Friday, May 25, 2018

Nonbeing as the Absence of Being


About three years ago, my friend Bill Vallicella broached the topic of nonbeing and even used the expression "absence of being," so maybe I owe him a footnote, and perhaps this big quote will suffice:
You may recall Sartre's example of the absence of Pierre in the cafe. That is a determinate absence: the absence of Pierre. But the absence of everything that exists is also determinate. Even the absence or nonbeing of everything that could exist seems to be a determinate or definite nonbeing parasitic upon what is or what could be.

But then we are not succeeding in thinking pure nonbeing.

The Parmenidean conclusion is nigh: absolute nonbeing is utterly unthinkable and (this is a further step) impossible. Being is; Nonbeing is not.

And yet it seems that absolute nonbeing is something 'positive' as contradictory as that sounds just as evil is 'positive' in a way that makes trouble for the view that evil is just *privatio boni.*

Just as we cannot dismiss evil as a mere absence of good, we seem not to be able to dismiss nonbeing as a mere absence of Being.

And so I cannot decisively lay the follow(ing) specter: that of absolute nothingness as a threatening 'power' that cannot be domesticated or shown to be wholly negative by sheer thought.

Enter Heidegger und das Nichts.
Bill, unlike me, capitalizes: "absence of Being." The capital of "B" is correct, I think, for this is not the absence of a particular being like Pierre. This is Being itself!

Bill, however, seems to differ from me in the degree to which he distinguishes nonbeing, or nothingness, from Being. His "nonbeing" would seem to have a wee bit of Being in it. Or maybe even a lot of Being?

I wonder if that is logically possible . . .

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