Peter van Inwagen has given an answer to the question ‘Why is there something rather than nothing?’. His answer is: Because there being nothing is as improbable as anything can be: it has probability 0. Here I shall examine his argument for this answer and I shall argue that it does not work because no good reasons have been given for two of the argument’s premises and that the conclusion of the argument does not constitute an answer to (...) the question van Inwagen wanted to answer. (shrink)
Let’s call the sentence “why is there something rather than nothing?” the Question. There’s no consensus, of course, regarding which proposed answer to the Question, if any, is correct, but occasionally there’s also controversy regarding the meaning of the Question itself. In this paper I argue that such controversy persists because there just isn’t one unique interpretation of the Question. Rather, the puzzlement expressed by the sentence “why is there something rather than nothing?” varies depending on the ontology (...) implicitly or explicitly endorsed by the speaker. In this paper I do three things. First, I argue that other proposals according to which the Question has one uniquely adequate interpretation are false. Second, I give several examples of the way in which the meaning of the Question can vary depending on the ontology to which it is coupled. Third, I explore the implications of my thesis for the manner in which we should approach future attempts to answer the Question. (shrink)
In this paper I present a novel supertask in a Newtonian universe that destroys and creates infinite masses and energies, showing thereby that we can have infinite indeterminism. Previous supertasks have managed only to destroy or create finite masses and energies, thereby giving cases of only finite indeterminism. In the Nothing from Infinity paradox we will see an infinitude of finite masses and an infinitude of energy disappear entirely, and do so despite the conservation of energy in all collisions. (...) I then show how this leads to the Infinity from Nothing paradox, in which we have the spontaneous eruption of infinite mass and energy out of nothing. I conclude by showing how our supertask models at least something of an old conundrum, the question of what happens when the immovable object meets the irresistible force. (shrink)
This chapter will explicate what Nishida means by “nothing” (mu, 無), as well as “being” (yū, 有), through an exposition of his concept of the “place of nothing” (mu no basho). We do so through an investigation of his exposition of “the place of nothing” vis-àvis the self, the world, and God, as it shows up in his epistemology, metaphysics, theology and religious ethics during the various periods of his oeuvre – in other words, his understanding of (...) nothingness that he takes to be the root of the self, the world, and the religious notion of an absolute or God. We will also indicate some of the sources of his notion from the Eastern and the Western traditions. What unites his view to nothing from the different periods is an existential praxis, and what I call an “anontology” that avoids reduction to either opposites of being and non-being (on-mēon). (shrink)
The purpose of this article is to present several immediate consequences of the introduction of a new constant called Lambda in order to represent the object ``nothing" or ``void" into a standard set theory. The use of Lambda will appear natural thanks to its role of condition of possibility of sets. On a conceptual level, the use of Lambda leads to a legitimation of the empty set and to a redefinition of the notion of set. It lets also clearly (...) appear the distinction between the empty set, the nothing and the ur-elements. On a technical level, we introduce the notion of pre-element and we suggest a formal definition of the nothing distinct of that of the null-class. Among other results, we get a relative resolution of the anomaly of the intersection of a family free of sets and the possibility of building the empty set from ``nothing". The theory is presented with equi-consistency results . On both conceptual and technical levels, the introduction of Lambda leads to a resolution of the Russell's puzzle of the null-class. (shrink)
