Nothingness doesn't be, that's the definition of nothingness (at least in this question) that what is not, does not exist.

If there was no Universe, if there was nothing, nothingness would be, that is the only thing that there would be.

Therefore, for nothingness not to be, something must be.

Therefore, the existence of something (in our case what we call Universe) is necessary.

Am I right?

PD: this is hard in English, but I'm going to try to write it in a different way.

If nothing existed, for example as an empty set, then something would exist, the empty set, in any possible way that can be. If something exist we cannot say that nothing exists. Therefore this is a contradiction, as @stoicfury pointed. Therefore we must conclude that the "presence" of "nothing" is impossible and something must exist, maybe a singularity from which everything else spawns.

If no-being was, there would be a being, the no-being. Therefore we would not be able to speak about no-being because there would be a being. This is a contradiction from which we conclude the no-being is not, cannot be, must not be. If no-being is not, then there must be some being, necessarily.

In short. An empty existence, a lack of universe, is a contradiction, that "nothing" would be a thing, the only thing, everything. It is the kind of contradiction that causes the explosion of the universe.

  • Oh boy, this one again. It has a long history. The words lead us into a muddle because we assume everything that is not 'no-thing' is a thing. But in this case things can have no origin and metaphysics becomes incomplete or incoherent. The deal with these subtleties it may be best to consider the question to be about Being and nonBeing. There is an extensive literature on this.
    – user20253
    Oct 20, 2018 at 10:54
  • We need to distinguish between subjective and objective "things". Nothingness is subjective, because it only exists in our (objective) minds. Nothingness is an abstract concept, meaning it may or may not possibly exist. Logically though, if nothingness exists, no (i.e. not any) "thing" exists, so there could be no minds to perceive it. Nothingness is far less than the sound of a tree falling in the forest with no-one around to hear it, because the tree at least, and the sound waves -- exist.
    – Bread
    Oct 21, 2018 at 12:09

6 Answers 6


One must be careful when considering objects, conditions, and phenomena.

Nothingness doesn't be, that's the definition of nothingness (at least in this question) that what is not, does not exist.

"Nothingness" is the condition of the absence of anything. In this sense, "nothing doesn't be" in the same sense that "running doesn't be" — it's not that nothing runs; its that running is an activity or condition for an object to be in, not an object in itself that may exist. Similarly, one may say that "sound isn't orange" — we're talking about a mismatch of categories.

If there was no Universe, if there was nothing, nothingness would be, that is the only thing that there would be.

Now you're talking about 'being' as a state of affairs which obtains; conflating an object's existence with obtaining of a condition of objects. They are similar concepts, which however apply to different things. An object may fail to exist (or rather, there may fail to exist any objects which satisfy some collection of properites); and a condition of such objects failing to exist may obtain. But conditions do not 'exist' except inasmuch as we use this turn of phrase to describe the fact that there is a situation in which the condition obtains.

This is, to be fair, a nuanced problem. Does fire exist? But fire is a phenomenon of rapid and exothermic oxidation — it is not an object but a condition which obtains of a system, e.g. a pile of wood or paper. Do apples exist? But apples are macroscopic conglomerations of atoms configured into complicated organic chemicals, including sugars which make the apple sweet, pigments which colour the skin of the apple, and fibres which help the mass retain a stable form — and the fact that these properties obtain is not a passive, but an active process involving electromagnetic forces on the nanoscopic scale. We abstract phenomena and conditions all the time and turn them into nouns, objects for our consideration and manipulation: rain, heat, winter, etc. are all nouns which describe conditions to which we are subject, rather than objects which we can e.g. pick up.

What of nothingess? This is different — it is a condition not of an object or the interaction of objects, but rather the condition that (in some region of space and time, say) there are no objects. If applied in the cosmological sense, it is the absence of any objects in the universe of discourse: the proposition that ¬∃x holds.

