In: Other Topics
Some would consider the study of "nothing" to be foolish, a typical response of this type is voiced by Giacomo Casanova (1725–1798) in conversation with his landlord, one Dr. Gozzi, who also happens to be a priest,
“ | As everything, for him, was an article of faith, nothing, to his mind, was difficult to understand: the Great Flood had covered the entire world; before, men had the misfortune of living a thousand years; God conversed with them; Noah had taken one hundred years to build the ark; while the earth, suspended in air, stood firmly at the center of the universe that God had created out of nothingness. When I said to him, and proved to him, that the existence of nothingness was absurd, he cut me short, calling me silly. | ” |
However, "nothingness" has been treated as a serious subject worthy of research for a very long time. In philosophy, to avoid linguistic traps over the meaning of "nothing", a phrase such as not-being is oftenemployed to unambiguously make clear what is being discussed.
One of the earliest western philosophers to consider nothing as a concept was Parmenides (5th century BC) who was a Greek philosopher of the monist school. He argued that "nothing" cannot exist by the following line of reasoning: To speak of a thing, one has to speak of a thing that exists. Since we can speak of a thing in the past, it must still exist (in some sense) now and from this concludes that there is no such thing as change. As a corollary, there can be no such things as coming-into-being, passing-out-of-being, or not-being.
Parmenides was taken seriously by other philosophers, influencing, for instance, Socrates and Plato. Aristotle gives Parmenides serious consideration but concludes; "Although these opinions seem to follow logically in a dialectical discussion, yet to believe them seems next door to madness when one considers the facts."...