• TheMadFool
    1.7k
    What is NOTHING ( N )?

    Definitions:
    1. Google: not anything
    2. Merriam-Webster: nonexistence

    Do the two definitions concur?

    There are only two worlds that I know of:
    1. Mental world (M)
    2. Physical world (P)
    Since we regularly speak of thoughts, ideas as things, it's reasonable to say that thoughts exist in, at least, M. If we don't take it this way, and say that thoughts don't exist, then N would include thoughts and ideas - this doesn't agree with the general idea of what we mean by N. So, N is neither mental nor physical. It can't be a thought and neither is it a physical object.

    Is space (S) N? Usually, the meaning of N is conveyed by pointing to an empty spot in space. So, is S = N? Well, N, being nonexistence shouldn't have any properties. But, S does have properties. S can be measured - its volume can be calculated. S has properties but N doesn't. So, S isn't N. It's a good analogy though and that's why people usually use it to express the meaning of N.

    Some say N is a concept. But, concepts exist in M but, as shown by its definition, N can't exist in M. So, N is not a concept, although, we do have a concept of N.

    Therefore, the two general responses to ''what is N?'' viz
    1. N is empty space
    2. N is a concept
    are just an analogy or plain wrong.

    Something else:

    N, being nonexistence, shouldn't have properties. If we divide possible properties into two - qualitative and quantitative - then it's quite obvious N can't have qualitative properties like color, shape, texture, sound, etc. but, surprisingly, N is, quantitatively, zero. In other words, N has the quantitative property of zero - there's no thing in N i.e. the number of things in N is zero.

    Another thing:

    N forms boundaries. For instance, what is both a cat and a dog? Nothing! This forms a clear cut boundary between the categories cat and dog.

    The usefulness of N in forming well delineated boundaries is made clear by situations where this isn't possible. For instance, vague categories (e.g. tall and short) lead to a lot of confusion and makes thinking difficult. We could say, in some sense, that N is useful.

    Even for a single category, N sets limits to its domain. ''Nothing is taller than mount everest'' demarcates the boundary of the category mountains. In a very general sense, a finite world is bound between superlatives (smallest-largest, richest-poorest, etc.) by N. Here again, N allows us to make sense of our world.

    In what other way can we make sense of N?

    What other properties of N are there?
  • bloodninja
    139
    What other properties of N are there?TheMadFool
    Why would nothing have properties? What kind of ontology are you situating nothing in?
  • MikeL
    638
    Hi Mad Fool,
    This is an interesting question. Just off the top of my head, based on your reasoning, it would seem that no thing belongs to sets. The set is the set of things. As you point out, it forms the boundary of the set (which can be formulated as a rule) and a value of zero.

    Does it have directionality I wonder? Infinite sets can ben infinite in one direction and limited in another. Can you think of a case where this may apply for no thing as well?
  • TheMadFool
    1.7k
    Why would nothing have properties? What kind of ontology are you situating nothing in?bloodninja

    When we talk of properties of physical objects, we consider their quantitative aspect too. We say ''5 bananas'', ''2 cars'', etc. These numbers, as relates to objects, are the quantitative properties of things.

    Similarly, when we quantify NOTHING, we do so with the number zero. Zero is the quantitative property of NOTHING just like 5 is the quantitative property of your right/left hand.

    Ontological basis? NOTHING is nonexistence. Yet, paradoxically, it has a quantitative property.

    Can you think of a case where this may apply for no thing as well?MikeL

    Well, it's quite difficult to work with something which, by definition, is nonexistence. As for the infinite, NOTHING is still relevant to it. What is the largest possibe number? The answer: NOTHING!
  • bloodninja
    139
    In what other way can we make sense of N?TheMadFool

    Heidegger had a lot to say on this topic. Currently I am only really familiar with Being and Time and haven't yet read What is Metaphysics? where he explicitly discusses the nothing, but I intend to do so in the near future.