In his essay The Origin of the Work of Art, Martin Heidegger discusses three examples of artworks: a painting by Van Gogh of peasant shoes, a poem about a Roman fountain, and a Greek temple. The new entry on Heidegger’s aesthetics in the Stanford Encylopedia of Philosophy, written by Iain Thomson, focuses on this essay, and Van Gogh’s painting in particular. It argues that Heidegger uses Van Gogh’s painting to set art, as the happening of truth, in relation to ‘ (...) class='Hi'>nothing’, which is a key term in Heidegger’s essays leading up to The Origin of the Work of Art. This paper extends a similar analysis to the Greek temple as a way of offering an exposition of Heidegger’s concerns in the essay. It begins by briefly outlining Thomson’s argument that Heidegger relates Van Gogh’s painting to ‘nothing’, and indicating the way this argument can be extended to the Greek temple. It then discusses three ways in which ‘nothing’ can open up the significance of the temple as a work of art in which truth happens: (1) it is not concerned with objective representation; (2) it depicts the primal strife of earth and world, concealing and unconcealing; (3) it is fundamentally historical. (shrink)
I argue that Žižek's Less Than Nothing: Hegel and the Shadow of Dialectical Materialism presents us with a radically original variety of metaphysics both in terms of Žižek's own intellectual development and the history of philosophy. Rather than being concerned with the study of being qua being, Less Than Nothing proclaims that we ought to investigate nothing qua nothing inasmuch as contemporary physics demonstrates that the more we analyze reality the more we find a void, this (...) latter now in matter of fact exhibiting the traits of ultimate reality rather than the order of the perceived universe. Before arriving at this, however, I demonstrate how Žižek is led to contemporary physics in order to overcome inherent limitations in his own previous metaphysics of Hegelian inspiration. If thinking substance as subject imposes upon us the recognition that substance as a self-articulating totality of necessity is an illusion, subject being nothing but a synonymous for its constitutive tension with itself, if we are to explain how this weakly structured nature does not collapse upon itself we must go further. In this manner, Less Than Nothing outlines one way in which we must step beyond Hegel to find new metaphysical solutions for impasses that have emerged out of thinking the obscure ground of the psychoanalytic subject. (shrink)
In traditional Chinese expressions, guannian 观念 (ideas) are results of guan 观 (viewing). However, viewing can be understood to have two different levels of meanings: one is “viewing things,” that is, viewing with something to view; another is “viewing nothing,” that is, viewing with nothing to view. What are viewed in “viewing things” are either physical beings—all existing things and phenomena—or the metaphysical being (for example, the “Dao as a thing”). In both cases, something is being viewed. What (...) is viewed in “viewing nothing” is the being itself, or “nothing,” in which there is nothing to view. According to Confucianism, the existence of “nothing” manifests itself as life sentiments, especially the sentiment of love, which is the very root and source of benevolence; moreover “viewing nothing” is, in essence, a perception of life. Life sentiments or the perception of life is “the thing itself ” prior to any being or any thing. (shrink)
He’s a terrible fellow, but at least he’s got substance.—Erich Auerbach on HeideggerMy esteemed colleague Purushottama Bilimoria drew my attention to Shane Mackinlay’s ‘Heidegger’s Temple: How Truth Happens when Nothing is Portrayed’. My friend wondered whether my piece on ‘The Origin of the Work of Art: Heidegger’ in Sophia 51, no.4 (2012): 465–478 was a reply to Mackinlay. It was not.I had not in fact read Shane Mackinlay’s elegant essay. Having read it now, I do not entirely agree with (...) it: Nor he, with my essay, no doubt. The Republic of Letters is wide open.The point perhaps that Bilimoria wanted to me to consider was that Mackinlay makes much of ‘nothing’, as did Bilimoria himself in his arrestingly titled, ‘Why is there Nothing rather than Something?’ (Sophia 51, no.4 (2012): 509–530). He, in conversation, has wanted me to make more of—the concept of?—nothing than I am accustomed to do. I doubt if I can rise to the challenge, beyond the Oxbridge ‘I don’t quite understand…’. If ev. (shrink)
No, that diminutive but independent vocable, begins its great role early in human life and never loses it. For not only can it head a negative sentence, announcing its judgement, or answer a question, implying its negated content, it can, and mostly does, in the beginning of speech, express an assertion of the resistant will—sometimes just that and nothing more. Eva Brann explores nothingness in the third book of her trilogy, which has treated imagination, time and now naysaying.
