Is 'Nothing' Itself Truly Non-existent?

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It’s funny how misused the word ‘nothing’ is. Take for example, “There’s nothing to do.” Really? Nothing? In literal terms that’s just flat out unlikely so stop it. But really think about it. Is nothing itself truly non-existent? Is there always something in the absence of something else, or does nothing actually preside in that absence? Can nothing be ‘a thing’ and still be nothing?

Mr. BiC and I debated ‘nothing’ once. It began here— http://ficly.com/stories/33133 and ended in the comment section here— http://ficly.com/stories/33542

CHALLENGE: Choose a side of the argument and defend it— either outright and literal, or in more artistic, interpretive ways. Be creative. Make it a poem or a story. The winner will have displayed one of or all of these traits: wit, a knack for ridiculousness, a flair for the dramatic, passion, a deep insight or two, balls to the wall rhetoric, an undeniable ability to tell a story or spill a poem while keeping the subject matter relevant to the challenge.

  • Started June 14th, 2013.
  • Ended July 4th, 2013.
  • Created by Tad Winslow

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Discussion

  1. Avatar Tad Winslow

    Oh Bic, you’ve got ‘nothing’

    and you know how to use it.

    Thanks again all, and big ol’ heartfelt pats on the back and Congrats to Elsha!

  2. Avatar BiC

    No, thank you Mr. Winslow! – But in all honesty, there’s really nothing special about this challenge. ;)

  3. Avatar Tad Winslow

    I’ve reread every entry again and copied and pasted them all into word and printed them out so as to make a thorough decision. Now I’m going to sleep on it. The winner will be selected tomorrow. Thank you, everyone. You’ve made this one very special :’)

  4. Avatar Tad Winslow

    Not gonna lie I’m so lost when it comes to math and whatnot. I love reading the discussion though. The more perspectives the better in my opinion because there is no wrong or right answer to this topic.

    Here’s a snippet from a conversation I had with 32^2 about this challenge. And I encourage him to share his snippet! ;)

    “Personally, I don’t believe in nothing. It’s a man-made, abstract idea that exists only in the human mind and culture of human kind. And for what reason… well ‘nothing’ is trying to describe what’s indescribable and failing. It’s a misnomer, or an exaggeration, or a very vague term that misrepresents what we really mean when we use it.”

    There’s no proof for nothing. So why place faith and allegiance in something that is most likely erroneous? Don’t have to answer that, and no, this has nothing to do with my feelings toward religion.

  5. Avatar Zerrakhi

    Translating “Nothing can make 1+1=3” into mathematical language, the closest we can get is ∃☹ : 1+1 = 3 (“There exists nothing such that 1+1=3”).

    Now, obviously the sentence ∃x : 1+1=3 is false if x is a thing (because no THING can make 1+1=3), so it must be true of nothing.

    But ∃☹ : 1+1 = 3 simplifies to plain old ∃☹ (“nothing exists”). And yet I showed in my last comment that ∄☹ (“nothing doesn’t exist”). Contradiction!

    Now I’ll show you a completely different way to get a contradiction.

    In English, “nothing equals nothing” is true, but “nothing equals itself” is false, because obviously LOTS of things equal themselves.

    In mathematical language, if S(x) is the sentence x=☹ then it’s obviously false for all x∈☺, so my formula says S(☹) is true. But if S(x) is the sentence x=x then it’s TRUE for all x∈☺, so S(☹) is false. Yet in both cases, S(☹) is the sentence ☹=☹. So it’s both true and false at the same time.

    Fun, isn’t it?

    I could keep going if you like, but I’ve made my point now.

  6. Avatar Zerrakhi

    There was an error posting your comment (there was probably nothing in the body). Please try again.

    Ironic, innit? And there were about five paragraphs in the body. Now I have to start over. sigh

  7. Avatar BiC

    Nothing can make one plus one equal anything as long as the ‘anything’ isn’t two – because one plus one equals two is really something – and you can’t make something out of nothing (nor would you want to).

    If you have something more to say about nothing… please do. If you have nothing more to say about anything, that would be regrettable.

