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What is nothingness?

  1. Oct 9, 2004 #1
    What is nothingness?
  2. jcsd
  3. Oct 9, 2004 #2


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    Not much, really.
    Last edited: Oct 9, 2004
  4. Oct 9, 2004 #3
    my idea of nothingness I can only imagine being as what was before the universe began, cause now what we really have is everythingness.
  5. Oct 9, 2004 #4
    empty vaccum space? with no radiation?
  6. Oct 9, 2004 #5
    is there such a thing?
  7. Oct 9, 2004 #6
    Take all the kinds of matter we know or concieve, including EM radiation, particles, dark matter, etc. and pretend they weren't there. What would it look like? You would have to assign it a "color" to see it (because color doesn't exist) so you can just use black, but you could never know where this nothingness is, or how much of it there is, because no dimensions exist.
  8. Oct 10, 2004 #7

    Looked at but cannot be seen - it is beneath form;
    Listened to but cannot be heard - it is beneath sound;
    Held but cannot be touched - it is beneath feeling;
    These depthless things evade definition,
    And blend into a single mystery.
    In its rising there is no light,
    In its falling there is no darkness,
    A continuous thread beyond description,
    Lining what can not occur;
    Its form formless,
    Its image nothing,
    Its name silence;
    Follow it, it has no back,
    Meet it, it has no face.
    Attend the present to deal with the past;
    Thus you grasp the continuity of the Way,
    Which is its essence.
  9. Oct 10, 2004 #8
    Of essence it has not
  10. Oct 10, 2004 #9


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    It's just a concept you get when people think irrationally and about non-existence at the same time. It probably started when people first started wondering what it's like to be dead. IOW, what is it like to experience non experience? It's nonsense, but an unavoidable mistake the brain seems to make.

    The concept of an empty space is another matter, though the thought process involved is usually equally irrational.
  11. Oct 10, 2004 #10
    nothingness cant be talked about becuase when you talk about it you associate it with something therefore making it something. Thus it is then something not nothing.
  12. Oct 12, 2004 #11
    The book of nothing

    The Book of Nothing : Vacuums, Voids, and the Latest Ideas about the Origins of the Universe
  13. Oct 12, 2004 #12
    What about those branes? :-D
  14. Oct 12, 2004 #13


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    Nothingness is just that. Nothing. No-thing. Not anything. It's a conceptual mistake to reify nothingness and ask what it is, because there is literally nothing to talk about.

    Think of it this way. Words in a language act like pointers to objects or concepts. We can think of the word 'cat' as an arrow that points to some abstract concept of cat-ness, and we can think of the word 'Tammy' as an arrow pointing to the actual cat owned by Jane. We can discuss the words 'cat' and 'Tammy' in a sensical fashion because when we talk about these words, our discussion is about the things that the words point to. There is conceptual 'stuff' pointed to by the words that acts as a 'receiver' of our descriptions, questions, desires, etc. of these words.

    Now take the word 'nothing.' We can visualize this word as an arrow or signpost, just as we could 'cat' and 'Tammy.' But consider that for 'nothing,' the arrow is not pointing to anything; there is no conceptual 'stuff' to receive any predicates; there is not anything that the word is about. As such, it's quite literally meaningless to talk about nothingness as if it were an actual object that can be talked about itself (such as asking, 'What is nothingness?'). Indeed, the function of the word 'nothing' in language is just to denote the absence of anything to talk about in the first place.
    Last edited: Oct 12, 2004
  15. Oct 12, 2004 #14


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    Worüber man Nichts sagen kann, darüber muss man schweigen..
    Or something like that..
  16. Oct 12, 2004 #15
    If nothing becomes something when it's thought of, then the universe could at some level theoretically be made/unmade/changed by thought.. just a thought.. (yuck yuck!).

    It reminds me of "the neverending story". In the movie, the evil "nothingness" was destrying all of the lands, and atrayu had to save it. And the way they saved it was by giving it a name. IOW, to stop being thought of, was to become useless, and cease to exist..

    I think a lot of people just have trouble with the concept that "nothing" means that- without substance. And if you're within nothing, you can't percieve it because there is no point of reference. It would be like trying to "see" air- you don't see it, but you know it's there, and you don't doubt it's existence. You just accept that it can't be seen.
    Last edited: Oct 12, 2004
  17. Oct 12, 2004 #16


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    I've no problem with a notion of "nothingness" in a modified form, namely:
    "Something that cannot be (directly) perceived (but which might have calculable, measurable effects)"
    To become rather speculative, I think these types of "nothingnesses" are what physics will end up studying/theorizing about..
  18. Oct 12, 2004 #17


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    By that definition, quarks are nothing. But quite obviously, quarks are something, precisely in virtue of the fact that they have properties. The conceptual arrow of the word 'quark' points to those phenomena in nature that have quark-like properties.

    We should be very clear here: The conceptual arrow of the word 'nothing,' by definition, does not point to anything. The only meaningful sense in which we can talk about nothingness is the sense in which it is a word with a certain linguistic function. In this sense, 'nothing' is just a kind of existential quantifier that denotes an absence or non-existence.

    Asking "What is nothingness?" is an ill posed question, somewhat like the question "Why is water dry?" or "Why do cows have three legs?" The question is not even logically consistent, since the way it frames the question poses a kind of theory that is incompatible with the definition of the word it inquires about. "What is X?" assumes that the token 'X' refers to something that exists or has some sort of appreciable, positive existential qualities, but 'nothing' is by definition a word that refers to absence or non-existence (neither of which have appreciable, positive existential qualities). Therefore, 'nothing' cannot play the role of X in this question in a logically coherent way.
    Last edited: Oct 12, 2004
  19. Oct 12, 2004 #18
    Negativity is Mental Disorder

    Nothing is something.

    Thing is in the word nothing. With a Negative.

    Now you see a THING. Put the word NO in front of it, and now you don't?

    Energy may not be created or destroyed. It only changes forms.

    Simple negation is a mental disorder of the real physics of the world.

    Nothing really means something very small or the surface of the positive things that surround where light does exist.

    All things in the world are sensed. We get this essense of nothing concept because it's always associated with empty spaces or the lack of some positive thing where a positive thing exists.
  20. Oct 12, 2004 #19
    Well said, I was going to post something similar.

    Think about how 'nothing' gets analyzed in formal logic. We never quantify over 'nothing', nothing is ever predicated of 'nothing'. Rather, 'nothing' functions merely as the negation of an existential quantifier (i.e., as "it is not the case that there is some X such that...").

    So, since this whole topic is confused, at what point should this thread be closed? :smile:
  21. Oct 12, 2004 #20
    humans have defined nothingness as

    The condition or quality of being nothing; nonexistence.
    Empty space; a void.
    Lack of consequence; insignificance.
    Something inconsequential or insignificant.
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