A story about absolute truth -- Something is wrong: emptiness and reality-- The myth of psychology -- The myth of Enlightenment -- Teachers: authority, fascism, and love -- The dark night of the soul -- Doing nothing -- Concentration, meditation, and space -- The nature of thought -- Language and reality -- Religion, symbols, and power -- The crisis of change-- Reaction, projection, and madness -- The collapse of self-- Love, emptiness, and energy -- Communication beyond language -- The (...) challenge of living-- Health, disease, and aging -- Death and immortality -- Inquiry -- Invitation to a dialogue. (shrink)
Book I: Before -- The origin -- Book II: Genesis -- Here goes nothing -- The light at the end of the tunnel -- Directions -- The geography of nowhere -- Book III: In residence -- Foyer -- Living room -- Dinner party -- East Room -- West Wing -- A room of one's own -- The children's hour -- In the garden -- Reflecting pool -- Book IV: Public library -- Dictionary of nothing -- The reading room (...) -- Writers' room -- In the stacks -- Samuel Beckett -- Italo Calvino -- E.M. Cioran -- Edmond Jabès -- Thomas Merton -- Rumi -- William Shakespeare -- Poets' corner -- Through a glass darkly -- The classics -- Book V: Concert Hall -- Overture -- Silence of the spheres -- Symphonies of silence -- Moments of silence -- The audience -- Book VI: School -- Knowing nothing -- The joy of unknowing -- Mathematics -- The arts -- Science sutra -- Creative thinking -- Paradoxical logic -- Master class -- Recess -- Final exam -- Book VII: Museum -- Permanent collection -- The moderns -- Warhol retrospective -- Gallery of blind spots -- In studio -- Nothing is beautiful -- Book VIII: Theater district -- Comedy tonight -- Mostly mystery -- Sing along -- In the wings -- Theater of the absurd -- Book IX: House of worship -- Nothing is sacred -- Seminary -- House of doubt -- Practicing nothing -- Book X: Downtown -- City hall -- At the office -- Inn on Main Street -- Restaurant -- Corner bar -- Wall Street -- Book XI: City limits -- This way out -- Tunnel at the end of the light -- Cemetery -- Last words -- After lite. (shrink)
Suppose that five minutes ago, to our astonishment, a healthy duck suddenly popped into existence on the table in front of us. Suppose further that there was no first moment at which the duck existed but rather a last moment, T, at which it had yet to exist. Then for each moment t at which the duck has existed, there is an explanation of why the duck existed at t: there was a moment t’ earlier than t but later than (...) T such that the duck existed at t’, and it was only to be expected that a healthy duck would survive the brief time from t’ to t. But do these explanations, taken collectively, explain why the duck, instead of never existing, has existed at all moments since T? Presumably not. But if not, this seems to discredit the style of explanation offered by David Hume and Paul Edwards for the infinite regress they hypothesize of causes and effects. (shrink)
The possibility that nothing really matters can cause much anxiety, but what would it mean for that to be true? Since it couldn’t be bad that nothing matters, fearing nihilism makes little sense. However, the consequences of belief in nihilism will be far more dramatic than often thought. Many metaethicists assume that even if nothing matters, we should, and would, go on more or less as before. But if nihilism is true in an unqualified way, it can’t (...) be the case that we should go on as before. And given some plausible assumptions about our psychology, it’s also unlikely that we would go on as before: belief in nihilism will lead to loss of evaluative belief, and that will lead to loss or deflation of our corresponding subjective concerns. Now if nothing matters, then this consequence also wouldn’t matter. But this consequence will be extremely harmful if we believe in nihilism but things do matter, an asymmetry that gives us, in Pascalian fashion, pragmatic reasons not to believe in nihilism, and reasons not to try to find out whether it is really true. (shrink)
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”. (shrink)
In Less Than Nothing, the pinnacle publication of a distinguished career, Slavoj i ek argues that it is imperative that we not simply return to Hegel but that we repeat and exceed his triumphs, overcoming his limitations by being even more ...
The question, 'Why is there something rather than nothing?', has a strong claim to be philosophy's central, and most perplexing, question; it has a capacity to set the head spinning which few other philosophical problems can rival. Bede Rundle challenges the stalemate between theistic and naturalistic explanations with a rigorous, properly philosophical approach, and presents some startlingly novel conclusions.
