may update…

At present this blog is as acting as a sort of placeholder for future input, so for those of you who are still following, please bear with me! At the moment I am working a heavy teaching load, which doesn’t leave much time for independent study or writing; and in any case my ideas are — even without external interference — slow to develop.

Nevertheless, I recently had a chance to read through Nicholas Waghorn’s Nothingness and the Meaning of Life, which is probably the most exhaustive examination of the concept of nothingness that covers both analytic and continental philosophy. One could with profit read it as a companion text to Markus Gabriel’s Fields of Sense, since it develops a kindred line of thought, one that attempts to block the conceivability of both nothingness and totality (the one following from the other). The comparison is also instructive in the following way: Waghorn is acutely aware of the performative tension involved in his investigation, and has written a book with a truly tortured reflexivity to it (you have to read into it a bit before you fully realise this).

A recurrent theme in Waghorn’s book is that we don’t have a concept of (absolute) nothingness. The reasoning here is simple and yet mysterious to me: we can’t characterise nothingness, since it does not have any properties. To which we can immediately add: to assert that we can’t characterise nothingness is also to characterise it (p. 162), which illustrates in nuce why Waghorn’s approach contorts itself into an indefinite regress. Another way to put the basic claim is like this: to say that nothingness is not some X is necessarily to say that nothingness is a Y such that Y ≠ X. It is mysterious to me why, underneath every refusal to countenance the conceivability or possibility of nothingness, there appears finally this premise, like Plato’s ghost.

 

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