# Does Nothing exist?

Here I will make a short attempt to analyze whether or not Nothing exists. This has undoubtedly been done many times before, and I must admit that I have not studied the subject before so I could be making well-known mistakes. Fortunately I won’t feel embarrassed, because after all I am only a student.

Every particle has at least one property, and vacuum is seen in the context of space. Even the number 0 has a property, namely that it is a number. If it is a number, then it is something, and thus it is not Nothing. Nothing has no dimension or measurable property. Everything scientific has at least some value or meaning, but Nothing does not. The best way to define it is to say that it cannot be defined. It is exactly that abstract concept, for which any attempt to define it will fail. No definition can be constructed, because the smallest possible definition is already too large.

In order to understand what I will try to tell, what I mean by Nothing, it is essential to step out of the closed framework of logic and reason. In this discussion and by my definition, the fundamentals of logic can potentially become meaningless, so expecting to have them as support is expecting to fail. Once the barriers of logic have been breached, Nothing can come into existence. When reason cannot find the next step, intuition will know a way. It is up to you to either follow that intuition, or to go back to the fundamentally correct world of logic.

Does Nothing exist? This is not an easy question, but fortunately we know something about Nothing. We know that if it does exist, then we cannot define it, not in words and not in logic or mathematics. Therefore, by using a formal approach we can never prove its existence, because it cannot be expressed in formal science as a result of its definition. Although it appears to be impossible, let’s try a logical analysis to see where we fail. We can assume that something exists, because otherwise Nothing exists and this analysis would already be concluded. One would think that if something exists, it cannot be possible that Nothing exists. Case distinction gives us the following:

Case A: It is the case that Nothing does not exist. This is in line with our assumption.
Case B: It is the case that Nothing exists. The world (all that exists) contains Nothing. This combined with the assumption that something exists results in a contradiction, because there cannot be something and Nothing at the same time.

Imagine two people taking opposite sides here. Person A claims that Nothing does not exist. He follows pure logic, and the contradiction in case B forces him to case A. Person B claims that Nothing does exist. He knows that with this opinion, he faces a contradiction in his logic, so his reasoning does not appear to be correct.

Person A must think that person B has a very strange sense of logic, because person B believes that a contradiction can be true. With such reversed-logic reasoning, any attempt to prove to person B that Nothing does not exist will inevitably fail. If a contradiction could be equal to True, then for person A the logical conclusion would have been that it is possible for Nothing to exist in the first place.
Person B cannot show to person A exactly what Nothing is, because it is per definition undefinable. Even worse, in order to understand that Nothing exists, person B has had to accept that a contradiction is true. Because person A does not allow contradictions to be true, person A will never accept any proof based on such an assumption.

Person A is easy to follow, and he has no reason to doubt his own logic, because it is at the core of our science, and science has proved itself. Person B thinks that a contradiction can be true and because of this, logically, his belief in Nothing is justified.

Whose side would you pick in the discussion between person A and B? Or would you rather watch from a distance, satisfied with your own creative solution?

With the introduction of (my version of) Nothing, I have introduced something that cannot be comprehended by logic or any other formal science, as a result of its own definition. What is exactly this abstract concept, that science cannot comprehend? I think that if Nothing exists, then it is certainly the contradiction that results in True. The one thing that formal science cannot comprehend. The undefinable concept, defined only by being undefinable, thus only defined in terms of itself. It is the golden median, and it is the only true universal constant, because it explains the entire world as a result of its definition. Because it is timeless, it is always there, and because it has no position, it is everywhere. Because of Nothing, everything is possible, and if everything is possible, then everything is Nothing.

I think I have found Nothing.

I do think we can define “nothingness” (I prefer to use this, rather than “nothings”).
But we can do it only by negations.

If we affirm any positive property, it isn’t nothing, anymore. It would be out of “nothingness”.
So, my definition of it is the total lack of any property/attribute/quantity/quality/etc.

When defined like this, it can’t have “existence” property .
It has nothing to do with existence, time, space, good/bad, whatever.