    It's a very interesting topic. I'm not so sure that zero is the quantitative property of nothing. I think my issue with some of your interesting suggestions above is that (regarding zero) you're putting the cart before the horse so to speak. To reverse your reasoning, zero has a quantitative property due to it's having numerical meaning/significance. The same is true of all numbers, they all have quantitative properties. Having said that, it seems obvious to me that this property has nothing to do with the nothing. In other words, it is not the case that the nothing has the quantitative property of zero, zero is rather a numerical manifestation of the nothing. And there are various other interesting manifestations of the nothing besides, some of which you mention above.

    Does this make sense? It's a great topic! All I'm basically saying is that nothing is primordial, and more primordial than zero, which in turn is only a representation/manifestation of nothing/the nothing or what ever you want to call it. In other words, I am denying that quantity is ontologically primordial. From what I've picked up over the years, Heidegger is saying exactly this, that the nothing is ontologically basic.

    Zero is the quantitative property of NOTHINGTheMadFool
  • TheMadFool
    1.7k
    I think my issue with some of your interesting suggestions above is that (regarding zero) you're putting the cart before the horse so to speak.bloodninja

    The above contradicts with the following:

    All I'm basically saying is that nothing is primordial, and more primordial than zerobloodninja

    From what I've read, zero is the solution to x - x where x is a number. Before zero, the answer to x - x would be nothing. So, nothing is, as you said, primordial to zero. Is N = zero?

    No, because:

    What is the solution of x + 1 = x? There is no numerical value for x (not even zero) that'll satisfy the above equation. The normal response to the above question is nothing.

    However, in set theory, we could say that the set that contains the solutions to x + 1 = x is the empty set, { }. Now how many elements does { } contain? Zero.

    So, N is not zero but zero is a property of N.

    It isn't.StreetlightX

    What isn't?
  • bloodninja
    139
    There are only two worlds that I know of:
    1. Mental world (M)
    2. Physical world (P)
    TheMadFool

    I would like to politely disagree with this claim. There is a third world. The world of significance, of involved coping activity, in a word, of circumspection. Circumspection cannot plausibly be described as merely mental nor merely physical. Nor as the combination of both. It is in fact phenomenally and ontologically prior to both, and has it's own conditions of possibility, one of which is the nothing. In order of primordiality:

    1. World of significance (W)
    2. Mental world (M)
    3. Physical world (P)

    The intelligibility of M and P are derived from W. N cannot be made ontologically intelligible without W.
  • TheMadFool
    1.7k
    There is a third world.bloodninja

    I had to break up reality into two worlds because there are things that are exclusive to each. Thoughts are immaterial. They don't have mass and nor do they occupy space. For me, that requires division of reality into two worlds - physical and mental.

    Your third world - circumspection - is unwarranted because everything in it resides in the mental world. This makes it redundant, at least for the meaning of nothing.
  • bloodninja
    139
    Your third world - circumspection - is unwarranted because everything in it resides in the mental world. This makes it redundant, at least for the meaning of nothing.TheMadFool

    But ìt doesn't reside in the mental world. That is the point. I think you are being a little dogmatic here.
  • TheMadFool
    1.7k
    But ìt doesn't reside in the mental worldbloodninja

    Something neither mental nor physical? That seems impossible. Can you clarify.
  • Vajk
    85
    Is ther anything like nothing? :)
  • Jeremiah
    425
    Zero is a number too small to be measured or the absences of.
  • Cabbage Farmer
    141
    Nothing is nothing.
  • Cavacava
    1.8k
    Parmenides:

    For this shall never be proved, that the things that are not
    are; and do thou restrain thy thought from this way of inquiry.
    Nor let habit force thee to cast a wandering eye upon this
    devious track, or to turn thither thy resounding ear or thy
    tongue; but do thou judge the subtle refutation of their
    discourse uttered by me.
  • Ciceronianus the White
    450
    It's an imaginary friend of certain philosophers, and, like other imaginary friends, may be part of a process by which they're reconciled to the mundane world.
  • Herg
    23
    What is NOTHING ( N )?

    Definitions:
    1. Google: not anything
    2. Merriam-Webster: nonexistence

    Do the two definitions concur?
    TheMadFool

    Yes. “Not anything” means the absence of all things that could exist. (And also, to be exhaustive, of all things that could not exist, but of course they are absent by necessity.) “Nonexistence” means nothing existing. They mean the same. And they are both correct.

