Nothing

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Nothing is a concept that describes the absence of anything. Colloquially, the concept is often used to indicate the lack of anything relevant or significant, or to describe a particularly unimportant thing, event, or object. It is contrasted with something and everything. Nothingness is used more specifically as the state of nonexistence of everything.

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Language and logic

Grammatically, the word "nothing" is an indefinite pronoun, which means that it refers to something. One might argue that "nothing" is a concept, and since concepts are things, the concept of "nothing" itself is a thing. This logical fallacy is neatly demonstrated by the joke syllogism that contains a fallacy of four terms:

The four terms in this example are

  • Eternal happiness,
  • A ham sandwich,
  • Nothing-as-a-thing, which a ham sandwich is better than, and
  • Nothing-as-an-absence-of-a-thing: 'no-thing' or 'not-some-thing', i.e., no entity exists that is better than eternal happiness.

The error in the conclusion stems from equating nothing-as-a-thing with nothing-as-absence-of-a-thing, which is invalid logic.

Clauses can often be restated to avoid the appearance that "nothing" possesses an attribute. For example, the sentence "There is nothing in the basement" can be restated as "There is not one thing in the basement". "Nothing is missing" can be restated as "everything is present". Conversely, many fallacious conclusions follow from treating "nothing" as a noun.

Modern logic made it possible to articulate these points coherently as intended, and many philosophers hold that the word "nothing" does not function as a noun, as there is no object to which it refers. There remain various opposing views, however—for example, that our understanding of the world rests essentially on noticing absences and lacks as well as presences, and that "nothing" and related words serve to indicate these.[1][2]

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