Why Nothingness Is Not a Word

  • Thread starter Mentat
  • Start date
3,754
2
Why "Nothingness" Is Not a Word

As I've pointed out in my thread, "An Exercise in "Nothing" Semantics", the word "nothing" doesn't denote anything (because, if it denoted something, it wouldn't be "nothing", but "something") - and can be replaced by a variation of "not anything", in any sentence.

However, many people still make use of the word "Nothingness". According to the previously defined understanding of the word "nothing", "nothingness" cannot mean anything. Allow me to explain:

The suffix, "-ness", is used (along with a word that it is connected to) to denote a state of something. e.g., if I say "fatness", I'm denoting the state of being fat.

However, only "things" (entities), can have a state. Even if the "something" is merely conceptual, it can still have a state. The word "nothing", since it doesn't denote anything, cannot be denoting the state of anything.

Does this make sense?

Any comments/corrections/arguments/etc are appreciated.
 

FZ+

1,550
2
Hmm... I find it halfminusungood. The trouble is that nothingness has an additional emotional connotation to "not anything". Say it in your head, and you get a feeling of emptiness that overwhelms, that is eternal. Rather like a hole, instead of a dip which you can fill it with something. Or maybe you just get a headache....
 
3,754
2
Originally posted by FZ+
Hmm... I find it halfminusungood. The trouble is that nothingness has an additional emotional connotation to "not anything". Say it in your head, and you get a feeling of emptiness that overwhelms, that is eternal. Rather like a hole, instead of a dip which you can fill it with something. Or maybe you just get a headache....
Actually, you are refering to gradually removing every "something" that I know about. This is a good exercise (as heusdens has pointed out in the past), but it will never lead you to "nothing". The reason I say this is that you cannot conceive of something without 1) existing; and 2) conceiving of something. Both of these points are in the realm of "something", and cannot extend to the realm of that which is described by "nothing".
 

FZ+

1,550
2
Then my point is that the "nothing" can exist as a concept in our mind that while being related, is distinct from the abscence of the concept. Kinda like our use of the number Zero... The nothing of nothingness means... well... nothing, but it is treated in our mind as something which has as an essence an essential nothingness. Consider it as a sort of potential well...
 
137
0
Observer tools ...?

Nothingness refers to a quantitative aspect in a certain framework.
The problem is however that the observer is limited by his tools of observation.
What today is nothing ... can be discovered or measured tomorrow
 

Ivan Seeking

Staff Emeritus
Science Advisor
Gold Member
7,093
174
Maybe you are all relying on definitions of which I am ignorant, but I will still try throwing in a couple of thoughts which may constitute nothingness : What about the comparison to zero. If I remember correctly, zero is consider something which has no value. It holds a place but represents nothing. So, nothing is the value, but zero is the thing. Isn't nothingness like the concept of a place without substance? Perhaps the logical equivalent to a pure vacuum shielded from all sources of energy - no EM, no gravity, no neutrinos, absolutely nothing. Even though no thing is there, there is still a there…the point being that a defined “location” or “volume” does exist conceptually.
 

Eh

671
1
See http://www.objectivethought.com/articles/dichotomy.html for reification of the zero.

But honestly, there is no problem with the word because the ambiguity of the english language allows for it to avoid being a contradiction. For example, many people would classify "things" as matter and energy, but not necessarly existence. So a vacuum which is absent of such things, could be called nothingness. Likewise, some folks would consider being dead (unconscious) to be state of nothingness. The problem is semantics instead of ontological.
 
Last edited:
46
0
The word "nothing" does denote something: it denotes the absence of some thing. Thusly, the word "nothingness" denotes the state of the complete absence of things, the absence of everything.
 

Ivan Seeking

Staff Emeritus
Science Advisor
Gold Member
7,093
174
Originally posted by Ivan Seeking
Isn't nothingness like the concept of a place without substance? Perhaps the logical equivalent to a pure vacuum shielded from all sources of energy - no EM, no gravity, no neutrinos, absolutely nothing. Even though no thing is there, there is still a there…the point being that a defined “location” or “volume” does exist conceptually.
I may object to my own premise here since my example implies a place which by definition cannot exist and still be a place, I think. If space is something, which it seems to be by virtue of stress tensors and such, then my example seems to go completely imaginary. Then I start to agree with the premise of the thread. But at least I think we can still escape the point by arguing semantics.
 
Last edited:

Lifegazer

Originally posted by pelastration
Nothingness refers to a quantitative aspect in a certain framework.
Nonsense. There is no 'quantity' within philosophical-nothing.
The problem is however that the observer is limited by his tools of observation.
The problem is that your eyes are bigger than your mind.
What today is nothing ... can be discovered or measured tomorrow
If I was philosophy mentor, I'd delete this nonsense straight-away. Do you understand what reason is?? A "quantitative nothing" is not a rational possibility.
 
137
0
Originally posted by Lifegazer
Nonsense. There is no 'quantity' within philosophical-nothing.

The problem is that your eyes are bigger than your mind.

