November 26, 2015 | Rome, Italy | Light rain 9°C

The Sheer Impossibility of Nothingness

By Joseph Patrick Pascale
Published: 2015-09-24

"If we accept that one of God's Commandments is Thou Shalt Not Kill, we accept that God determines what is ethical…"

hy is there something rather than nothing?" — Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz, 1697

Three times in my life, I experienced true nothingness.

However, when I was in my twenties and reading things like "The Consolations of Philosophy," I believed there was no such thing as "nothing." Sure, we can all imagine "nothing" in contrast to "something," but it's not true nothing.

Here's a room with some furniture in it, but this other room has nothing in it.

What you're choosing to ignore in that setup is all the air and light and scientific stuff like molecules, not to mention the universe of microscopic organisms in the corner. Our conception of nothing exists only as a useful indication of the absence of other things, but it's an entirely different beast from true nothingness.

My second semester in college, I took a Philosophy 101 class because I was all about being an "intellectual." I met another pseudo-intellectual in the class, a girl with thick, black-rimmed glasses who always wore her hair in an odd braid. Our professor was lenient about interpretations of the essay excerpts we had to read, and I had a hunch that he couldn't care less about his job, so rather than have to prepare lesson plans or lecture, he just let us talk to fill up enough time before he thought it was reasonable to dismiss class. I'm pretty sure he didn't read any of our papers either because no one I knew received anything back from him.

Nevertheless, it was his sinecure that led me to meet the girl — let's call her Krisna. Most students didn't understand the readings — or perhaps hadn't bothered to read them — and talked about unrelated anecdotes. A lady in the back always brought up her religious beliefs, which were neither here nor there, and Krisna made it her purpose to disagree with everything I said.

I'd put forth a logical point like, "Kierkegaard went about this all wrong. Instead of examining the whole situation and coming to a conclusion based on his investigations, he started with the conclusion that the Hebrew Bible had to be 'correct' and it was perfectly acceptable for Abraham to kill his son under God's command. The whole thing is just Kierkegaard's attempt to shoehorn in an explanation that meets his pre-determined conclusion."

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