In the introductory article of my art manifesto, I stated that I would first examine the explanation of existence in terms of the concepts of non-existence and nothingness and gave it under short titles. Let me continue from there.
“Non-existent” by definition means that an experienced existence is no longer present. In short, it is a state of absence, deficiency. These situations, when we get the answer “not existent” for anything, “Why not, nothing?” are situations where we ask questions like. As it can be seen, this state of the non-existence is related to “existent”, that is, it is obliged to “existent”.
Nothingness exists in various states in language. It is especially philosophy’s area of interest, or rather pain point. A pillar of nothingness in our topic is philosophical, but it has nothing to do with currents like nihilism.
Nothingness; name, philosophy: the non-existence of something as a result of the elimination of its real features and states, non-existence (TDK= Turkish Language Institution).
As we have seen, “nothingness” is the state of ‘not being existent’, that is, the situation in which nothing can exist or does not exist. However, the explanation of non-existence in the definition of nothingness refers to the concept of existence. It cannot be a satisfactory explanation for that reason. That is why I have defined the nothingness state as “unexperiencible non-presence.” The word unexperiencible in this statement means the absence of any being (subject) including God to experience, which is a pointless discussion of this situation. However, beyond the absurdity of this discussion, I state that absolute nothingness as such can no longer be mentioned.
If there is someone evaluating the nothingness, the absolute nothingness that is meant now has lost its nothingness; that nothingness cannot be spoken of. Because an existent conscious being is evaluating and questioning nothingness now. Therefore, nothingness becomes related to existence. Being in the area of interest of existent, nothingness gets a positionat the immediate outer limit of existence. In other words, the threshold of existence turns into the ground of nothingness. As such, nothingness loses its state of absolute nothingness without a chance of going back. In this case, like everything else in question, nothingness must have a beginning. Because everything that exists physically is obliged to an initiator, a beginning before itself, as required by the causality principle. For this reason, nothingness also requires a beginning. However, no point can be determined that its very first starting location, as is in the case with other existing beings. Because every detected and assumed point now turns into a new point of the existent. Consequently, we come across a state of causality in which every existent being is obliged to the one before itself. This means going back infinitely; that is a vicious circle.
Let’s consider here another dimension of questioning the nothingness. I said absolute nothingness cannot be spoken of. Speaking is a linguistic act. Could the cause of the problem with nothingness be related to the structure of language? Could it be because of the language the reason why it cannot be explained? Because language is a system of creating meaning. It simply consists of names. It provides communication by creating concepts in a systematic mechanism with these names (linguistic structure). The word nothingness for the human brain is also the name given to a concept. So let me talk briefly about the formation of concepts now:
Scientists such as the French anthropologist Levi-Strauss and the Swiss Ferdinand de Saussure, who is regarded as the father of linguistics, put the formation of the concepts on a scientific basis and called it “binary opposition”. These opposites constitute the underlying structure of meaning production. Binary opposition consists of intertwined opposites that are inevitably remembered when the other one appears in thought. For example, concepts such as night and day, black and white, present and absent. These concepts owe their existence to their opposite. For example, if all parts of the world were always daytime twenty-four hours, if there were no night, wherever you go, then the world would always be in a singular state of light. Since there can be no distinction in the singular case, there would be no concept of day or night. As in this example, the presence of one inevitably indicates the absence of the other, a reminder that the other is not there. Let me give an example to this; you can tell a daytime event without giving time. However, if you say that the event is daytime, you will also be reminding that it is not night at the time of the event. Because you say day, it automatically comes to the mind of the other person that the event does not happen at night. Therefore, while evaluating nothingness, the human brain cannot get rid of this structure and remembers what exists.
Can we envision absolute nothingness when you think of nothingness independently of language, that is, when you stop expressing it in words and just think?
Brain imagines everything that it gives a name, be it physics or metaphysical. It conceptualizes the content, that is, the definition of that existence. The word ‘nothingness’ is such a concept. If you just try to envision ‘nothing’, without thinking about the name or the concept of content, your brain will evoke a black image of space. However, according to the laws of optics, black represents the non-reflection of the light, the lack of light. So it’s about the light that exists.
So, starting from this feature of language, is there a situation, a concept in which the binary opposition of nothing can be ignored or omitted or is not present?
There is a concept, although it is not complete. The closest, most appropriate concept to describe the absolute ‘nothingness’ we seek is ‘zero’. Of course, I mean zero as literally a concept. So I am not talking about the zero, which has functions, used in operations in mathematics and various other fields. Because in some areas, zero expresses neutral state, balance, equality, inertia, etc. For example, zero debt, zero error, the difference is zero. This is off the limits of our topic. What I am talking about here is the simple value of zero. Let me give an example from mathematics. If you write a million zeros next to each other, the total value is still zero unless you put a number before or after it which is called the counting number.
Zero is represented by a hollow round symbol (0) in our language as well as in many languages. However, this symbol itself exists in the brain, but interestingly, it evokes absolute nonexistence; it does not evoke a black void that comes as an image of the word nothingness. Because it has no content, moreover, its content is contentless and has no binary opposition to remind. In other words, plain zero does not remind any other number or any existence, including the number “one”. So, in my opinion ‘zero’ describes absolute nothingness linguistically better than the word “nothingness.”
It seems that absolute nothingness loses its state after existence. At least it ceases to be absolute and passes into the threshold or ground state to the initial boundary of existence as nothingness. ‘Nothingness’ in this state looks a lot like zero. Let me explain this with a cute, if not complete, example. In all multi-storey buildings, floor numbers start above the ground floor. Grounds are not floors and are denoted by zero. However, all floors are obliged to the ground. This situation is also valid for structures without storeys.
In the next chapter, we will start a journey to the uncertain, controversial ground of our multi-storey universe.
(Translated from Turkish by Semih AYDIN)