On the face of it no; and affirmed by Parmenides as that what is not, is not.

However, consider a particle in spacetime with no forces acting on it:

  1. thus it moves in a straight line (geodesic) when seen from an other (frame/world); from its own frame or world it is at rest; considering all worlds, in a generalised sense, it is at rest (the gauge principle).

  2. A world, or frame carries its own sense of time and space (the Kantian perspective).

Question: what is the world of a photon?

  1. We cannot immediately inhabit its world (frame); hence we must consider limits. Looking at a world which accelerates away from us we see its own time slowing, and it's length (parallel to its motion) shrinking; a second slowly stretching out to infinity, and the volume of the world shrinking to zero; to nothingness.

  2. At the limit, there is no time, motion is not possible; and consistent with Aristotles principle that time is motion, and thus requires Place; there is no Place either.

  3. Thus, no place in time and space; it's own world a void.

Thus, the world of a photon, in itself, is Void; yet from an other, we see it shooting across the sky.

Does this show, contrary to the expectations brought in mind by Parmenides, that Void can have Being?

  • 1
    Interesting line of thoughts, but I don't get the "being" from your question...
    – draks ...
    Feb 16, 2015 at 22:02
  • 1
    The statements in 3 are only apparents, they are not really shrinking. The volume of the world is not really shrinking to 0, it is only apparently shrinking to 0 from the perspective of the observer moving away. With 3 only apparent and not a 'real' shrinking, 4 and 5 are dependent on the validity of 3 (which is false) and thus 4 and 5 are false. Feb 17, 2015 at 8:29
  • I agree with @SwamiVishwananda. We do not know that the photons do not have some ongoing experience in the frames of reference which are free of matter and therefore where movement is not limited by 'c'. Following down the 'Existence of the Void' has to be sematically equivalent to Russells playing with negation. I would bet there is a short proof of a real paradox from the equivalence. So why go there?
    – user9166
    Mar 21, 2015 at 16:27

2 Answers 2


I would like to formally challenge (3) on Relativistic terms.

Consider the Minkowski diagram of someone accelerated to nearly the speed of light and then decelerated back. For a substantial period, their time 'crawls' relative to ours. But that does not obliterate their past experience or any given future. We allow that they will have a continuous experience, we will just have a span of experience in which they will not participate.

Likewise consider the timeline of a bundle of energy which is matter, then emitted as a gamma-ray, and recaptured. It has a past and a future, even though it has no present. Its experience is not 'the Void', it is simply suspended relative to our own.

Humans can experience timelessness by suspending memory during meditation. So we do not expect an ongoing experience to be totally uninterrupted by gaps. Maybe your photon is just praying at the moment...

And if you accept the lack of experience of time as The Void, then well, people do it all the time, especially during sleep, so there is a much more direct access to your question. It is clearly there, but can never be shared, so who cares?

  • When asleep we lose sense of time and space - so it is a Void, in a way; but I was thinking more on physical lines. Mar 23, 2015 at 15:32
  • I kind of meant that ironically, to highlight that there is a bit of muddle of perspectives here. Not experiencing anything at the moment is not never having experienced anything. And never having experienced anything is not having no timeline, or never having been experienced by anything else. 'The Void' in any sense that matters, kind of needs to involve all of that. So the 'experience' of a photon is not 'The Void'.
    – user9166
    Mar 24, 2015 at 2:38

I believe you are up against semantics. The term "void" is commonly used to describe any expanse that appears to contain no objects. However, the true void described by Parmenides is different - that which is not.

I truly wish that there were two terms for these two, distinct ideas. I distinguish them this way: The first void can be measured or described in terms of space/time dimension or some other feature, whether concrete or abstract. The true void cannot be measured or described. It is not, therefore there is nothing to measure, nothing to describe. It is not a place you can go. It is not the edge of the universe. It is not even a concept you can form in your mind.

Ontologically speaking, and using the terminology of my native Nebraska, it just plain ain't.

I would welcome the wisdom and knowledge of trained philosophers who might come up with two different terms for these two different ideas. In popular usage, however, I believe they are forever confounded.

  • Yes, I know; Aristotle distinguishes the Void of the Atomists from the Parmenidian Void; I suppose one way to keep these two terms distinguished is to rely on the original Greek terms. Feb 17, 2015 at 20:09
  • Mr. Ullah, thanks for the reference, just what I hoped for. Can you give romanized spellings of the two Greek terms? Or which Aristotelian work I should look into? I did some edits after I realized that the true nothing not only cannot be measured, but cannot be described. Feb 17, 2015 at 20:29
  • Aristotles Physics and metaphysics should contain both terms. Feb 17, 2015 at 20:37

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