Anne-Marie Schimmel writes in Mystical dimensions of Islam

Sufism comes close to it [Shankara Advaita Philosophy] in some of the forms developed by the Ibn-Arabi school. Here the Numen is concieved as the Being beyond all Being, or even as the Not-Being, because it cannot be described by any of the categories of finite thought; it is infinite, timeless, spaceless, the Absolute Existence, and the only reality.

In Hegels theory, Being is announced to be an indeterminate substance, and its negation, Not-Being, is Nothing. (he goes on to show that they are in some sense identical - but this irrelevant to the discussion here).

To take Not-Being as being identical with Nothing one supposes that all that is - is Being; and thus what is not - ie has no existence, is nothing. This might be termed an ontological argument, as we've not injected the limits of human thought here; and typically in the Early Modern period, one says God Exists, ie by Spinoza, and one takes the only (Real) Being as God; and so its negation, Not-Being is Nothing.

But explicitly putting in the limits of thought, or in Schimmels phrasing finite thought, one calls what is within this limit as Being; recall here that Wittgenstein called language is the limit of thought; Are we then entitled to say that Non-Being is Nothing? Can there be 'something' which can't be Being - so the word 'something' is being used advisedly here? One might call this an epistemological argument.

  • @Rostomyan: I can see how it looks confusing - now that I've come back to it. I'll try to improve it. Commented May 2, 2014 at 7:53
  • @Watson: Well its the context in which I found the question. Commented May 2, 2014 at 7:53
  • basically I'm asking is there only Being & Non-Being - can there be anything else? Commented May 2, 2014 at 8:04
  • The edit was helpful. I'll remove my previous comments so others don't feel discouraged to participate due to the high volume of comments. Commented May 2, 2014 at 8:40

3 Answers 3


This question turns on a confusion. Identity is a relation that holds between objects, but "Nothing" isn't an object. it's like asking whether the non-existent oldest son is the same as my non-existent son that won first prize at the spelling bee. The answer is that the question is meaningless.

This is the point of the standard Russell-Frege view of the existential quantifier.


An example to clarify. What you're doing here is treating "nothing" like a name, when it isn't. Think of the sentence, "I ate nothing for dinner". That sentence doesn't assert that there is something I ate for dinner which doesn't exist--it asserts that I failed to eat anything at all. There's no object of which "nothing" is the name. Because there's no object "nothing" names there's no meaningful question of which object that object is identical to.

  • I agree that nothing is not an object or name. I would say, however, that nothing or no-being is inevitably of an object, or, should I say better, of a concrete being. There "exists" no nothing on its own. An object can exist in a form suffering from nothing, and this is a shortage and its counterpart, a possibility.
    – ttnphns
    Commented Oct 27, 2018 at 20:14


Meinong held that being (having the capacity to be thought of), of an object, was prior to it having existence. He categorized objects into three types of being:

Absistence - Impossible objects like square circles. Having a subset that has:

Subsistence - non-temporal entities such as mathematical objects. Of which an even smaller subset having:

Existence - material and temporal expression, those things you can actually shake a stick at.

Let's gloss over the possible differences in definition of "exist", "being" etc. We can still glean from this that there are: things that cannot exist (yet can be named and spoken about). There are things that always exist, like abstract ideas, mathematical objects. And things that exist for a limited time (that's us).

Plainly all of these things have a sort of not-Nothingness about them, for how else could we say so much about them. While for "Nothing" we can say...

However that's not the end of it: For Meinong "Being" logically precedes "Existence", so that what has "being" does not exist unless it has temporal qualities. What cannot be named would be "Nothing"/nothing, what lies outside of Meinong's jungle is "non-Being". So at least for the definitions that Meinong use non-Being would be Nothing.

                         Is nothing identical to non-being?

Consider: "Something cannot come from nothing"

Inductive reasoning would lead us to believe that this is probably true, but we cannot assert this as an absolute or truism, because we do not have access to nothing.

Every example of something coming to be is from something else. There is never a nothing from which something could come from.

In fact a claim that regards 'nothing' as a thing is a contradiction in being, because nothing is the negation of something (i.e., anything); nothing is non-being.

Can non-being be? Of course not. Then there must always have been being and not nothing. We have no access to nothing, so we cannot make any assessments of it (through observation). Moreover, a claim that addresses or regards nothing as if it were a thing reifies nothing into something.

Note: In Hegelian Dialectical Logic, contradictions can exist at three levels:

  • Contradiction in Being {most concrete, least abstract}

  • Contradiction in Essence {less concrete, more abstract}

  • Contradiction in Notion {least concrete, most abstract}

Nothing (i.e., non-being) cannot be, according to the law of non-contradiction that states: nothing can both be and not be: that is, contradictions cannot exist.

Nothing (i.e., no thing) is the logical negation/opposite/complement of "a thing" (i.e., something, anything, etc.).

To say: "nothing exists" is to utter an absurdity, given that 'nothing' (i.e., non-being) is the direct logical negation of being; and non-being cannot be.

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