The concept of "grobalization" is proposed to complement the popular idea of "glocalization." In addition, a sociologically relevant concept of "nothing" is defined and juxtaposed with "something." Two continua are created- grobalization-glocalization and nothing-something-and their intersection creates four quadrants: the grobalization of nothing, glocalization of nothing, grobalization of something, and glocalization of something. Of greatest importance are the grobalization of nothing and the glocalization of something, as well as the conflict between them. The grobalization of (...)nothing threatens to overwhelm the latter and everything else. Other issues discussed include the loss of something in a world increasingly dominated by nothing, the disappearance of the local, and the relationship of the triumph of nothing to political economy, especially social class. I conclude that no social class is immune to this process and that the poor and lower classess may be "doomed" to something. (shrink)
Finding an adequate definition of "life" has proven to be a tricky affair. In this article, I discuss the idea that nothing is really alive: we only say so. I shall argue that 'being alive' is not a genuine property of things, and that it only reflects the way we think and talk about things. An eliminativist strategy will then allow us to free ourselves from the burden of having to find a definition of life, and will allow us (...) to focus on the genuinely interesting properties of living (and non-living) entities. (shrink)
Graham Priest proposed an argument for the conclusion that ‘nothing’ occurs as a singular term and not as a quantifier in a sentence like (1) ‘The cosmos came into existence out of nothing’. Priest's point is that, intuitively, (1) entails (C) ‘The cosmos came into existence at some time’, but this entailment relation is left unexplained if ‘nothing’ is treated as a quantifier. If Priest is right, the paradoxical notion of an object that is nothing plays (...) a role in our very understanding of reality. In this note, we argue that Priest's argument is unsound: the intuitive entailment relation between (1) and (C) does not offer convincing evidence that ‘nothing’ occurs as a term in (1). Moreover, we provide an explanation of why (1) is naturally taken to entail (C), which is both plausible and consistent with the standard, quantificational treatment of ‘nothing’. (shrink)
In their paper Nothing but the Truth Andreas Pietz and Umberto Rivieccio present Exactly True Logic, an interesting variation upon the four-valued logic for first-degree entailment FDE that was given by Belnap and Dunn in the 1970s. Pietz & Rivieccio provide this logic with a Hilbert-style axiomatisation and write that finding a nice sequent calculus for the logic will presumably not be easy. But a sequent calculus can be given and in this paper we will show that a calculus (...) for the Belnap-Dunn logic we have defined earlier can in fact be reused for the purpose of characterising ETL, provided a small alteration is made—initial assignments of signs to the sentences of a sequent to be proved must be different from those used for characterising FDE. While Pietz & Rivieccio define ETL on the language of classical propositional logic we also study its consequence relation on an extension of this language that is functionally complete for the underlying four truth values. On this extension the calculus gets a multiple-tree character—two proof trees may be needed to establish one proof. (shrink)
Do stakes affect ordinary knowledge ascriptions? Epistemic contextualists and interest relative invariantist claim that stakes do play a role in ordinary knowledge ascription. But results from a large scale cross-cultural study we conducted suggested otherwise. We collected data on people’s judgments in response to high and low stakes versions of “Bank Cases”. The cases were translated into 14 different languages and data was collected from 4504 people across nineteen sites, spanning fifteen countries. In every site sampled, we find that stakes (...) do not play a role in ordinary knowledge ascriptions. In light of the surprising cross-cultural robustness of our findings, we suggest that the scales tilt against epistemic contextualism and interest-relative invariantism and that a version of classical invariantism about knowledge should perhaps be taken seriously. (shrink)
Let Entitlement Epistemology be the theory of knowledge which says that entitlement—a special kind of unearned warrant to accept or believe—can help us successfully address a range of sceptical arguments. Prominent versions of this theory urge that epistemology should not be concerned with knowledge (and similar externalist states) but rather with justification, warrant, and entitlement (at least insofar as these are conceived of as internalist states). Knowledge does not come first, half-way, or even last in epistemological theorising—rather, it ought to (...) come nowhere. The goal in what follows is two-fold: Firstly, to assess whether this extreme internalist version of Entitlement Epistemology is at all sustainable. (We shall find that it is not.) Secondly, to articulate a version of Entitlement Epistemology which arguably does much better. On the view to be explored, knowledge does not drop out of the epistemological picture: if we allow that there can be warrant for nothing, then there can be knowledge for nothing too. (shrink)
