Tuesday, October 8, 2013
Do we feel nothingness?
Let's explore this idea of "nothingness" a bit, since it's such an important notion for the philosophy of the East.
First, Physics! A region of space is called a vacuum if it does not contain any matter, though it can contain physical fields. This is more a sort of ideal concept. It is practically impossible to construct a region of space that contains no matter or fields, since gravity cannot be blocked and all objects at a non-zero temperature radiate electromagnetically. But even if such a region existed, it could still not be referred to as "nothing", since it has properties and a measurable existence as part of the quantum-mechanical vacuum.
So, it seems we're dealing conceptual, possibilities!
For instance, Shunyata (emptiness), unlike "nothingness", is considered to be a state of mind in some forms of Buddhism (see Nirvana, mu, 无 and Bodhi). Achieving 'nothing' as a state of mind in this tradition allows one to be totally focused on a thought or activity at a level of intensity that they would not be able to achieve if they were consciously thinking. A classic example of this is an archer attempting to erase his mind and clear his thoughts in order to better focus on his shot.
In modern logic, the term "nothing" does not function as a noun, as there is no object that it refers to. However, there are dissenters that claim that our understanding of the world rests essentially on noticing absences and lacks as well as presences.