The Christian doctrine of creation ex nihilo has made me think in the past about the logic of it. I even approached a couple of theologians with my thoughts, but I never got a sensible reply. My basic thought is this: If nothing cannot have properties of any kind, then it cannot have the property of existence. If nothing cannot exist, then something must. Therefore things exist. There is then, a sort of tension, a contradiction, between existence and nothingness. If nothingness cannot exist, then something must exist. Hence things exist. This is hardly a rigorous description of my point, but I mean here to suggest a trivial answer to the question of why something exists rather than nothing: the existence of nothing is logically impossible, so to speak.

no

I think you’re assuming that if Nothing cannot be said to exist in logic and reason, then Nothing is inexplicable in logic and reason. But this is not the case. Logicians are quite clear on their meaning of Nothing. Take these sentences:

(1) Nothing matters.
(2) Nothing is going to change.
(3) Nothing is blue.

To an English grammarian, they’d say “Nothing” is the subject of all these sentences, and in each one, “Nothing” has a predicate, viz. “matters”, “is going to change” and “is blue”. So, if we were to naively translate this into the logicians language, we’d have:

(1’) Mn
(2’) Cn
(3’) Bn

where “n” is a same for a thing, namely, “nothing”. “n”, in other words, refers to the thing (whatever it is) “nothing”.

But logicians DON’T translate (1) – (3) like that. Rather they do it this way:

(1’‘) There is no thing x such that x matters.
(2’‘) There is no thing x such that x is going to change
(3’') There is no thing x such that x is blue.

Here, in (1’‘) – (3’'), “Nothing” doesn’t function as a noun, which names things; rather the word “nothing” functions as a logical operator or an indicator for how to form sentences.

So, even though the logicians don’t ascribe existence to “nothing”, it doesn’t mean they haven’t explained it or given it its proper use in analysis.

Thank you for your response. I do not completely agree that logicians have “explained” Nothing (at least not in this context), but I think that what you are trying to say is in line with my view on the matter.

In a certain way, logicians actually use the word Nothing in the same sense as me. They do not define it directly, they just say that there is no such thing that (…). However, they will always need a predicate in order to talk about Nothing, as the only elementary logic values give trivial sentences:

• There is Nothing for which True holds (obviously a contradiction)
• There is Nothing for which False holds (obviously a tautology)

So, they can indeed say that Nothing is blue, or that Nothing matters, but they cannot describe the word Nothing without such a predicate. Such a predicate inherently has a domain of objects over which it applies, which means that the definition of Nothing is always limited to that domain. Logically, Nothing will never be part of the domain of such a predicate, which is why I said that science/logic cannot grasp the nature of Nothing.
I basically used the same approach as the logicians, but from a different angle. I said that there is no definition that can be used to define Nothing exactly. The domain of this predicate is everything that can be scientifically defined, but Nothing (again as a result of the word itself) still falls out of this domain, unless you define Nothing as being undefinable.

I could of course attempt to define it in a more scientific (but still indirect) way, although I could be making a mistake because my knowledge on physics and quantum mechanics is rather limited. If you look at elementary, scientifically definable elements in general and the interaction between these, then let’s say that:

• two elements A and B can interact
• if A interacts with Nothing then the result is A (trivial)
• every element A has an inverse, A* (matter vs anti-matter, a wave or force vs its inverse)
• if A interacts with A* then the result is Nothing (two opposing forces or waves cancel each other out, and I think particles can do the same (?))
So in this way Nothing is defined as the identity-element of interaction between scientifically definable elements, just like the number 0 is the identity-element of the addition of whole numbers. Still, this is an indirect definition (probably containing some errors), nothing more.

So, you are right that logicians can use “no thing” in their reasoning, but in my opinion they simply use a workaround, and (are forced to) avoid the concept Nothing itself. What I attempted to show is that Nothing can be defined indirectly, but not directly (which is eventually a direct result of the word itself). Your logicians view actually strengthened this position, because they always need something to relate it to.

