[lit-ideas] Re: The nothing noths

  • From: "" <dmarc-noreply@xxxxxxxxxxxxx> (Redacted sender "Jlsperanza@xxxxxxx" for DMARC)
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  • Date: Fri, 20 Feb 2015 05:14:21 -0500

On p. 121 of "Quaestio Subtilissima", D. P. Henry proposes this  
formalisation of 

i. The Nothing noths

(He distinguishes this  from

ii. The nothing noths.)

iii. ͻ[[Λ]](Λ) 
The use of "[[...]]" Henry borrows from Oxford philosopher A. N. Prior.  

On p. 120, he notes that the 'the' "portents some sort of singularity",  
which Henry symbolises as 

iv. sol(Λ) 

Henry says that (iv)  justifies "the use of the capital initial letter". 
Henry concludes the section on Heidegger with the remark that (i) can thus  
be seen as being sensical and "a truth derivable from the deductive  
metaphysics" which he is constructing.
I agree with J. L. Scherb that this was a "pre-war debate" (pre-Second  
World War) between Rudolf Carnap and Martin Heidegger about allegedly (as  D. 
P. Henry has it) meaningless metaphysical statements such as  "The Nothing 
noths" ("Das  Nichts  
Within the mainstream of  20th century analytical  philosophy  this 
statement, "The Nothing noths"  has come to be regarded as  obvious 
And it was Sir Freddie Ayer who brought the news to Oxford. It is said that 
 Oxford could not BEAR with the 'enfant terrible' -- but I WOULD 
distinguish  between a Carnapian scientist approach and Ayer's, which was 
towards  empiricist epistemoly in general -- and Ayer did not stay at Oxford 
for long,  finding a post in London. In terms of the history of philosophy, 
this is seen as  Oxford never having 'bought' the idea that metaphysical 
statements were, as Ayer  thought he had shown, after Carnap, 'meaningless'. 
There were hordes of  philosophers practicising metaphysics THEN (think 
Collingwood) as there are  hordes of philosophers practising metaphysics NOW at 
As we all know, this led to an unfortunate confrontation between  
analytical  and continental  philosophy -- with Sartre assuming the  
position and generalising it: "Das Nichts nichtet" and  consciousness is "le 
néant néantisant".

The judgement of "The Nothing noths" as nonsense was somewhat 'corrected'  
by D. P. Henry. 

But the conflict still seems to exist. 

Henry's remark didn't find its way to  a  greater  audience, because Henry 
didn't *prove* his claim in a   canonical way, and because Henry's remark 
may be alleged to contains  an ambiguity, which may give rise to criticism. 
The required disambiguation, together with the missing proofs, can be given 
 within the ontology introduced by Stanisław Leśniewski -- notably  
protothetic -- that Grice adored ("protothetic (why?)" -- "Aspects of Reason" 
Grice had a taste for a Polish neologism). 
Ludger Honnefelder calls the systems Stanisław Leśniewski, which  were 
developed roughly at the same pre-war time  (1913-1939), a new  beginning of  
They systems of Stanisław Leśniewski (that Henry learned via Geach -- 
whose  mother was Polish) provide the missing link (to use a  metaphor) between 
Heidegger and Carnap (and Ayer).
The systems of Stanisław Leśniewski can thus be regarded as an ontological 
 (if not metaphysical) supplement to and a  partial correction of  Michael 
Friedman's essay on Heidegger, Carnap and Cassirer. 
A  hermeneutical conclusion may be drawn from this that allows  for a 
reconciliation between two types of 
This is possible not only in terms of Cassirer's observations,  but also 
along the lines of "logical form", broadly conceived -- as  Henry suggested.
The hermeneutical outcome suggests that one CAN make use  of PRECISE logic 
tools in a more general  way than Carnap himself  allowed (if not Ayer and 
less so Grice), alla D. P. Henry, without having  to declare that at a few 
central  statements of Heidegger's   Fundamentalontologie are pure nonsense -- 
but rather pretty illuminating --  if you think of them ("and even if you 

Ayer, Language, Truth and Logic
Grice, "System Q"
Grice, "Philosophical Eschatology".
Henry, Quæstio subtilissima. 
Ryle, Review of Heidegger, "Sein und Zeit", Mind, 1929, vol. 38. 
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