Plutarch tells the story of a man who plucked a nightingale and finding but little to eat exclaimed: "You are just a voice and nothing more." Plucking the feathers of meaning that cover the voice, dismantling the body from which the voice seems to emanate, resisting the Sirens' song of fascination with the voice, concentrating on "the voice and nothing more": this is the difficult task that philosopher Mladen Dolar relentlessly pursues in this seminal work.The voice did not (...) figure as a major philosophical topic until the 1960s, when Derrida and Lacan separately proposed it as a central theoretical concern. In A Voice and Nothing More Dolar goes beyond Derrida's idea of "phonocentrism" and revives and develops Lacan's claim that the voice is one of the paramount embodiments of the psychoanalytic object. Dolar proposes that, apart from the two commonly understood uses of the voice as a vehicle of meaning and as a source of aesthetic admiration, there is a third level of understanding: the voice as an object that can be seen as the lever of thought. He investigates the object voice on a number of different levels--the linguistics of the voice, the metaphysics of the voice, the ethics of the voice, the paradoxical relation between the voice and the body, the politics of the voice--and he scrutinizes the uses of the voice in Freud and Kafka. With this foundational work, Dolar gives us a philosophically grounded theory of the voice as a Lacanian object-cause. (shrink)
Nihilism is the logic of nothing as something, which claims that Nothing Is. Its unmaking of things, and its forming of formless things, strain the fundamental terms of existence: what it is to be, to know, to be known. But nihilism, the antithesis of God, is also like theology. Where nihilism creates nothingness, condenses it to substance, God also makes nothingness creative. Negotiating the borders of spirit and substance, theology can ask the questions of nihilism that other disciplines (...) do not ask: Where is it? What is it made of? Why is it so destructive? How can it be made holy, or overcome? Genealogy of Nihilism rereads Western history in the light of nihilistic logic, which pervades two millennia of Western thought and is coming to fruition in our present age in a virulently dangerous manner. From Parmenides to Alain Badiou, via Plotinus, Avicenna, Duns Scotus, Ockham, Descartes, Spinoza, Kant, Hegel, Heidegger, Sartre, Lacan, Deleuze and Derrida, a genealogy of nothingness can be witnessed in development, with devastating consequences for the way we live. Conor Cunningham's elaborate and sophisticated theology, spanning the disciplines of philosophy, science and popular culture, permits us to see not simply how modernity has formulated its philosophies of nothing, but how these philosophies might be transfigures by the crucial difference theology makes, and so be reconcilable with life and the living - with the very gift which being is. (shrink)
Daniel Breazeale - All or Nothing: Systematicity, Transcendental Arguments, and Skepticism in German Idealism - Journal of the History of Philosophy 45:4 Journal of the History of Philosophy 45.4 665-667 Muse Search Journals This Journal Contents Reviewed by Daniel Breazeale University of Kentucky Paul W. Franks. All or Nothing: Systematicity, Transcendental Arguments, and Skepticism in German Idealism. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2005. Pp. viii + 440. Cloth, $49.95. Paul Franks' All or Nothing is in no sense (...) an introduction to or history of German idealism, but an immensely sophisticated philosophical engagement with a specific complex of problems that occupied Reinhold, Fichte, Schelling, Hegel, and others—problems they believed themselves to have inherited from Kant's transcendental philosophy, as well as from its criticism by Jacobi, Maimon, Schulze, and others. According to Franks, these thinkers were involved in a common systematic project of "ultimate" or "absolute" grounding, while adopting various strategies to avoid "the Agrippan Trilemma," according to which any effort to justify an ultimate first principle must involve either the purely arbitrary assertion or stipulation of the principle in question, an infinite regress of explanatory principles, or a viciously circular justification of the principle in.. (shrink)
One of the most contentious of Castoriadis' ideas is his concept of creatio ex nihilo (creation from nothing). This article elucidates and evaluates this concept of creation, contrasting Castoriadis' approach with its classical antithesis in the philosophy of Parmenides, who famously concluded that the universe muct be unchanging since nothing can come to be or cease to be.
