Monism is the philosophical view that only one thing exists. However, I want to know, if there are or have been notable philosophers who believe in Nullism? I made up that term, to describe the belief that nothing exists. I would like some references for their arguments in favor of nullism.

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    It's usually called existence nihilism, and the idea is to paraphrase all references to objects away. See about predicate functor logic for a systematic paraphrase option. Jan 13 at 5:04
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    @user107952 Please state a correct definition of monism, and then argue why "the belief that nothing exists" is an interesting philosophical approach and solves some philosophical problems.
    – Jo Wehler
    Jan 13 at 6:32
  • Instead of saying that nothing exists, you might get some traction with the idea that we think in terms of ideas and concepts, and those are made up by us, therefore don't exist independently. You can think: "that's a pebble", but you can't pebble, and your thought doesn't make anything happen. "Who, by thinking, can add one inch to his height?"
    – Scott Rowe
    Jan 13 at 15:50

1 Answer 1


There is the view that nothing is real, or nothing appears the way it is. Buddhist thought can be understood in this way, with the chain of dependent origination beginning with ignorance, and enlightenment as the ending of grasping for unchanging identities to things, and awaking to the true nature of things seperate to our desires for the world to be different than it is. Oneness is more commonly associated with Buddhism, but the Mahayana tradition emphasises Sunyata/emptiness/contingency more. The meditative state can be understood as the cultivation of potential over actual, that by turning away from grasping for specific actual things we can sustain within our corner of the universe a link to a larger cosmos of possibilities, which keeps a door open to the possibility of reframing future suffering into a pattern that seems worthwhile, however impossible that currently becomes to imagine.

If you claim in an unlimited way everything is an illusion, or nothing is real, you are more redefining those words, than making observations about the world. Coherentism of nested 'illusions', that it's illusions top to bottom like'turtles all the way down', is an approach that can be taken. Hofstadter's Tangled Hierarchies can help take that nested picture the next step to include layers of self-reference and interacting networks, and help us understand an ontological shift from substance to process. It's not that anything simply is as some independent noumena, but that everything is interacting in a mutual process, and material or things are just relatively persistent patterns within that.

Existential Nihilism is a more substantive philosophical view than the proposed 'nullism', though argued by many critics to be self-contradictory. I see it rather than as being an assertive stance, more as holding to a deep scepticism towards any mode of Foundationalism to our knowledge and thought. Which, I think is very much compatible with Mahayana Buddhist ontological thought - the metaphor of Indra's Net points towards a peer-to-peer network picture of reality, and Alayavijnana or Eighth Consciousness can be closely compared to the Noosphere or Memesphere, the domain in which ideas replicate, which can help us understand that abandoning universals doesn't have to mean abandoning trying to make sense of our lives.

There's also a strong strand in Eastern thought of anti-conceptualisation, or anti abstract thought, which can be mistaken for scepticism towards having any ontology. Discussed here: Philosophers or philosophical traditions that reject symbolic reasoning

I would describe the 'nullist' strands of philosophical thought as denying universals or absolutes.

It's interesting to consider the Zoroastrian picture, in which the material world is all made by the Enemy, a deceiver. And the realm of Ahura Mazda is a transcendent and imminent world outside and beyond it. In this picture specifics are the problem, and universals or transcendental thinking is the way out.

  • How universals or transcendental thinking can solve problems in the material world as the way out since as you asserted they're in totally different realms, 'a transcendent and imminent world outside and beyond it'? Jan 14 at 2:22
  • @DoubleKnot: That basically just means involvement in creating outcomes you won't see in your own lifetime. The 'realm' of ideas is not seperate to the physical world, it just links together substrate-independent information patterns together; eg a computer file that gets copied is considered 'the same thing', but that means something other than a conventional picture of 'thing'. Mind-uploading faces issues like erosion of identity if multiple copies of you are made. Science Fiction explores this well, eg Bobiverse books, or the Sobornost in Hannu Rajnuemi
    – CriglCragl
    Jan 14 at 19:10

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