When you talk about nothingness "being", it seems to me that you are referring to the notion that this universe without objects still has facts: for instance, that ¬∃x. However, facts don't count as things which 'exist' in a first-order theory; and even if you move to second, third, etc. order theories, in which facts about one level are objects in their own right one level up, one can still have first-order nothingness (the absence of first-order objects) as a second-order object, without contradicting itself.

  • 1
    A great answer.
    – Emily
    Sep 28, 2013 at 19:01

The question is longstanding perplexing one. The difficulty starts right at the beginning, to properly assert the statement about "Nothingness", "Néant", "Nichts" etc.

The first difficulty is about "to be" and "to exist". Do they have the same meaning or not? First observe that from "X does not exist" it follows that "There is something that does not exist". Suppose that "to be" and "to exist" have the same meaning. Then we can say that from "X does not exist" it follows that "There exists something that does not exist" which is "somethings exists and something does not exist"! It seems that it is contradictory to say that "X does not exist" whatever X is! The argument can be put like this. To be able to attribute the predicate of "not exist" to X (or deprive X from the predicate of "exist"), X should have some form of "being".

To cope with this problem there are various approaches in the history of philosophy. The debate goes back to Sophist of Plato and continues up to this day. Some reject the rule of Existential Generalization, some make a difference between first order and second order predicate and also between "to be" and "to exist", some, like Quine, used Russell theory of description to deal with what is called "negative singular existential propositions". Some take "to exist" as a genuine predicate and some reject this. One cannot do justice to all of positions here.

Now I try to go over your arguments. But note that the problem here is about forming a meaningful proposition. What I tried to do was to show how these propositions are malformed and unclear and the problem is about the meaning of "to exist" and "to be". So the arguments I provide for the rest, are just immanent criticism of your arguments and might suffer from the same symptoms.

"Nothingness doesn't be, that's the definition of nothingness". The first question is about the meaning of what you say. According to what I said, are you saying "there exists something that does not exist". You have to say which property "Nothingness" possess or does not possess, when you say "it does not be". The second question is that can be we bring entities into "existence" just by positing them? I may define "multishape" as "an object which is both round and square and do not exist". Do I show it existence just by defining it?

"If there was nothing, nothingness would be, that is the only thing that there would be. Therefore, for nothingness not to be, something must be. Therefore, the existence of something is necessary." Same questions can be posed here. Here is the problem: Are the predicates "to exist" and "to be" similar the predicates like "to be red"?

Moreover is your first conclusion correct? From "There was nothing", you can say "There is no X such that X is", which is quit natural. If X ranges over all entities, including "Nothingness", then Nothingness is not. As simple as that. So you should say "nothingness would not be".

One way to circumvent the problem is to accept the difference between "to be" and "to exist" and then saying that "there are some objects that do not exist", like Sherlock Holmes for instance! Then "nothingness", whatever it is, does not exist. But then your argument for the existence of "Universe" will not work anymore.

Remark: The story can get even more complicated because some people accept the existence of sets but reject notions like nothingness as non-sensical.

Remark: A complete survey of answers to this question is indeed the history of philosophy in some sense.

Some references:


Non-existent objects

Alexius Meinong

  • from "X does not exist" it follows that "There is something that does not exist" — wrong. “X does not exist” should be taken as “nothing which has properties of X exist”, which is a perfectly valid claim. For instance, the actual meaning of “Sherlock Holmes does not exist” is “the man as described in Conan Doyle’s books does not exist”.
    – Emily
    Sep 28, 2013 at 14:24
  • One has to be careful about right and wrong here! and I tried to present a big picture here and I did not present my personal take on the problem. But what you are saying is somehow Russell-Quine approach to the problem. Unfortunately it is kind of well established, after Kripke's "naming and necessity" that you cannot replace proper names, like Sherlock Holmes, with definite descriptions, like "the man as described in Conan Doyle’s books". In other words, semantical content of proper names is only their reference and no definite description, hence Millianism.
    – Arash
    Sep 28, 2013 at 16:05
  • Unfortunately I disagree with Kripke’s objections to the descriptivist theory of naming. At any rate, comments isn’t a place for discussion so I’ll refrain from further remarks.
    – Emily
    Sep 28, 2013 at 19:03

