I've been thinking recently about the concept of ''nothing''.It doesn't make any sense to me because there will always BE something, even if you take an ''empty'' space in the air, you will still have something in that space. It just confuses me because the thought of nothing is very scary and it cannot be.

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    – J D
    Commented Mar 13, 2020 at 2:47
  • The thought of nothing needn't be scary. You sound like you're interested in ontology. A good place to start is reading about Meinong.
    – J D
    Commented Mar 13, 2020 at 2:49
  • I would agree with you and how you are looking at the idea of nothing. Most people use the word "nothing" in a colloquial sense of the word, without really thinking about whether or not "nothing" exists...I asked in the philosophystackexchange if zero (nothing) exists, and a good reply I got was " in empirical measurements you get zero when you subtract one measurement from another. "
    – Noah
    Commented Mar 13, 2020 at 3:05
  • 2
    Nothing and zero are not the same thing. Nothing is the absence of anything, the opposite of existence. Zero is a number, the absence of magnitude. Commented Mar 13, 2020 at 9:57
  • Nothing is not just empty space, it is also the absence of space and time for anything to exist in (in standard cosmology it is the state causally preceding the Big Bang). It is the absence of being, even of abstract being. To ask whether "Nothing" exists is like asking whether black is white or whether bad is good. Commented Mar 13, 2020 at 10:01

5 Answers 5


A way to view it:

Is there a fundamental entity of some sort? E.g. your brains (solipsism)?

If this fundamental entity disappears, then do the things around it continue existing?

Therefore, is sensory input relative to this fundamental entity? Then what does (fundamental, ideal) nothingness relate to? Disappearance of fundamental entity? But can the outside of it still exist?

=> there exists different sorts of nothingness:

  • fundamental (your brains exist or don't exist)
  • conceptual (when we say that a thing does not exist, e.g. an empty set is a set, which does not have any members)

There may not exist other forms, because e.g.:

  • physical-conceptual nothingness, e.g. a banana disappeared, since I ate it. No, in terms of physics it didn't disappear, but it changed to a different form.

Does there exist physical nothingness, do there exist more forms than fundamental and conceptual?


A couple of non-elucidating quotes:

Starlight asked Non-entity, saying, 'Master, do you exist? or do you not exist?' He got no answer to his question, however, and looked stedfastly to the appearance of the other, which was that of a deep void. All day long he looked to it, but could see nothing; he listened for it, but could hear nothing; he clutched at it, but got hold of nothing. Starlight then said, 'Perfect! Who can attain to this? I can (conceive the ideas of) existence and non-existence, but I cannot (conceive the ideas of) non-existing non-existence, and still there be a non-existing existence. How is it possible to reach to this?'

Chuang Tzu (4th century BC)

"Beings"--this term names not only the actual (and certainly not if this is taken as the present at hand and the latter merely as the object of knowledge), not only the actual of any sort, but at the same time the possible, the necessary, and the accidental, everything that stands in beyng* in any way whatsoever, even including negativity and nothingness. ... "Beyng" does not simply mean the actuality of the actual, and not simply the possibility of the possible, and in general not simply being [Sien] understood on the basis of particular beings; instead, it means beyng out of its original essential occurrence in the full fissure. Nor is "essential occurrence" limited to "presence."

Heidegger, Contributions to Philosophy, pp 59-60

* Spelt 'beyng' to signify use of archaic Seyn in the original German.

Suffice it to say the debate is ongoing, but it revolves around what you mean by "BE". The meaning cannot be presumed or pre-judged. Because it seems obvious it is often taken for granted.

"Can nothing/nothingness really be? ... there will always BE something"


According to my understanding, all mental concepts are grounded in or refer to some phenomena that exists and can be perceived with the five senses. Either physical phenomena, perceived through the five gross senses (ears, smell, touch, taste, and sight); emotions that are felt with the heart; cognition that is perceived in the brain... There are 7 major energy centers or chakras in human being. Therefore, non-being or nothingness is also non-conceptual. I have heard this from one Buddhist master.

I was used to or conditioned to think in term of concepts. Supposedly, this experience of nothingness is non-conceptual or cannot be conceived by the mind. It cannot be thought about; you cannot wrap your mind around nothingness. It must be that the mind is always concerned about or limited to the matters of being. Mind cannot exist in nothingness. I think this is why nothingness sounds very scary to the mind.


When I try to imagine 'nothing', I try to imagine that there is no matter, no space, no time, no colour, no one to describe that, no one to observe that, it has never existed and never will. The best I can get to is a black void, and I try to make that black void shrink and disappear but I fail each time. It's hard for me to imagine nothing.

Yes, I agree that it's a scary thing when you think about it, because we are biological creatures and we eager to exist. Our instincts scream in fear when we try to imagine ultimate non-existence, because we are built that way by our genes.

There is an interesting discussion by famous scientists and philosophers about the existence of 'nothing' on Isaac Asimov's memorial panel: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1OLz6uUuMp8

Well, to answer your question "Can nothing/nothingness really be?", I think no. Because 'something' and 'nothing' cannot coexist. And we know we are here. There should have been either total 'nothingness' or total 'somethingness' (and space-time is 'somethingness'). Otherwise 'nothing' will always be filled with that 'something'. Just like you inflate a balloon with air and if you release its neck, the air comes out because of the differences in pressure. 'Pressure' in 'something' is always greater than that of in 'nothing', that's why 'nothing' will always be filled with 'something'. That is my speculation.

Our universe is expanding, space-time itself is expending, and there is nothing to stop it from 'outside'. I think that is our best guess we can make about 'nothing', which is outside our space-time and which our space-time (universe) is expanding 'into'. Physicists would argue that it doesn't exist, but that's exactly the 'nothing' we are talking about, right? That doesn't exist.


Theoretically, practically and above these (I mean, in all aspects) your consciousness must be there to know about nothing/nothingness (to know even about that nothingness that makes you scary). Nothing/nothingness is meaningless/nonsense unless you give it a greater meaning; especially while perceiving this material world.

Will you be able to call it nothingness, if you 'see' nothing other than your consciousness everywhere? If you are saying 'Yes', that means you didn't consider 'that' (THIS+THAT) consciousness. I mean, the consciousness that doesn't even allow you to say this or that.

See: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nothing

"There is no [real] existence for what is non-existent."


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