[lit-ideas] Re: The nothing noths

  • From: "" <dmarc-noreply@xxxxxxxxxxxxx> (Redacted sender "Jlsperanza@xxxxxxx" for DMARC)
  • To: lit-ideas@xxxxxxxxxxxxx
  • Date: Fri, 20 Feb 2015 18:09:02 -0500

O. K. writes:

"[S]urely it is possible to argue that certain  statements that purport to 
be metaphysical are actually nonsense without making  the sweeping claim 
that they all are. Neither is it necessary to posit the  criterion of empirical 
verifiability for statements to be meaningful as the  positivists did. (It 
might be argued that statement has to be meaningful in at  least some sense 
in order for us to be able to tell whether it expresses an  empirically 
verifiable proposition.) Here are some of the possibilities: A  statement in 
metaphysics [a metaphysical statement, proposition] may have at  least three 
values: 1. It may be nonsense -- i.e. an undefined combination of  words. (Of 
course this might be the value of a statement in any subject, not  just 
Well, this seems to be Carnap's and Ayer's view re: 

i. The Nothing noths.
ii. The nothing noths.
D. P. Henry notes that a mediaeval philosopher said something like, "By  
necessity, nothing must be nothing", which Henry claims is like the 
predecessor  of Heidegger's claim.
Henry does not find the verb 'noth' nonsensical at all. And his use of the  
"[[ ... ]]" is meant to provide a corresponding verb for any noun ('noth' 
for  'nothing'). We are familiar with that from Quine, "Pegasus pegasises".
"2. It may be a disguised rule of grammar (PP p. 312) -- rather than the  
statement of fact ("real definition") its author the metaphysician intends it 
to  be."
Well, if Henry is right that there is some deductive system in which "The  
Nothing noths" becomes a logical truth, we may find this conclusion as being 
 yielded by premises and axioms in the system which are the logical 
correlates of  'rules of grammar'. So "The nothing noths" fits here too.
"3a. It may be a suggestive picture -- i.e. one that suggests images to us, 
 but that takes us no further. The proposition 'It's 5 o'clock on the sun'  
illustrated by "a grandfather clock which points to 5" (PIĀ§ 350), and maybe 
the  "questions without answers", are examples of these. Many such pictures 
give a  false account of the way we use some "sign" or other of our 
language -- i.e.  they are a mistaken understanding of the sign's "grammar" 
distinction  between a sign and its use in the language), e.g. the word 'mind' 
as the name of  an invisible object."
Well, this applies perfectly to
"The Nothing noths".

Henry spends some time discussing Lewis Carroll's
"Nobody runs faster than me".
"That's not true," said the King, "or he had come here earlier".
"3b. Or it may be a way of looking at things -- i.e. speculation that is  
not subject to falsification by anomaly. (Note that some scientific theories 
are  also ways of looking at things -- that is, ways of summarizing 
[organizing] a  selected set of data [Every scientific theory is facts plus 
imagination] -- that  are not falsifiable, e.g. the heliocentric and geocentric 
models of the solar  system.) Of course it may also simply be an idle picture 
although note well  that metaphysicians know that their pictures cannot be 
compared with  "perceptible reality" -- i.e. that their metaphysical 
propositions are not  empirical propositions -- and therefore it does not 
them that their  speculative propositions cannot be verified or tested by 
experience. For,  metaphysics says, "Our experience is only experience of 
appearances, not of  reality itself"; cf. Plato's cave image (Republic 515c). 
Which statement may be  an example of senses (2) or (3a) of the word 
Well, I do think Heidegger was illustrating 'annihilation' and nihilism,  
and came up with "The Nothing noths" as a good adage to abbreviate that way  
of looking at things. 
"Some religious pictures may resemble these "idle pictures", because they  
also are not hypotheses; however, pictures in religion are used very 
differently  from the way metaphysicians use pictures, e.g. they are not 
speculative. 3c. Or  it may be a picture that it is "logically impossible" for 
us to 
be taught how to  apply: "How is this picture, e.g. Michelangelo's God 
creating Adam (LC, p. 63),  to be compared with what it is said to be a picture 
of?" But there is no answer  -- i.e. the word 'compare' is not defined in this 
particular case; indeed, the  artist did not intend for a comparison to be 
Well, there are some paradoxes associated with "Nothing" that Henry  

iii. Nothing taught me to fly.
iv. No-thing taught me to fly.
was a well-known sophisma. Henry notes that the best answer to the sophism  
is: "Well, then: show us how you fly". 
The references to 'signs' is apt in that 'nihil' was much discussed by  
mediaeval philosophers as a 'sign' of some second imposition, and not a real  
name. And so on.
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