Am I the only one who think absolute nothing is actually relative? The term "Absolute" is basically in relation or with respect to everything while "relative" is with respect to something or an individual. Not to mention that the term "nothing" is essentially relative as it negates its antonym which is something. It is still based on duality concept. The term "Absolute", if it is literally truly without any relations whatsoever, will become meaningless. Even Absolute needs reference to something else.

Also, it doesn't matter if we put the term "absolute" or "relative" to nothing, nothing is still nothing. No change whatsoever because only something changes. Nothing or nothingness has no limits so no change will be possible, and something or bodies, objects, forms, etc. are always confined within boundaries so are always subject to change.

  • What is so special about "nothing"? Your argument seems to be that we cannot understand any concept without relating it to other concepts, be it "Absolute", "nothing", or whatever. You'll find eminent philosphers, like Davidson, agreeing with you on that. But, even if true, this is a fact about our concepts, not about what they are concepts of. Our concepts of Absolute or nothing may need references to other things, that does not entail that they need such references.
    – Conifold
    Sep 28, 2021 at 8:03
  • Can you give me an example of absolute or nothing in real life?
    – SnoopyKid
    Sep 28, 2021 at 8:19
  • 1
    " "Absolute" is basically in relation or with respect to everything". If it is "in relation with" it must be relative... Sep 28, 2021 at 8:20
  • "the term "nothing" is essentially relative as it negates its antonym which is something." Please, translate it in plain language. Sep 28, 2021 at 8:20
  • There is no such thing as absolute in real life. That's why I asked @Conifold to give me an example of absolute in real life. Concepts such as absolute, nothing, etc. are essentially relative. Nothing means there is no thing somewhere (i.e there is no apple on the table). Nothing as a concept is essentially relative, and always refers to a definite something which it negatives/negated.
    – SnoopyKid
    Sep 28, 2021 at 8:28

2 Answers 2


As you and @MauroAllegranza point out, absolute nothing is nothing relative to the existence of something. So, there need not be a dichotomy. It seems reasonable to claim that absolute nothing (if we can truly imagine such a thing) would simultaneously and perhaps necessarily be relative nothing.


The zero on the Celsius scale is still an amount of heat. The zero on the Kelvin scale is absolute zero of heat. It's a useful technical linguistic distinction. Maths doesn't give us privileged access to the world, it depends for it's use in physics on us having correct abstractions, correct methods to calculate, and appropriate understanding of terms and definitions. Personally I think the fervor people get in over zero and infinity (and imaginary numbers) is hype, and we need a humbler understanding of the role of mathematics.

The earliest use of zero was by Ancient Egyptians, for a reference level to build above and below. And then it transferred into accounting.

Indian mathematics introduced the place value system, in which zero is a place-holder. They used the word sunya, as used by Buddhists in sunyata, emptiness of essence. In that sense it was linked to where things arise, and was able to take on a deeper meaning and than for the Ancient Greeks. In a sense this is still relative, emptiness as original nature, identity-less or essence-less being alone, awareness without possession.

The Unruh Effect is an interesting example from physics of the temperature of 'empty space' depending on the observer.

Zero is relative, because it's a concept, not something in the world. The concept derives from comparing something, to it's absence. It is always relative. And something that's zero on one scale may not be on another (eg zero Kelvin is not zero energy), so equating all zeros is basically unjustifiable math-mysticism.

I'd look to Wittgenstein on examples like how the word 'game' derive from modes of life, and get extended by metaphor and analogy, but remain fuzzy ('know it when we see it'), and there are typically sets of 'family resemblances' for their use in different contexts. Zero is like that, even it's relativeness is relative.

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