After reading the question regarding "Why is there something instead of nothing?" I stumbled over the first part of "Sauls" answer:

Before anything else one should be aware of the instrument used to answer questions. That instrument is human language. While there is no guarantee that such a system of patterns is powerful and expressive enough to reason about the necessity of all that is, we can still examine what can we reasonably say and understand about this.

While this seems true, I think this goes even further, right to the inability to think of non-existance. Language and thinking are closely connected, but I am convinced that thinking in pictures allows us to think "better" in a way that we can now think about issues we couldn't express in words.

So after reading the mentioned answer, I tried to think of a non-existing universe.

I Take a picture of an empty, white colored room.
So far so good, remove the "boundaries", the walls
Now I just think of a undefined white space.
White seems to force the existence of something causingthe space to be white. I think of a black undefined space.

While this seemed like "nothing" to me first, on the second glance it it something, but with nothing in it. Maybe I can make it tranparent. but transparent means you can see though. And what can you see then? Something. It is ridiculous to try picture nothing, because I want to have something in my head then. Now we are back to the language boundaries. For me it seems impossible for any thinking creature to think of nothingness because we think of something then.

But until know this is just coming to the same conclusion after thinking about the answer I was referring to.

So here comes my question (of two parts): Are there any fallacys in the way my tought went, and nothingness can be described in any way?

If that isn't the case, re there any elaborations on the topic of what can be deducted from the inability to imagine/pictrue/describe/ etc. nothing?

  • @Saul I would agree, if there wasn't the second part of my question. I am looking for deductions resulting of the inability to imagine nothing, if there are any made so far. Jun 5, 2014 at 10:53
  • The reasons behind the inability to imagine nothing in the active sense are very similar to the ones expressed in my answer you already referred to. You can imagine anything you want but that does not mean it correlates to anything else. Imagination requires both a subject (an imaginer) and an object (an image). Nothingness does not have a proper image because nothingness does not and cannot exist. That means it cannot be properly imagined either.
    – Saul
    Jun 5, 2014 at 11:13
  • 1
    Okay... I think I misunderstood your comment here earlier. The topic of nothingness has been abundantly discussed throughout history, all over the world. If you are interested then Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy provides a good starting point for the western view. For the eastern view, Sunyata (Emptiness) in the Mahayana Context.
    – Saul
    Jun 5, 2014 at 12:58
  • We can imagine local pockets of nonexistence. For example, I know that Bertrand Russell is not here with me in my living room. I can imagine his nonexistence here. Also, I can imagine the nonexistence of a purple unicorn. So in certain respects I can imagine nonexistence.
    – user4894
    Jun 5, 2014 at 20:25

2 Answers 2


We can't visually imagine nothingness-in-itself, because the very fact of using our imagination posits that there is something to imagine.

What we can do is use a symbolic representation: here is a word 'nothing' it represents nothingness-in-itself.

Now, why should only words be capable of symbolic representation? This is because of long habituation, one recalls that originally pictograms were used. So pictures can symbolically represent.

Now, to get back to the original question; whilst we cannot imagine nothing-in-itself we can imagine a symbolic represention of this; and this is conventionally taken to be a pure whiteness or pure blackness.

But why these two colours?

Pure blackness because one supposes its when we close our eyes so all is dark as we have shut out the world, that is made it disappear

Pure whiteness - perhaps the empty page or empty canvas; and today the empty screen.

Parmenides argument on the Void also applies; He said 'it is not' and thus not amenable to any of our conceptual categories; all we can do is symbolically represent it - as I've argued above.


In the Indian school of thought, a person is said to consist of 5 sheaths. Think of it as a banana where you peel of a layer to encounter something subtler. The third sheath is the mind layer. So when I think, I am essentially using my mind. Obviously there are many things then that are beyond the comprehension of the human mind. Thinking of nothingness is one such. As you said, we see an expansive blackness and assume this something to be nothingness. Nothingness is obviously the absence of even darkness as well as light. Only the greatest of beings have claimed to have experienced nothingness. Mind you they did'nt claim to have 'seen' it. So obviously it exists. And it is for the conqueror of the mind to witness these wonders.

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