but i do at times think we should be careful how we proceed with our thinking of the unknown...one small step can be a lot better than stumbling in the dark..
 
Anthrobus
 
Reply Mon 1 Dec, 2008 03:10 pm
@sarek,
sarek wrote:
The version of Nothing I believe in is the one I nicked from a Belgian writer, Stefan Denaerde.
It says essentially that if for everything that exists there is an exactly equal opposite then it would all cancel out, leading to nothing. Thus Nothing and Everything coexist and are inseparable. Everything contains not only that which can be but also that which has been and will be and even everything that has a possibility of being.

Nothing does have the advantage that you do not need a scientist to explain it. And in this concept our own existence is also explained.
Because if something is at all possible, it is there somewhere.

You don't have to explain why specifically this universe exists and not something else. You only have to explain that it is one of the possible universa, and presto somewhere in infinity it will inevitably be found, with us in it.
...Nothing cannot be the equal and exact opposite of anything. Put the question in the converse: Does SOMETHING not exist? ans NO...therefore NOTHING cannot exist...NOTHING and SOMETHING do not cancel each other out as forces would, and on account of the fact that NOTHING could or would not be a force. Denaerde fails to understand that equal and exact opposites can and do exist, and that when they do, they form a synthesis to the centre, and do not annihilate one another, also such a synthesis as something and nothing would both exist and not exist at one and the same time: a logical impossibility...Some have said that a CREATOR created something from nothing: he did not, and on account of the fact that he himself had to exist before the such creation, and that therefore the such creation came from something...the notion of infinity is weak, and is allied to the concept of the NOTHING: therefore, and I add neither NOTHING nor INFINITY exist...
 
Anthrobus
 
Reply Mon 1 Dec, 2008 03:18 pm
@The Dude phil,
It is being assumed here that something exists...in truth: can there be another assumption, and can you really go on and make a distinction between that which exists and that which is REAL; be it SUBSTANCE or APPEARANCE it still has existence...it still EXISTS...
 
Anthrobus
 
Reply Mon 1 Dec, 2008 03:21 pm
@The Dude phil,
we should not simply assume that naive realism is true, we have to prove it...could NOTHING ponder its own proof of itself?...
 
Anthrobus
 
Reply Mon 1 Dec, 2008 03:24 pm
@The Dude phil,
if you take away the certainty of something you...if you take away the certainty of something that which you are left with is the uncertainty of something...in other words you are still left with something: I think its called the UNCERTAINTY PRINSCIPLE...
 
 

 
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