    Only things that could exist could instantiate properties (if and when they exist), so if all things that could exist are absent, no properties can be instantiated. So nothing cannot have properties. If we think we have found a property of nothing, we have gone wrong somewhere. Probably what has happened is that we have chosen words to describe a state of affairs that misdescribe it; there will always be a way of describing the state of affairs in which the supposed property of nothing disappears.

    N is neither mental nor physical. It can't be a thought and neither is it a physical object.TheMadFool

    No indeed. Being mental or physical are ways of existing, and as such are arguably not properties (since existence is generally held not to be a property). Nevertheless, only something that could exist could exist in a certain way, and so nothing, which is the absence of all things that could exist, could not exist in any way at all, and so cannot be either mental or physical.

    Therefore, the two general responses to ''what is N?'' viz
    1. N is empty space
    2. N is a concept
    are just an analogy or plain wrong.
    TheMadFool

    Agreed.

    N, being nonexistence, shouldn't have properties. If we divide possible properties into two - qualitative and quantitative - then it's quite obvious N can't have qualitative properties like color, shape, texture, sound, etc. but, surprisingly, N is, quantitatively, zero. In other words, N has the quantitative property of zero - there's no thing in N i.e. the number of things in N is zero.TheMadFool

    Zero is not a property. Rather, it is an alternative to saying ‘nothing’, e.g.:

    How many objects are in the box? Zero.
    What is in the box? Nothing.

    N forms boundaries. For instance, what is both a cat and a dog? Nothing! This forms a clear cut boundary between the categories cat and dog.TheMadFool

    In this and the remarks that follow it, you are actually talking about the concept of N, not about N. If we say ‘Nothing is both a cat and a dog’, we are using the concept of nothing to express the fact that in our domain of discourse, everything is either wholly cat or wholly dog. So insofar as there is a property of usefulness here, it is the concept of N that has the property, not N itself.

    When we talk of properties of physical objects, we consider their quantitative aspect too. We say ''5 bananas'', ''2 cars'', etc. These numbers, as relates to objects, are the quantitative properties of things.

    Similarly, when we quantify NOTHING, we do so with the number zero. Zero is the quantitative property of NOTHING just like 5 is the quantitative property of your right/left hand.
    TheMadFool

    Numbers are not properties of things, at any rate not in the way you suggest. The property your hand possesses is not fiveness, but five-fingeredness. Similarly, in a bunch of 5 bananas, the bunch itself does not possess the property of fiveness, but the property of five-banananess. As for each individual finger or banana, insofar as it possesses any quantitative or numerical property, it possesses the property of oneness; and it seems to true but trivial that all objects whatsoever must exhibit this property.
  • bloodninja
    139
    Something neither mental nor physical? That seems impossible. Can you clarify.TheMadFool

    To give a simple example. A hammer is neither a physical phenomenon nor a mental phenomenon. Sure it is made from physical stuff but it's being as equipment, in other worlds its intelligibility, is only possible upon a background of shared practices. This background is neither mental nor physical. To reduce it to either would be to completely misunderstand the phenomenon.
  • TheMadFool
    1.7k
    Yes, it's difficult to talk about NOTHING. Being, by definition, nonexistence, it lacks properties we're familiar with and, so, is beyond our grasp.

    We may, however, approach it negatively, in fact it's defined negatively - as what it isn't. The only property NOTHING has is zero, a quantiative property.

    Zero is a number too small to be measured or the absences of.Jeremiah

    Zero is the number that describes NOTHING - an absence of a thing.

    Are you saying NOTHING is a waste of time? Why?

    Agreed.

    the concept of N that has the propertyHerg

    Ok...somewhat...

    Numbers are not properties of thingsHerg

    So, there's no such thing as a quantitative property. Humans walking on 2 legs and dogs on 4 don't assist in distinguishing the two?

    A hammer is neither a physical phenomenon nor a mental phenomenonbloodninja

    By that reasoning, a hammer is NOTHING.
  • Jeremiah
    425
    In math 0 is also a number either too small to be measured or too small to be significant.
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