Yesterday when we were speaking, you made a reference to the existential question around identity and communication over the internet. Hearing a voice confirms existence. Meeting someone face-to-face further validates such. Email or chatting or leaving a comment on a Web page does no such thing.
But what if we began to look at it the other way? What if a voice or a personal meeting, due the ‘present’ nature of the terms, only validates a temporary existence rather than a permanent one? Where is the record of the conversation you had with your son this morning? While it may confirm your son’s existence to you, and vice-versa, it does little to confirm your son’s existence to me. What does do that? Your son’s Facebook page of course.
This was all inspired from the ‘Quote of the Day’ today in the New York Times:
“That will give me an identity. It will show that I am a human being, that I am alive, that I live on this planet. It will prove I am an Indian.”
Mohammed Jalil, a rickshaw puller in New Delhi, registering by computer into the world’s largest biometric data base, designed to keep official track of India’s 1.2 billion citizens.
I’m enjoying your book, I’ve even cited it a few times in my undergrad submissions. I’d like to know, as the ‘go to’ guy on nothingness, what the pragmatist position on nothingness is?
Presumably, from the Peircean perspective, something cannot be unknown in-itself, which seems to suggest that the concept of ‘nothingness’ is illusory in the pragmatic metaphysic (such as it is)?
Thank you for the question.
If you are referring to nothingness (the absence of something), there is no problem regarding the pragmatist position. In my book, I refer to nothingness as something, some examples being silence, absence of a person, spaces between objects…. all of which we can feel/perceive.
I think, though that you are referring to Nothing (the absence of everything). Now here we do have a problem, since everything includes also ourselves, i.e. the ones who are referring to it. I mention this problem in the book, by stating that I cannot refer to it at all, I cannot give it a pronoun (it) or even a stative verb (is). In fact, by writing about Nothing, I am giving it a presence. In short, Nothing is beyond the edge of existence. It is where we are not.
Even worse: we cannot talk about the existence or non-existence of Nothing. To claim that it exists makes no sense, since the absence of everything does not exist. And to claim that Nothing does not exist would mean that it would have existed for it to not exist now. That is plainly impossible if Nothing is the absence of everything. Nothing cannot produce anything, neither nothingness nor Nothing.
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