How to denote the idea of nothingness in formal terms?



I was thinking about the question "Why is there something rather than nothing?" , and have read about some theories that existence is the case because non-existence is logically impossible

So, I devised a logical proof that shows nothingness is impossible, but only if we can formally denote nothingness by : "There exists x, so that for all y , y is not identical to x".


Which violates the law of identity, therefore : nothingness is logically impossible. (there is no x that is not identical to all y)

My question : are there any references that try to denote "nothingness" in formal terms?


Posted 2019-09-07T10:08:22.143

Reputation: 2 341


Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat.

– Philip Klöcking – 2019-09-10T02:08:59.420

1Not that I know of. It seems to be an idea that takes us out of the system. To say 'Nothing exists' might be okay if we assume an x may be real and not-exist (not stand-out) but to say 'Nothing is real' is to say there is no x and logic collapses. This would be connected with Bradley's comment that subject-predicate language, while necessary, is unsuitable for metaphysics. . . – None – 2019-09-14T13:24:41.057

@PeterJ agree, or put another way, if nothing exists then there is no proposition that denotes nothing exists, because if there is a true proposition that meabs nothing exists, then it would follow that the proposition is wrong since there is something which is a true proposition thank you – SmootQ – 2019-09-16T11:15:13.207



There's some recent formal work by Graham Priest on this topic, which can be found in his monograph One. Oxford 2016, p.99ff.

Priest works in a non-standard mereology, where parthood is a non-well-founded preorder. His basic idea is to to formalize nothingness as the fusion of the empty set, this fusion being denoted by the constant n. So, within this formal picture, nothingness is what you get when you take the sum of no things whatsoever.

To get his mereological theory with nothingness added going Priest has to add axioms governing the behavior of the constant n, such as ~ x < n and ~ n < x (no thing is a proper part of nothing and nothing is not a proper part of anything). Priest also gives algebraic models of this theory using Boolean algebras.


Posted 2019-09-07T10:08:22.143

Reputation: 1 348

The empty sum is zero, not nothing. Mathematically at least. The empty product is 1. – user4894 – 2019-09-09T02:54:29.090

@user4894 You are confusing mathematical empty sum with Graham Preist's empty sum. They are two different things. The answer is correct. – Bertrand Wittgenstein's Ghost – 2019-09-09T08:28:13.130

@BertrandWittgenstein'sGhost I said that the empty sum is zero, mathematically. Can you explain what is incorrect about what I said? – user4894 – 2019-09-09T08:30:19.063

@user4894 If you said the empty sum is zero, "mathematically," then your comment is irrelevant. Why bother posting it in the first place since neither the question, and nor the answer is about mathematics. Did you believe, for a moment, that you are contributing something meaningful to the discussion by derailing a perfectly valid answer? Regards – Bertrand Wittgenstein's Ghost – 2019-09-09T08:33:18.087

@Sequitur thank you so much for your answer, I am looking for references on Pierce's work , Best +1 ! – SmootQ – 2019-09-09T15:06:23.783

@BertrandWittgenstein'sGhost Yes I did, by supplying the standard interpretation of the phrase, "Empty sum." Perhaps some reader who didn't know that, could learn something from the contrast between the two definitions. My comment supplies background and additional context: That there is a standard meaning to the phrase, and we are taking about an alternate meaning. Some reader might find that helpful. I did believe that I was contributing meaningfully to the discussion and to the site. So ... what's it to you? – user4894 – 2019-09-10T00:05:20.903

@user4894 Its nothing to me personally, but you were stroking your ego at the expense of a perfectly valid question and answer which is at least unethical if not absolutely egotistical. – Bertrand Wittgenstein's Ghost – 2019-09-10T00:53:42.710

@BertrandWittgenstein'sGhost That's your interpretation. You're wrong. And you're making a personal attack. Have you a substantive point? If not, you are the one out of order on this site. – user4894 – 2019-09-13T00:30:17.450

@user4894 - I feel your comment is important and that perhaps you've been treated unfairly here. – None – 2019-09-13T09:29:40.513

@user4894 "Its your Interpretation, and you are wrong." I hope you do know there is only so much leeway in interpretation. I can't extrapolate something definitely not in your comment. However, if that makes you feel better, then, sure, blame it on interpretation. – Bertrand Wittgenstein's Ghost – 2019-09-14T01:50:33.020

@user4894 - I feel your comment is important. All sorts of problems arise if we confuse 'Nothing' with a numerical zero. It is at this profound level that mathematics and metaphysics need to be distinguished. If this is what you meant then it's a vital point. . – None – 2019-09-14T13:16:29.640

@PeterJ Thanks! – user4894 – 2019-09-14T18:36:43.297


Nothingness had to exist, and it had to exist beyond our universe. Nothingness is a kind of space, but it is very important to understand that it is different from our 3D physical space. The universe must have begun from nothingness and it must be expanding into nothingness. If the universe contracted or travelled, it would do so into nothingness.

Imagining a simple scenario with 2 universes expanding into nothingness, with their boundaries eventually coming to touch each other, then the nothingness that was initially in between them would have had to contract. Thus, nothingness, as a special kind of space may have properties, like size, or being 3-dimensional, just like normal space. Therefore, nothingness is not exactly nothing. Something also important to note is that nothingness is not stable. It is constantly producing positive and negative virtual particles, which annihilate each other continuously. The book A Universe from Nothing by Dr Krauss explains nothingness in detail but it doesn't explain nothingness as a special case of something.

Ajit Kulkarni

Posted 2019-09-07T10:08:22.143

Reputation: 17

I think the OP is asking for how to represent nothingness formally in symbolic logic. – Frank Hubeny – 2019-09-11T12:35:48.943

1Thanks for your answer, The Universe from Nothing (in the physical sense) by Lawrence Krauss is different subject. The physical nothing is actually something in the philosophical sense, something that looks like nothing, and that has the potential to bring forth everything we see around us. besides The question, as Frank pointed out, is about how to present nothingness formally. +1 – SmootQ – 2019-09-13T17:57:30.840