It is this possibility of absolute nothingness that Rundle is mainly concerned to expose as an illusion. He points out that, in ordinary speech, when we say there is nothing in the cupboard, or nothing that is both round and square, we are talking about an existing world none of whose contents meet a certain description. To say nothing is X is to say everything is not X. We can perhaps conceive of the disappearance of everything in the world, so that there are no things left in it, but even then we are not imagining nothing at all, but rather a void, a vacuum, empty space. Taken literally, the hypothesis that there might have been nothing at all seems self-contradictory, since it seems equivalent to the supposition that it might have been the case that nothing was the case. Is there any way of understanding the possibility that there might have been nothing at all without interpreting it incoherently as a way things might have been -a fact, as Rundle puts it, a possible state of affairs, an alternative possible world? Rundle thinks not, and that therefore the question "Why is there something rather than nothing?" does not call for an answer.
Thursday, September 29, 2011
... The TLS blog: Death of a philosopher.