The Mysterious ‘Nothing’


Editor’s note: This article by a Philosophy professor was mainly written to serve as a ‘further reading’ in Logic, specifically on the topic ‘classifications of term’. Focusing on the rich and multifarious meanings of the term ‘nothing,’ the author artistically uses the term all throughout the article. Happy reading!
AMERICAN COMEDIAN JERRY SEINFELD became legendary for playing a character based on himself in the TV sitcom series Seinfeld (1989-1998). Named the funniest male stand-up comic at the American Comedy Awards in 1998, Jerry popularized the style called observational comedy. By comically spotlighting the silliness and ironies found in everyday life, Seinfeld received the Emmy for best comedy series in 1993. Its final episode on May 14, 1998 became a “cultural event across the United States” as it attracted an estimated 76 million viewers, the fourth-highest rating ever for a series finale.
And guess what, this TV program which eventually spawned a big cult of zealous adherents is surprisingly a show about, of all topics, “nothing”. So indeed, as US writer John Keats (1920 - 2000) fittingly states, “Americans have plenty of everything and the best of nothing.”
          Of course, of course, as one would probably exclaim after clearly digesting these thoughts, we just committed equivocation here – we have used the term “nothing” in two different meanings. But that precisely is the beauty and richness of the word “nothing”; it can be used in numerous dissimilar meanings and senses, so various that the confusion it sometimes creates could be, as Seinfeld had long since wisely recognized, ironically very funny. As regards “nothing”, one philosopher writes:
          “Why are we concerned about this nothing? The nothing is rejected by science and sacrificed as the unreal. Science wants to have nothing to do with the nothing. What is nothing? Does the nothing exist only because the not, i.e. negation exists? Or do negation and the not exist only because the nothing exists? We maintain: The nothing is more primitive than the not and negation. We know the nothing. The nothing is the simple negation of the totality of being. Anxiety reveals the nothing. The nothing itself nots.”
          Ask me not what the nothings in this quotation are--nothing clear and distinct has come to my senses yet. What’s definite anyway is that some philosophers of language dismiss each use of the nothing as nonsense, and here I beg to disagree. One proof that the use of the nothing is nothing less than sensible is the fact that it practically makes sense to verbally sketch some political crises by using the different usages of the term nothing. Concerning those times when various groups were calling for the resignation of the President because of alleged crucial anomalies, here is my example:
          “There was nothing for it but for the government to admit its guilt, some critics say. The government officials accordingly are nothing if not culpable. Nevertheless, some are alarmed, for it’s positively not for nothing that the President, with all of these hubbubs, is apparently doing nothing.
          "On the other hand, some suppose that there is nothing more annoying than people who want to be in power illicitly. Nothing much happened in their rallies so far. But whether they succeed or fail, it’s nothing to fence sitters. Some bystanders believe that no one exempted, all politicians just always wear their old-costumed pretentious masks, nothing special. And still, all others care for is that Lakers wins the next NBA’s best-of-seven championship series, four-nothing.
          "Finally, hard-core stoics to the issue probably, or paradoxically, hold the principle, 'There’s nothing to doing nothing for nothing.'”
          Certainly therefore, with all of its possible connotations, the nothing is nothing short of ‘nothing like something’. But the most serious and saddest definition of the term nothing, for me, is the “state of nonexistence” as in “to vanish into nothing”. If today’s most celebrated atheist Richard Dawkins were correct that God, in whose image human being was created, is nothing but a delusion, then nothing also is essentially special in being human--and all of us, sooner or later, will just end up, as we were before birth, being nothing.

          Yes, this sad implication of atheistic worldview doesn’t make it necessarily true that there is God who created the universe out of nothing. But definitely, nothing in this either makes atheism better, let alone truer.
          If it were true, as Dawkins boldly suggests in his international bestseller The God Delusion (2006), that God virtually just equals nothing, then he (Dawkins) – with all his voluminous bitter criticisms and angry tirades against God, as Seinfeld would also humorously put – basically hates and attacks nothing.
          Lest be judged as spreading absurdity and baloney for one thing, I on the contrary want instead to be a champion of nothing!
© 2011 by Jensen DG. Mañebog

How to cite this article:
Jensen DG. Mañebog. “Fighting for ‘Nothing’”

1. Identify the meaning of the term 'nothing' (or 'nothing-phrase') in each usage in the whole article. (Write your answer in a yellow paper and/or Microsoft Word Document [.doc], send it to the e-mail address of your Asst. Monitor and/or professor.)

Helpful Tip/s:
To decipher the meanings of 'nothing' in the article, read the Note entitled " Essentially Something !" in the NOTES of the Facebook account Eskwelahan Nating Masaya. (Add as friend, click 'Notes' [below the profile picture], then look for the note.)


Add new comment

Sponsored Links