"Nothingness doesn't be" -- Is this the way you want to phrase this? I'm not sure what you mean by that. At any rate, this is word play. You started off with nothingness as not existing. But then you say it would exist if it were the only thing in existence. This is contradictory. Even if that weren't a problem, how does it then follow that for nothingness not to be, something must be? It doesn't follow logically at all.

I think you are getting mixed up on the subtle differences between existence in reality and existence in concept; there is a difference between a concept for something existing, and the thing the concept refers to actually taking up physical space in reality.

  • I'm not speaking about concepts. I'll try to be more clear.
    – Trylks
    Sep 27, 2013 at 5:43

This is actually in rough the argument that Hegel uses to start his Phenomology of Spirit. He uses a dialectic. The thesis is that there no-Being, that is nothing. The anti-thesis is that there is Being. The synthesis of the two is Becoming.


Nothingness indeed is secondary to Being. If there were no anything at all, nothing would replace it to become the only being itself, come "positive", "matter". So, to stay negative, or the dismiss of the something (for that's the meaning of nothing or no-a-thing), the something must be at first. Yet "at first" doesn't mean nothing comes to being at a time lag - it is there from the beginning, but it is secondary like a parasite on persistent being (being has no creation time). Being evolves or modifies thanks to nothing that interlaces it like cracks enmesh rock.

Self-rejection, or nothing, is an inherent possibility or option of being which happens often with it. That also implies nothing is always partial: only when being disperses and doesn't vanish completely nothing could be a negative happening. There is no other way for nothing but in the presence of being which the nothing is nothing of.

It is very important to stress that nothing is not emptiness (of any contents), it is missingness (of a concrete content), it therefore is "active". Inert emptiness remains Being - to which we simply switched label from "exists" to "unexists", a cognitive or formal logical trick which didn't change anything fundamentally.

One should not confuse being and existence. It is possible to exist by the mode of nonbeing. Possibilities aka outlines of being exist by such mode.


You are confused because you are putting two things together when by nature they are not of the same kind so cannot be put together.

First thing, Concept of Nothing.

Second thing, Nothing itself.

Obviously Concept of Nothing exist. Proof: We are talking about it. There is a concept in our heads.

Nothing itself cannot exist, by definition. If it exists it must be something. How else we know it exists? We cannot observe Nothing.

See, our theory that x exists to be a valid theory must comes from observation (data). We can only see what exists. Since we cannot see what do not exist we cannot see Nothing.

Data above, theory below. Since we cannot see Nothing we must conclude that Nothing do not exist.

Yes we can think about non-existing things. We can think about seventh number in a dice (see you just thought about it), a transparent tiger, a bottom-less pit etc.

  • If the set of things that exist were empty, could we say that "nothing exists"?
    – Trylks
    Jan 1, 2023 at 15:31
  • The set exists. The concept of sets exist. The concept that there is nothing in the set exists. Look, Russell got in problem because he equate set with whats in the sets. Two distinct concepts. The container your eggs come in is not an egg. You cannot make an omellete out of the container, can you?
    – Atif
    Jan 1, 2023 at 16:29
  • If the universe did not exist, nor the spacetime continuum, it would still not be true that "nothing exists" because there will always be Ideas, as described by Plato. Did I understand correctly?
    – Trylks
    Jan 2, 2023 at 18:26
  • 1
    You have to ultimately believe in Creator. The Creator would have exist. The ideas have to come from somewhere. If you dont believe in Creator you will always be confused and never reach any conclusion.
    – Atif
    Jan 2, 2023 at 18:38

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