The comfort and dread of conceived nothingness

2 min read


In Western philosophy, nothingness is often equated with emptiness or non-existence in the sense of the absence of being. Nevertheless, the discussion of the "nothing" in tension with the "something" is one of the basic questions occidental philosophy has been dealing with since its written documentation. This is not only to be understood existentially, but also cosmically. We might think: if the world does not last infinitely long (and it looks like it), then there must have been nothing before its beginning. Exactly this transition from nothing to being is thematized in the "Creatio ex nihilo" problem, however less from the point of view of possible dynamic structures of nothing, but rather metaphysically: "Why is something at all and not rather nothing?"

It is quite impossible to present all viewpoints on nothingness of the different philosophers here. But it remains interesting, the connotation as indicated in the meme, that nothingness is something diametrically opposed to being and we are led to the basic assumption that being is to be preferred to nothingness or non-being.

In eastern philosophy nothingness is usually viewed differently. Instead of seeing nothingness as the absence of being, Eastern philosophies in general view nothingness as a state of potentiality from which something can arise. So we are not dealing here with a static state, but much more with a fluid, something non-fixed, which must first manifest itself in order to reveal itself to the ordinary sensory apparatus of man. Therefore, in the meme the child itself is also labeled as a philosopher, considering the child as a human potential. Again, this can only be formulated here as a generalization and does not represent all schools of thought in Eastern philosophy.

A possible intersection would be the realization of nothingness through the consciousness. For example, a tree may be a being, but not a conscious one. Man, on the other hand, always carries the filter of consciousness over the realization of nothingness. A dedicated goal of a meditation, however, could be to actually grasp nothingness by temporarily blocking out this filter. This would also be an approximation to the static state of nothingness, that is exactly the state in which we are before our birth and respectively after our death. The non-consciousness would be equated here with the nothingness.

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