Typology of Nothing: Heidegger, Daoism and Buddhism

Comparative Philosophy 1 (1):78-89 (2010)
Parmenides expelled nonbeing from the realm of knowledge and forbade us to think or talk about it. But still there has been a long tradition of nay-sayings throughout the history of Western and Eastern philosophy. Are those philosophers talking about the same nonbeing or nothing? If not, how do their concepts of nothing differ from each other? Could there be different types of nothing? Surveying the traditional classifications of nothing or nonbeing in the East and West have led me to develop a typology of nothing that consists of three main types: 1) privative nothing, commonly known as absence; 2) negative nothing, the altogether not or absolute nothing; and finally 3) original nothing, the nothing that is equivalent to being. I will test my threefold typology of nothing by comparing the similarities and differences between the conceptions of nothing in Heidegger, Daoism and Buddhism. With this study, I hope that I will clarify some confusion in the understanding of nothing in Heidegger, Daoism and Buddhism, and shed light on the central philosophical issue of “what there is not”.
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