• darthbarracuda
    2.9k
    I've been thinking about this for a while now.

    Say you eat a plate of lasagna. There is no lasagna left. In the state of affairs in which there is no lasagna, is there a property of no-lasagna?

    It seems to me that we might be able to get away with a nominalist position on negative properties. Negative properties are just names - descriptions - of a state of affairs, not actual properties in themselves. We say that the lack of a negative property - a negative-negative property, is just a positive property, so why should the lack of a positive property lead to a negative property?

    Similarly, say you have a splitting migraine (which I actually have right now... :( ). You drag yourself out of bed and take a few aspirin pills, then slouch back into bed. Half an hour later the migraine disappears. Do you now possess the property of not-having-a-migraine?

    Certainly, we would say that it is "good" that you do not have a migraine. But "goods" and "bads" seem to depend on the existence of something - a conditional property. If there is no property of not-having-a-migraine, then how can it be good that you do not have a migraine? Without a negative property, there seems to be a value "void".

    Perhaps we can use counterfactual analysis and compare two state of affairs - one in which you have a migraine and one in which you do not. But this is only a comparison - the state of affairs in which you have no migraine doesn't seem to be good in itself, only better than the state of affairs in which you have a migraine. If having a migraine was impossible, then every state of affairs would not have a migraine. Would this be a good thing in itself?

    At first, it seems like it would. But we have to remember that we are still imagining (or in my case immanently experiencing) a migraine, and thus utilizing counterfactuals. Get rid of observers and thus all memory of migraines - would the lack of any migraines really be a good thing (and not just a better)?

    What seems to be case, however, is that the removal of the migraine is a good thing. The act is good, even if the final state of affairs isn't good. The act of pursuing a better state of affairs is good.

    What also seems to be the case is that the lack of a bad, such as a migraine, is only good if it "clears the room" so to speak and allows a good to emerge. When Buddhists talk of "inner peace", they mean that once we extinguish tanha and suffering, peace and understanding is naturally emerges (it was always there, but masked by the presence of suffering - i.e. we do not have to pay money for inner peace). Peace was "repressed" by striving and suffering. So the lack of this suffering is only good in virtue of it allowing good to emerge. This would explain why, although we typically casually say that it's a good thing that someone isn't experiencing suffering, we wouldn't really say this in the case of a successful suicide. Nobody's there to experience anything.

    Thoughts? Do negative properties exist? Can the lack of something be valuable without the use of a negative property? Or does value depend on something existing, in particular an observer?
  • Bitter Crank
    8.1k
    After we divide states into "nothingness" and "somethingness", we can divide "somethingness" into

    a. good something
    b. bad something
    c. indifferent something

    The state of "nothingness" is neither good, bad, nor indifferent. It's empty. If one has never had a migraine headache, one can not think of "not having a migraine". Once one has had one, "migraine headache" becomes a bad something, and it's absence becomes a "good something". I haven't been shot. Being shot is a nothingness. I have broken bones several times. The prospective nonexistence of the cast is definitely a something to look forward to.

    The perfect lemon meringue pie has been eaten. There is nothing left. You didn't arrive in time to get a slice. It's a nothing to you. To the lucky 6 who did eat it, it is a good something. Your suffering is nothing to us 6. We, after all, don't have your problem.
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