This essay explores a simple argument for a Ground of Being, objections to it, and limitations on it. It is nonsensical to refer to Nothing in the sense of utter absence, hence nothing can be claimed to come from Nothing. If, as it seems, the universe, or any physical ensemble containing it, is past-finite, it must be caused by an uncaused Ground. Speculative many-worlds, pocket universes and multiverses do not affect this argument, but the quantum cosmologies of (...) Alex Vilenkin, and J. B. Hartle and Stephen Hawking, which claim that the universe came from literally nothing, would. I argue that their novel project cannot work for reasons both physical (their "nothing" is actually a vacuum state governed by eternal physical laws) and methodological (physical theory cannot explain the emergence of the physical per se). Thus my argument stands. However, as David Hume showed, a posteriori arguments like mine infer a creation, and Creator, of a certain character, namely, a stochastic concept of creation and a panentheistic, partly physical Creator lacking omniscience and omnipotence. Rather than undermining the cosmological argument, as Hume intended, these limitations liberate the concept of the Ground from unnecessary problems, as Hartshorne suggested. (shrink)
The “shrinking” of the globe in the last few centuries has made explicit that the world is a tense unity of many: the many worlds are forced to contend with one another. Nishida Kitarō, the founder of the Kyoto school, once stated that to be is to be implaced. We exist by partaking in “the socio-historical world.” More recently, Jean-luc Nancy has conceived of the world in terms of sense. What is striking in both is that the world emerges out (...) of a nothing, created ex nihilo—the phrase stripped of its theistic connotations. While for Nishida the world is ultimately implaced in the “place of absolute nothing,” Nancy speaks of the nothing that is the basis of the world’s self-creation. I will explore a possible convergence between these and any light it may shed upon our contemporary situation of globalization and its implications for praxis. I look to a sense of the nothing as a chōratic spatiality, an opening that provides space for co-being and serves as the source of creativity. In face of globalization, the project for meaning through mondialisation (in Nancy) and within a multi-cultural world (in Nishida) would imply the appropriation of such an originary spatiality. (shrink)
I argue that miscarriage, referred to by poet Susan Stewart as “the event that was nothing,” is a liminal event along four distinct and inter-related dimensions: parenthood, procreation, death, and induced abortion. It is because of this liminality that miscarriage has been both poorly addressed in our society, and enrolled in larger debates over women's reproduction and responsibility for reproduction, both conceptually and legally. If miscarriage’s liminality were better understood, if miscarriage itself were better theorized, perhaps it would not (...) so easily be enrolled in these other debates to the detriment of women who miscarry, and their families. However, its very liminality and the fact that it is enrolled in these debates sheds light on the complicated network of concepts within which miscarriage lies. (shrink)
This essay in the comparative metaphysic of nothingness begins by pondering why Leibniz thought of the converse question as the preeminent one. In Eastern philosophical thought, like the numeral 'zero' (śūnya) that Indian mathematicians first discovered, nothingness as non-being looms large and serves as the first quiver on the imponderables they seem to have encountered (e.g., 'In the beginning was neither non-being nor being: what was there, bottomless deep?' RgVeda X.129). The concept of non-being and its permutations of nothing, (...) negation, nullity, etc., receive more sophisticated treatment in the works of grammarians, ritual hermeneuticians, logicians, and their dialectical adversaries variously across Jaina and Buddhist schools. The present analysis follows the function of negation/the negative copula, nãn, and dialetheia in grammar and logic, then moves onto ontologies of non-existence and extinction and further suggestive tropes that tend to arrest rather than affirm the inexorable being-there of something. After a discussion of interests in being (existence), non-being and nothingness in contemporary metaphysics, the article examines Heidegger’s extensive treatment of nothingness in his 1929 inaugural Freiburg lecture, 'Was ist Metaphysik?', published later as 'What is Metaphysics?' The essay however distances itself from any pretensions toward a doctrine of Metaphysical Nihilism. (shrink)
In this dissertation I suggest an answer to the famous question ‘why is there something rather than nothing?’ I argue that there is something because there could not have been nothing. The focus of my discussion is the empty possible world of metaphysical nihilism, and the first chapter is a rejection of the only prominent argument for that position; the subtraction argument. In the second part of my discussion I construct a positive argument against metaphysical nihilism, I assume, (...) as is common in the literature, that inconceivability provides evidence of impossibility. I establish the inconceivability of nothingness taking propositional imagining to be the core of conceivability, claiming that we have no experience of nothingness in the relevant sense and are unable to imagine it. Finally, I suggest that a distinction should be made between everyday use of the term ‘nothing’, and the sense under discussion here. The inconceivability of nothingness applies only in the latter case. Given that nothingness is inconceivable, we have prima facie reason to suppose that the empty world is impossible. I conclude that given the failure of the subtraction argument and in light of my argument against metaphysical nihilism, that position should be rejected. (shrink)