  8. Avatar Zerrakhi

    If I turned it into a story it would feature a lecturer rehearsing a lecture in front of an empty lecture hall. But it would take a sequel or several to get to the meaty part.

    There are plenty of ways to make my formula contradict itself. First let’s try making S(x) be the sentence “x exists” (that is, S(x) = ∃x). Since LOTS of things exist, it’s obviously false to say NOTHING exists, so the formula tells us that nothing DOESN’T exist (i.e. ∄☹).

    Any real mathematician would stop here. Once you’ve established that something doesn’t exist, you don’t say, “OK, so it doesn’t exist, but what OTHER properties does it have?” Mathematical dragons aren’t allowed to be big, scaly, AND nonexistent.

    But I’ve barely started. In my next comment (assuming you keep on encouraging me), I’ll show you what happens if we make S(☹) be the sentence: “Nothing can make one plus one equal three”. (You agree that sentence is true, right?)

  9. Avatar BiC

    Ha, ‘gorilla…math off /pie eating contest’ – love the comment, Tad!
    I think what Z is saying, is that he’s put a lot of thought into this – his formula is ‘nothing’ short of Einstein – and what does he have to show for it? (wait for it… here it comes…) {}

    Hey Z, one of the great things about Ficly is; although the stories are limited – comments can be endless – and everyone here loves to read, so keep it coming. Write a story about it, submit a blog post to Elsha about it, or just keep commenting here. I’ll read you. Bic out. (finally :)

  10. Avatar Zerrakhi

    Well, obviously nothing and zero are related, but they’re not really the same. Consider how “nothing is greater than infinity” is different from “zero is greater than infinity”. If you like, zero is what you get from nothing by counting it. Another mathematical object that’s kinda like nothing is the empty set {}, which is basically nothing in a box (but you’ve still got the box).

    My formula basically says, “A sentence is true of nothing if and only if, for every x that is a thing, the sentence is not true of x.” I made up ☹ for nothing and☺for the set of all things, but all the other symbols are genuine (∀ means “for all”, ∈ means “is a member of”, ¬ means “not”, and so forth).

    It turns out the formula doesn’t really work under the rules of mathematics, because you can make it contradict itself, which is not allowed. But this comment is already too long so I won’t explain how.

  11. Avatar Tad Winslow

    Can zero work too? I am severely so poor at math I think a gorilla that knows sign language could oust me in a man vs. beast math off / pie eating contest… because I’m hungry. It is pretty looking I must admit. It would make for an interesting tattoo.

  12. Avatar Zerrakhi

    Incidentally, a pseudo-mathematical definition of nothing would be something like:

    S(☹)⇔∀(x∈☺)(¬S(x))

    If you take this seriously you will discover it is nonsense. That’s why I said PSEUDO-mathematical. It looks impressive, though, don’t you think?

  13. Avatar Tad Winslow

    Well, I guess when someone says that they ‘feel nothing’ it is a hyperbolic statement. An exaggeration. I can understand what that means, but to feel nothing completely, literally, seems impossible to me. Though I like that thought a lot, Elsha. I hadn’t considered it.

  14. Avatar Tad Winslow

    Well played!

  15. Avatar ElshaHawk (LoA)

    Feeling nothing is sad.. or is it?

  16. Avatar Tad Winslow

    @Elsh
    Bleakness must be tied to a perception, or emotion, or something that has to do with life and its big ol brain. I doubt ‘nothing’ even has a heartbeat let alone an opinion on the matter. Matters of time, space, and the matter that fills it can’t matter to nothing. Nothing can’t be comprised of things or described in any way and still be nothing… can it?

  17. Avatar ElshaHawk (LoA)

    When you write about nothing, you get bleakness.. or do you??

  18. Avatar Tad Winslow

    Right back atchya, Robert :)

    @BiC

    I knew nothing would not stop you!

  19. Avatar Robert Quick

    I love you guys!

  20. Avatar BiC

    Ah-ha… a challenge about nothing? I’m sure you recall I like nothing, so I really like this challenge! :)

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Participants

  • ElshaHawk (LoA)
  • Zerrakhi
  • BiC
  • mark_i_wang
  • remembrancer
  • Kitty Roosevelt