In the absence of nothing

Yesterday, upon the stair,
I met a man who wasn’t there!
He wasn’t there again today,
Oh how I wish he’d go away!

When I came home last night at three,
The man was waiting there for me
But when I looked around the hall,
I couldn’t see him there at all!
Go away, go away, don’t you come back any more!
Go away, go away, and please don’t slam the door…

Last night I saw upon the stair,
A little man who wasn’t there,
He wasn’t there again today
Oh, how I wish he’d go away…

William Hughes Mearns


Can “nothing” exist, or is “nothing” a state of non-existence? Can “nothing” be negated? If “nothing” exists then – by our language and our reason – the non-existence of “nothing” creates “something”. Or is it the “something” which kills the “nothing”? Either way, the concept of nothingness lies in a twilight beyond rational thinking, beyond philosophy and is even intangible for metaphysics.

Martin Heidegger considered “Why is there something rather than nothing?” as the most fundamental issue of philosophy.

We know that what we call empty space within our universe may be devoid of any particles having mass.  In the absence of particles we cannot define such things as temperature or pressure. But such space still has properties. It has dimensions, and it then has volume. It allows light to pass through. Gravitation and waves can propagate through it. It would seem that the laws of physics exist and apply in such space. Such is the empty space within atoms and the space between galaxies and what our spaceships would warp through. But there is even emptier space. That is what our universe expands into (assuming that the expansion of our universe is real). This space has no properties at all and does not even have dimensions until the expansion of the universe has occurred and has defined its existence. This space does not – to all our perceptions – exist until our universe has encompassed it.

The existence (or not) of nothingness is in our minds and in our language. It is not something which science can address. Science – and scientists – are restricted to the causal world and to the bounds of causality. Science has no light to shine on existence – especially existence as the non-existence of nothing. The property of “existence” can only be ascribed to “something”. And “something” cannot not exist. That is determined by our language and by the bounds our language sets upon our reason.

Nothing is the thought that wasn’t there.

Yesterday, upon the stair,
I had a thought which wasn’t there!
It wasn’t there again today,
Oh how I wish it would go away!


 

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