From Leibniz to Krauss philosophers and scientists have raised the question as to why there is something rather than nothing. Why-questions request a type of explanation and this is often thought to include a deductive component. With classical logic in the background only trivial answers are forthcoming. With free logics in the background, be they of the negative, positive or neutral variety, only question-begging answers are to be expected. The same conclusion is reached for the modal version of the (...) Question, namely ‘Why is there something contingent rather than nothing contingent?’. The categorial version of the Question, namely ‘Why is there something concrete rather than nothing concrete?’, is also discussed. The conclusion is reached that deductive explanations are question-begging, whether one works with classical logic or positive or negative free logic. I also look skeptically at the prospects of giving causal-counterfactual or probabilistic answers to the Question, although the discussion of the options is less comprehensive and the conclusions are more tentative. The meta-question, viz. ‘Should we not stop asking the Question’, is accordingly tentatively answered affirmatively. (shrink)
The paper will explicate the Sache or matter of the dialectic of the founder of Kyoto School philosophy, Nishida Kitarō (1870-1945), from the standpoint of his mature thought, especially from the 1930s and 40s. Rather than providing a simple exposition of his thought I will engage in a creative reading of his concept of basho (place) in terms of chiasma and chōra, or a chiasmatic chōra. I argue that Nishida’s appropriation of nineteenth century German, especially Hegelian, terminology was inadequate in (...) expressing what he strove to say—for his concept of basho confounds traditional metaphysical discourse. Because of its chiasmatic and chōratic nature, the Sache he strove to capture and express through the language of dialectical philosophy, perpetually slips away from any systemic bounds. His “dialectic” (benshōhō) implies a chiasma or a criss-crossing of multiple factors on multi-dimensional levels that exceed in complexity simplistic binomial oppositions or the triadic formula of traditional dialectics. The complexity is one of over-determination that threatens to undermine the very language of such a dialectic. As the deep complexity of over-inter-determinations would deconstruct any notion of a substance, what Nishida offers—as opposed to an ousiology (or logic of substance)—is a chiasmology. I thus argue that his so-called dialectic is really an unfolding of that chiasma. And if chiasma expresses the over-determinate aspect of Nishida’s matter of thinking, chōra would express its under-determinate aspect. Nishida himself based his concept of basho or “place” on Plato’s notion of the chōra from the Timaeus. I take Nishida’s basho in its chōratic nature as what simultaneously unfolds and enfolds the chiasma. But in the case of the chōra it is its under-determinate nature that refuses reduction to any of the terms of opposition. In its self-withdrawal, it provides a clearing, a space, for the chiasmatic unraveling of the many. Like the chiasma it undermines any claim to a first substance or the hegemony of a universal First. For in its indeterminateness, it is “nothing” (mu). The unfolding it enfolds is, as Nishida states, “a determination without determiner.” In concrete terms, however, we might develop Nishida’s concept further by returning to the original pre-Platonic Greek meaning of chōra in the sense of “region” or “country,” to understand chōra or basho here as the very space of co-existence provided by this very earth. As a chiasmatic chōra irreducible, in its over- and under-determinations, to being or non-being, Nishida’s basho qua mu proves to be the an-ontological origin of both on and meon (being and non-being). Rejecting the culture-nature dichotomy this notion of our place of being as chiasma and chōra underscores our holistic symbiosis with the earth as the anontological (un)ground and clearing for our co-existence in a concrete milieau with one another and with nature. It is this earth as our ultimate contextual wherein that provides a clearing for co-dwelling and mutual encounter with one’s other, that we must acknowledge today if we are to co-exist authentically and freely vis-à-vis our global neighbors and vis-à-vis the surrounding nature. (shrink)
According to Aristotle, Plato's efforts at metaphysical explanation not only fail, they are nonsensical. In particular, Plato's appeals to Forms as metaphysically explanatory of the sensibles that participate in them is "empty talk" since "'participating' means nothing". I defend Plato against Aristotle's charge by identifying a particular, substantive model of metaphysical predication as the favored model of Plato's late ontology. The model posits two basic metaphysical predication relations: self-predication and participation. In order to understand the participation relation, it is (...) important first to understand how Plato's Forms are self-predicative paradigms. According to the favored model, Forms are self-predicative paradigms insofar as they are ideal, abstract encoders of structural essences. Sensibles participate in Forms by exemplifying the structures encoded in the Forms. Given plausible conditions on metaphysical explanation, Plato's appeals to abstract Forms as metaphysically explanatory of sensibles is a reasonable competitor for Aristotle's appeals to natural, substantial forms. At the very least, Plato's appeals to a participation relation are not empty. (shrink)
This groundbreaking volume investigates the most fundamental question of all: Why is there something rather than nothing? The question is explored from diverse and radical perspectives: religious, naturalistic, platonistic and skeptical. Does science answer the question? Or does theology? Does everything need an explanation? Or can there be brute, inexplicable facts? Could there have been nothing whatsoever? Or is there any being that could not have failed to exist? Is the question meaningful after all? The volume advances cutting-edge (...) debates in metaphysics, philosophy of cosmology and philosophy of religion, and will intrigue and challenge readers interested in any of these subjects. (shrink)
The slogan “the whole is nothing over and above the parts” and related vague thoughts animate many theories of parthood and arguably are central to our ordinary conception. I examine some issues connected with this slogan.