The argument between those two people was meant to show that if two people discuss this and one person agrees with the existence of Nothing (person B), and the other does not (person A), then they can never agree. The frameworks these people use in their judgments are simply incompatible, and as long as they cling to their framework, the situation will not change. I think this situation is a direct result of the fact that Nothing cannot be directly defined using the framework which person A uses, and I think this is the main cause of why people sometimes don’t agree (edit: or rather, have little or no respect for the other persons position). It is just like how someone who knows only positive numbers will not easily accept that 0 is also a number, unless he expands his framework of reasoning (which limited the development of number theory in the past, the ‘discovery’ of 0 as a number was of major importance). It is why it is always beneficial to look at discussions from different (opposing) perspectives, otherwise you are missing what the discussion is all about (you only see half of it). If you are on one side of the discussion, then it is necessary to (temporarily) adopt the other persons framework of reasoning if you want to understand what he is talking about. If you do not know what the other person is talking about, the discussion is pointless.

A self-contradictory question and, for this reason, an absurd one.

Nothing is the very definition of non-existence.

Is black a color?

[quote=“6666”]
Nothing is the very definition of non-existence.

[quote]
… and there the discussion ends…

‘Nothingness’ and ‘non-existence’ are equivalent(ly nothing/non-existent).

If that actually means any’thing’ (which it doesn’t in outward reality).

They are only concepts with no real outward existence.

I’m Rich. You’re (sic) Not. I Cracked The Code To Making Money.
See How I Make \$3 Million Per Year Doing Nothing, And How You Can Too.

So says the ad at ILP!

Pretty Conclusive Evidence.

I sent him \$1000. I’ve heard nothing! :banana-dance: :banana-dance:

(Legal Disclaimer: I did not send him \$1000 dollars.)

Student, you are using truth-functional logic to come to a Goedelian conclusion. I too have considered this seemingly undecidable concept of Nothing. I have found mathematically, what you will arrive at is a contradiction, albeit one that is inconclusive.

But, lets say we use a modal logic standpoint.

Lets further specify that ‘nothing’ is a mood of sorts. So, as an example “It is possible that ‘nothing’ might exist” would mean that non-existence is just a possibility, and thus DOES have a strange existence, as possibility. We need not subject the possibility to the rigid rules of T-F logic. In fact, we can’t because modal logic rejects the T-F logic schema. Nothingness then becomes just a possible thing, amongst many other states. As long as it remains possible it can be in a sort of quantum physics state of being and non-being.

If this seems dubious to you, I’ll be the first to agree. Modal logic is a weak form of reasoning. It can’t establish conclusions like T-F logic. But, it opens a pathway to a different view of existence. It is also how our minds seem to work. Being Dutch, your great mathematician Brouwer questioned an idea in math logic which I love him for doing. He took out the negative X negative= positive convention in algebra and found so many conclusions in abstract algebra would have to change. But nobody seemed to care. Well that’s an overstatement. Nobody seemed to pick up on it. I’m writing an article now about this great man and his intuitionist philosophy. But I am digressing with this comment. Back to your question…

So, as an answer to your opening query: Does Nothing exist? Yes, but only as a possibility. Of course you could then ask…well does impossibility exists? I would have then say: impossibility is the set in which ‘nothing’ is contained. What? Yeah it gets me too. If I could embed math symbols it would be clearer. I seem to be going back to T-F logic with that comment and I’m not. I’m saying of all the possible states, impossibility is the possible state of being ‘nothing’. I know this seems like semantics.

Well I guess I failed to convince you. No big deal, I’m still trying to convince my daughter to stopping believing in that foolish Christianity stuff with the Jesus and the God and all that rot!

Later man.

Hi Robleh,

Thank you for your response. What I tried to show was that for this specific question, any definite answer would be the result of the perspective (assumptions) someone takes. I agree with you that the answer to such a question is better expressed in terms of possibilities, and not in a definite truth-false value.

With all the modern results of science and an open-minded approach to the world, for me it is not difficult to accept that everything in our world appears in quantum states, or possibilities. When you look close enough to any phenomena in our world, it’s never either one extreme or the other, it’s always some combination of two opposites, which often appear to be conflicting at first (for instance: rationalism and empiricism, and the wave and particle properties of photons). Because of this sometimes even impossibility appears to be, or can be considered as, a possibility.

With respect to logic, I think that the open world assumption corresponds nicely with this open-mindedness. Personally I don’t even consider my own personal experiences or memories of those as fundamental truth values for my reasoning, and so I only use them for estimating confidence or possibilities. I mean, I could always have misinterpreted something and by that potentially have drawn a wrong conclusion, leading to “incorrect” memories, and why attach myself to something of which I cannot be sure?

