Saturday, March 8, 2008

Deep Thoughts VII

Everything exists.

This idea is (of course) not mine, but Quine's. But how can one disagree?


Heath White said...

How about "You only have one life to live"?

Anonymous said...


What about nothingness?

Nothingness (non-being) seems to instantiate at least the property „to be nothingness" and to „be self-identical". Though nothingness is no ontologically positive entity, it is some suchness, so to speak.

The claim that nothing can instantiate any property unless it exists begs the question.

I do not want to say that nothing (nothingness, non-being) is "something" in the sense of some being - it is not, by definition.

Nevertheless, it seems that nothing has some identity. I would say that nothing and every being have it in common: i.e., self-identity. The difference is that every being is something ontologically positive, yet nothing is ontologically negative. E.g., I am something ontologically positive, that there is no elephant in my room is something ontologically negative.

By the way, Stanford Enc. of Phil. has entries on nothingness and holes.

By "being" I mean ens (not necessarily simple ens, collection is a being, too). Examples of being: me, you, God, Africa, a triangle, triangles, clouds, books, a lake, your life, a stroll, numbers, a thought.

Every thing is a being. But not every being is a thing. Examples of things: me, you, a chair, a shoe. Examples of beings which are not things: your life, a stroll, a nation.

Nothing is NON-being. Roughly, nothing is like a hole. And being is like that in which there can be a hole.

As you see, when I claim that X is F, I do not want to imply that X is a being.

I am not able to be more clear about this.

So, if "everything" includes nothingness, it seems that it is not true that everything exists, because existing, as I understand it, has some positivity which is excluded from nothingness.

Still, I would say that nothingness occurs. So everything that exists occurs, but it is not true that everything that occurs exists.

Anonymous said...

Sorry for not attaching a name under the last comment.

Vlastimil Vohánka

Alexander R Pruss said...


Suppose that you come to be multilocated, with no transcendental unity of apperception between yourself as located in the multiple places. This is like a view of fission on which the descendant entities are each identical with the ancestor entity, and hence with each other. Then it's not clear that you only have one life to live--it seems like you have many parallel lives.

Now maybe this scenario is impossible. But that it's impossible is not a tautology.

(There is also a problem with tautologies that use "you"--I've committed this slip before--since they entail the non-tautologous claim that there is at least one entity.)

Alexander R Pruss said...


"Nothingness" sounds like an abstract noun. Read that way, it refers to whatever abstracta are--ideas in the mind of God, or Platonic entities, etc. If we are realists about abstracta, we will then say that nothingness exists, and is something (a certain abstract entity). (I am not a realist about abstracta myself, but the story I have to tell is too inchoate to share.)

The other way to read it is as concrete. "What is in the box? Nothingness." A better word is "nothing" for this reading. Is nothing self-identical? No: to talk of there being nothing in the box is simply to deny that there is something in the box.

Anonymous said...


OK, suppose that in my comment there should be "nothing" instead of "nothingness". (Still, the SEP entry about nothing that I mentioned is titled "Nothingness".)

I have had in my mind the concrete reading. Thanks for the distinction.

First, you wrote, "Is nothing self-identical? No"
Nothing (non-being) is nothing (non-being), is it not?

Or do you want to say that non-being is a contradictory concept? But how could it be?

Second: "to talk of there being nothing in the box is simply to deny that there is something in the box."
But I said explicitly that I do not take nothing as some thing or as some ontologically positive entity. But maybe I have not caught your point.