Very Little ... Almost Nothing puts the question of the meaning of life back at the center of intellectual debate. Its central concern is how we can find a meaning to human finitude without recourse to anything that transcends that finitude. A profound but secular meditation on the theme of death, Critchley traces the idea of nihilism through Blanchot, Levinas, Jena Romanticism and Cavell, culminating in a reading of Beckett, in many ways the hero of the book. For this (...) Second Edition, Simon Critchley has added a revealing and extended new preface, and a new chapter on Wallace Stevens which reflects on the idea of poetry as philosophy. (shrink)
Nothing can be said about a nonexistent object, but something can be said about the act of attempting to refer to one or, as in fiction, of pretending to refer to one. Unsuccessful reference, whether by expressions or by speakers, can be explained straightforwardly within the context of the theory of speech acts and communication. As for fiction, there is nothing special semantically, as to either meaning or reference, about its language. And fictional discourse is just a distinctive (...) use of ordinary language: pretended communication and within it, pretended reference. However, discourse about fiction is not pretense but is normal communication, a kind of indirect discourse. To describe the world of a fiction is to state what the fiction says ; and what seems to be reference to a fictional character is really attributing a feigned reference by the author. (shrink)
Do I have a special reason to care about my future, as opposed to yours? We reject the common belief that I do. Putting our thesis paradoxically, we say that nothing matters in survival: nothing in our continued existence justifies any special self-concern. Such an "extreme" view is standardly tied to ideas about the metaphysics of persons, but not by us. After rejecting various arguments against our thesis, we conclude that simplicity decides in its favor. Throughout the essay (...) we honor Jim Rachels, whose final days exemplified his own unselfish morality as well as the “neutralist” ideal we espouse. As an appendix, we include the last original work to be published by James Rachels, in which he criticizes Sidgwick’s most famous defense of egoism. (shrink)
My title is intended to invoke at least two primary reference points or associations. The first, and most obvious, is a question that is very often assumed to be exemplary of the kind of bewildering puzzles that philosophers are distinctively preoccupied with – the question ‘why is there something rather than nothing?’ The second is perhaps less easy to identify. A set of lectures delivered by Heidegger in the short period between his restoration to the academic life after the (...) Second World War and his final retirement from it was published under the title ‘Wass Heisst Denken?’ Its English translation was given the title ‘What is Called Thinking?’; and if that title does not explicitly carry the same layers of significance evident in the German original, the concept of a ‘call’ at least keeps open the possibility of recovering many of them. For when Heidegger asks ‘what is called thinking?’, he means to imply, first, that not everything which gets called thinking really merits that honorific label; second, that it is therefore worth thinking about what form of human activity or passivity would really call for the use of that term; third, that this in turn will involve thinking about what, in our present and conceivable forms of inhabiting the world, really calls out for or provokes such a thoughtful response; and fourth that we will thereby find ourselves thinking about whether, and if so how and why, genuine thoughtfulness can find a home in the university, and thereby a place in the broader economy of a culture – whether anything recoverable from the venerable traditions of philosophy in the name of thinking might still be something for which any university, and any human cultural form, can see any call for. (shrink)