In my essay the definition of Nothing I used is also important, because the answer to my question completely depends on the definition you use. For understanding this definition I gave, one possible approach could be to think of a directed graph that connects context-relevant concepts to those that are used to define it. Most fields of science would then show up as coherent groups of interconnected concepts, and my definition of Nothing would always remain as the single unknown.

I actually think that we mostly agree, and that at this moment we would both be viewing the discussion I mentioned from the sideline.

May I ask what kind of logic you are planning to use for that? I think that there are more people interested in some help with that discussion. Surely a logician like yourself has some valid logical reasoning behind that, right? In any case, good luck. I can imagine this difficulty in having children, teaching them what is true and what not, what is good and what is bad, and so on…

Don’t ever mention Charles Darwin to her. I honestly think her ‘church’–if can be called that, has a picture of Ol’ Charlie that they throw darts at every Sunday.

I would have given up on that discussion already if I were you. I think that different people who apply contradicting reasoning systems to convince each other are only spending time, maybe attract some public attention while doing so, but other than that they probably won’t achieve much with it. This convincing will most likely not occur, and if it is mutual understanding you wish to achieve, you’d be better off trying to understand her, instead of trying to convince her. Of course it would help if she would take a similar position.

in terms of us, no, in terms of the cosmos, there is no answer to the question and there is no question

Nothing cannot exist now because there are things. If nothing ever did exist, for simplicity how many nothings were there. Now of course, nothing is a man made word that cannot truly be used to describe whatever it actually was or wasn’t. If there ever was a time where there was even a possibility of nothing there was still something there. Something that pre exists the Big Bang, any Amoeba, whatever anyone can believe. Even the numerical idea or lack thereof of nothing. Math. Math as a concept, an idea, something that just is. Math in its practice pre exists all. Therefore, not only is there no such thing as nothing, but, either the existence of math, which may have had to have been created by something, is God, or proves the existence of an ever existent supreme being which created it.

Has anyone ever considered substituting the word Nothing for the word God?

Does Nothing exist?

The answer to this question is: “Yes it exists”. How?! That’s the way:

Nothing is the way of expression and relation about a particular question to a particular subject. What does this mean?

Picture this: I ask a friend “Can you please go to the next room and see if there is any chair in there?” The friend goes there and look “No, nothing”, he says. I ask him again “Do you see a table there?” He looks and say “Yes it is”.

When you start a conversation with someone and you two start talking about different aspects, one of you claim something about that case and another one says “No it has NOTHING to do with THAT”. So what is this Nothing all about?! That Nothing is the way the person sees the thing on his/her particular view of the relations about the particular cases. Therefore the same Nothing that you started the Thread with, is YOUR Nothing. Another proof to its existence.

I feel the only question we can ask is: What do we mean when we say “nothingness”

This question I feel has been answered successfully by many of the contributors to this thread, however I would like to add the following sentance: There literally isn’t nothing out there.

When said in this way the notion seems to take on new significance for me.

Nothingness is absence of anythingness.

Nothing might exist in some regions, why not?

IMO, nothingness and somethingness are the two most fundamental building blocks of countless kinds of existence (aka ultimate Yin-Yang), which are between those (only) two types of absolutes - one being full existence and the other being full nonexistence.

A new kind of existence thus happens when this nothingness and somethingness mix, and since there are countless of ways for nothingness and somethingness to mix there are, as said, countless types of existence. Where our known Universe is just one of them.

So, yes, nothingness exists as nonexistence. Nonsense? Well, if it exists it cannot be nonsense or it wouldn’t exist, so, it must be only sense

What if for instance the concept of nothing is merely a trick of the mind, not related to reality all all. because we have a part of our brain which has to differenciate between one and the other (mostly I figure for the simple use of, “I can eat this”, “I can’t eat this”) we, in connection with other mental apperatus, take that program to a logical conclusion. Not that this process has any bearing on reality.

So, let’s say the concept of nothing is something which we ascribe to things. I mean it seems to we that only though a process of mental though can we come up with opposites. I have a hard time thinking of anything tangible which could be described as having an opposite, except as not (in which it never happened in the first place, did it)