There exists a difference between the number zero, a state of absence and the concepts of nothing and nothingness. It behooves one to know the difference. The nihilist is a person who claims specific revelation knowledge as to that which is comprised by all conditions of Nothing. The ethical skeptic on the other hand is a student of Nothing before he or she can ever claim to bear expertise at anything.
A friend was challenged by his son the other day, with the contention that the number zero (0) was not really a number at all, rather that it represented the concept of nothing – and that therefore, all of our numeric systems needed to be revised in order to reflect this principle of reality. This approach of course presupposes that non-zero numbers, indeed are real in themselves – a predicate contention which the philosopher cannot grant free pass (and of course the mistake which the Romans made with I II III IV, etc.). The numeral ‘zero’ bears a specific function which is mathematics related. As such, and given that maths involves the manipulation of symbols/placeholders/numbers/numeral digits – concepts or symbols thereof which serve as placeholders for series concepts – therefore, zero is indeed a series number and is not akin to ‘nothing’. Without the number 0, the series -2, -1, 0, 1, 2… would have no coherency, and advanced sets of maths/computer science would fail due to the resulting lossy glitch in that logical/computational series.
The numeral ‘1’ for instance is merely the next series symbol for the condition of a single instance of a domain, set, entity or (quality or quantity) state – all concepts which are useful in defining the conditions of Nothing, below. The numeral ‘1’ too is merely symbolic – quad erat demonstrandum the number ‘zero’ bears all the same elements of validity as a number, as does the number ‘1’ or any other numeral.1
What my friend’s son was doing, was to conflate a ‘condition of Nothing’, with the numerics of zero. While the equivocal concepts of both do indeed overlap, this overlap is much less in magnitude than the layman might first assume. It behooves the ethical skeptic to fathom and adeptly ply the difference between zero and nothing.
There is zero, and there is Nothing – wherein the two are not necessarily the same thing at all.
Zero is an issue of series. Nothing is an issue of state. Intent is sticky and robust, more so than either zero or Nothing –
and may persist well beyond the boundary conditions introduced by each of those limited concepts.
The Conditions of Nothing
But fathoming the depths of this tenet of philosophy serves to give pause in the mind of the ethical skeptic: What other concepts of Nothing exist, and how are they defined under a Wittgenstein level of clarity as well? Further then, how does this help us define the term ‘nihilism’? Below I outlay my most recent foray into defining the depths of Nothing. The list begins with the most objective and ends with the most subjective concepts. The Wittgenstein anchor terms used herein are set, entity, (quantity or quality) state, domain, known, unknown, number, transaction, condition, member and series.
Make Sure That You Know Nothing (The Conditions of Nothing)
0/Zero/Aught – a number which place-holds for termination of a quantitative series
Nil/Zilch/Love/Zot – a state of attainment represented by no quantity of a known entity
/Aleph Zero – the termination (cardinality) of the series set of natural numbers
Sets & Domains
Nought/Naught – any set or entity which produces no associated quantity or quality
None – a known set or entity which exhibits an absence of quantity or quality
Blank – a set which is devoid of its associated entities
Void – a defined domain which contains no set, entity nor quantity or quality
Nada – a void of known entities or sets inside a known domain
Non-Existent – the state of a known set or entity in which it is absent in all known domains
Non-Entity – a putative member of a set which does not actually belong to that set
∅/Empty Set – a set of a known entity, quantity or quality which does not exist in a given domain
Non-Extant – a set or entity, known or unknown, which is absent in all domains
Oblivion – a condition in which the complete set of an entity is rendered non-extant
Absent – a set, entity or state which is prohibited detection in a domain
Emptiness – a domain in which all sets or entities are prohibited detection
Nihil – a state of inability to exist, regardless of domain
Nothingness – the domain of all sets or entities which are nihil
NaN – not a number. A value that is undefinable or unrepresentable
Idempotent – a transaction which contributes no change in (quantity or quality) state
Nix/Exterminate – to render a set or entity to one of the various conditions of Nothing
Annihilate – to render a set or entity to the sate of nihil
Nihilism – a faith, that all Conditions of Nothing fully describe that which appears absent
As the astute observer may notice herein, nihilism, because of its desperate claim to grasp all that is Nothing, without any evidence of such knowledge, is indeed a personal choice of faith. A hunch, a metaphysical selection, just as believing in God is a metaphysical selection. Which is fine. However, when one enforces that personal choice upon others (by mandating it as an outcome of logic, rationality or science), it also becomes a religion often called Atheism (distinct from agnosticism or ignostic atheism).
So now that you the ethical skeptic have plumbed the depths of Wittgenstein’s Nothing, and have perceived just how impossible it is to know Nothing; therefore stand firm against those who purport to possess short-cut revelation knowledge as to the entirety of Nothing.
That sure would be something.
The Ethical Skeptic, “The Art of Knowing Nothing”; The Ethical Skeptic, WordPress, 30 Sep 2019; Web, https://wp.me/p17q0e-apD
- Wikipedia: Zero; https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/0