If I was philosophy mentor, I'd delete this nonsense straight-away. Do you understand what reason is?? A "quantitative nothing" is not a rational possibility.
I have no 'reason' to doubt about your statements because they come from the GREAT and ONLY MIND HIMSELF! [zz)]
 
2,224
0
Oiginally posted by Mentat
As I've pointed out in my thread, "An Exercise in "Nothing" Semantics", the word "nothing" doesn't denote anything (because, if it denoted something, it wouldn't be "nothing", but "something") - and can be replaced by a variation of "not anything", in any sentence.
Nothing is a word, in that it's related to something. You can't have absolute nothing ... but, if "nothing" else .... but, if "nothing" else ... but, if "nothing" else ... it sets the criteria by which you establish "something."
 

FZ+

1,550
2
Originally posted by Lifegazer
If I was philosophy mentor, I'd delete this nonsense straight-away. Do you understand what reason is?? A "quantitative nothing" is not a rational possibility.
"Corrupt" philosophy at work?
 

Lifegazer

Originally posted by FZ+
"Corrupt" philosophy at work?
I'd probably have him flogged too. LOL
 

FZ+

1,550
2
Heh. The point is that nothingness can exist as a philosophical concept separate from that of "not anything", and this concept can be useful in discussion of certain things (eg. philosophical mathematics?)... even if this is not represented in reality. Ie. the use of the word nothingness is justified, to represent perhaps the idea of a negative potential to be filled.
Sort of.
 
137
0
Originally posted by Lifegazer
I'd probably have him flogged too. LOL
Flogged me?
It seems you assume that I give 'value' to your words and ideas.
I just observe them.
 
476
0
Mentat, I'd suggest you to dive deeper into 'human communication' issues. Verbal language is meant to exchange associations, not formal understanding. 'nothing' creates a kind of association.
 
3,754
2
Originally posted by Sauwelios
The word "nothing" does denote something: it denotes the absence of some thing. Thusly, the word "nothingness" denotes the state of the complete absence of things, the absence of everything.
The state itself is something, thus it wouldn't be the absence of everything, just most things.
 
3,754
2
Originally posted by wimms
Mentat, I'd suggest you to dive deeper into 'human communication' issues. Verbal language is meant to exchange associations, not formal understanding. 'nothing' creates a kind of association.
This is kind of like what Eh was saying, and I pretty much agree: this is just a semantic problem. "Nothing" will continue to be misused as long as it's a word. There's nothing I can do about that. However, I would like it if people would stop misusing it in a discussion that really relies on what the word means (such as discussions about "outside of the universe" and the like).
 
3,754
2
Originally posted by Ivan Seeking
Maybe you are all relying on definitions of which I am ignorant, but I will still try throwing in a couple of thoughts which may constitute nothingness : What about the comparison to zero. If I remember correctly, zero is consider something which has no value. It holds a place but represents nothing. So, nothing is the value, but zero is the thing. Isn't nothingness like the concept of a place without substance? Perhaps the logical equivalent to a pure vacuum shielded from all sources of energy - no EM, no gravity, no neutrinos, absolutely nothing. Even though no thing is there, there is still a there…the point being that a defined “location” or “volume” does exist conceptually.
No, a vacuum isn't "nothing", it's a vacuum (that's something in itself).

"Zero" doesn't equal "nothing". Zero is a number, that's something.
 
3,754
2
The reason I say that "Nothingness" is not a word is that a word is supposed to be something (a written symbol, or an audible sound) that conveys meaning. "Nothingness" doesn't convey a meaning, when taken in it's literal form.
 

FZ+

1,550
2
No, a vacuum isn't "nothing", it's a vacuum (that's something in itself).
"Zero" doesn't equal "nothing". Zero is a number, that's something.
Then nothingness is not nothing itself. It is a concept that describes our perception of nothing, like zero does in numerical form. ie. nothingness is an abstract idea.
 
3,754
2
Originally posted by FZ+
Then nothingness is not nothing itself. It is a concept that describes our perception of nothing, like zero does in numerical form. ie. nothingness is an abstract idea.
...which cannot be taken literally. Much like the word "nothing".

The problem lies with the people (PF members, and normal humans alike :wink:) who use the word "nothing" or the word "nothingness", and take them literally (believing that the universe sprang out of "nothingness", for example).
 
1,927
0
Originally posted by FZ+
Then nothingness is not nothing itself. It is a concept that describes our perception of nothing, like zero does in numerical form. ie. nothingness is an abstract idea.
Whether or not "nothingness" has any reality (sic) or is purely an abstract idea is debatable. Nothingness, zero, and infinity are all vague concepts with poorly defined parameters. However, that obviously has not made them useless concepts or proven that they don't exist in the real world.

Because of their vagueness, it is their qualitative properties if any that have been exploited. Sometimes, the best way to hear something is to plug your ears, strange and paradoxical as it may sound. :0)
 

Related Threads for: Why Nothingness Is Not a Word

Replies
23
Views
4K
  • Posted
Replies
20
Views
7K
  • Posted
Replies
5
Views
3K
Replies
3
Views
2K
Replies
1
Views
1K
Replies
7
Views
10K
  • Posted
Replies
10
Views
2K

Physics Forums Values

We Value Quality
• Topics based on mainstream science
• Proper English grammar and spelling
We Value Civility
• Positive and compassionate attitudes
• Patience while debating
We Value Productivity
• Disciplined to remain on-topic
• Recognition of own weaknesses
• Solo and co-op problem solving

Hot Threads

Top