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A Bit Nietzche but I'm Hoping for an Answer, Locke, Stock and Barrel.
February 17, 2014 11:28 AM   Subscribe

So, I've been trying to hash out my philosophic and intangible beliefs and I realized that the only thing I really, truly connect with in a belief sense is Nothing, the dark. To be clear, I don't mean this melodramatically, I simply mean this in the sense that I find the fact that when I close my eyes at night that the idea that, as Roger Ebert put it, "I was perfectly content before I was born" comes to mind. That there is more that does not exist in this world than does. From John Locke (blank slate ideas) to Nietzche and religion, can you good people point me very broadly in the direction of thoughts on the nothing that surrounds us? Thanks!
posted by sendai sleep master to Religion & Philosophy (15 answers total) 16 users marked this as a favorite
 
How about Tao?
Within these contexts Tao signifies the primordial essence or fundamental nature of the universe. In the foundational text of Taoism, the Tao Te Ching, Laozi explains that Tao is not a 'name' for a 'thing' but the underlying natural order of the universe whose ultimate essence is difficult to circumscribe. Tao is thus "eternally nameless” (Dao De Jing-32. Laozi) and to be distinguished from the countless 'named' things which are considered to be its manifestations.
My favorite Tao translation
posted by bleep at 11:37 AM on February 17 [1 favorite]


In several of Kurt Vonnegut's novels he describes god as vast, chaotic, and indifferent to people - but that it shouldn't stop us from living good lives.
posted by entropone at 11:45 AM on February 17


John Locke's notions of tabula rasa were definitely more about theory of mind than ontology, which is really what you're looking for I think. Locke was about as Christian as they come.

The whole gang of existentialists is really what you're talking about, Nietzsche being probably the least interesting, or at least the least serious (in my opinion) of the lot. Sartre is the obvious go to person here. Being and Nothingness is the magnum opus you are looking for. If you've never read Sartre, most people suggest starting with Existentialism is a Humanism, though Sartre later rejected that work, and I don't think it's a good reflection of his thought, generally.

You will probably also like Camus, who I like quite a lot.

Then there's the other existentialists - Kierkegaard, Bergson, Merleau-Ponty.

If you want to venture into existentialist fiction, look no further than Dostoevsky. Though you might also like Kafka, Ionesco.
posted by Lutoslawski at 11:47 AM on February 17 [7 favorites]


You can try diving into the Eastern end of the pool with "Pregnant Void" as your life preserver.
posted by jamjam at 11:55 AM on February 17


Wikipedia.

Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.

There you go: a synthesis of dozens of Eastern and Western philosophers on this topic.

Those are the top results for a Google search for [philosophy nothing]. And there's a good reason for that: Wikipedia and SEP are typically good starting points for researching a philosophical topic.

Read or even skim those pages, see which ideas most jump out at you, then go track down the primary sources cited and read those. For instance, Sartre's Being and Nothingness would be the most obvious recommendation; by looking at those links, you can see where he fits in with the whole history of thought on the subject. For instance, Wikipedia notes that he was influenced by Heidegger, who felt that Sartre misunderstood his views. Sartre should be a more enjoyable read, though.
posted by John Cohen at 12:06 PM on February 17


Emil Cioran
posted by BabeTheBlueOX at 12:09 PM on February 17


Another obvious one to look at is Epicurus, and it might also be useful to look at the concept of the "void" (sort of another term for nothingness) - here's a little NPR piece that might give you some nice jumping off points.
posted by LobsterMitten at 12:10 PM on February 17


The classic philosophical novel The Stranger, by Albert Camus come to mind.
posted by Flood at 12:32 PM on February 17


Why Does The World Exist?

Nothing: A Very Short Introduction was very good, but probably more science-oriented than the nothing that you want.
posted by thelonius at 12:50 PM on February 17


"That there is more that does not exist in this world than does"

Heidegger. To put it a different way, there is more that "exists" than what we mean when we speak of "existence".
posted by Blitz at 1:52 PM on February 17


Thomas Ligotti's The Conspiracy Against Mankind is the basis for Cohle's dark outlook on True Detective.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 2:35 PM on February 17 [1 favorite]


Robert Anton Wilson. Hell, he didn't believe in something OR nothing.
posted by cmoj at 5:18 PM on February 17 [1 favorite]


Le Guin's translation of the Tao is a particularly good version that is easy to start with.
posted by viggorlijah at 11:19 PM on February 17


There are a number of books and articles in metaphysics on the subject of holes and shadows (which are holes in light). The canonical text on holes is a dialogue between "Argle" and "Bargle", written by David and Stephanie Lewis. Casati and Varzi have a book called Holes and Other Superficialities that develops the literature to an extreme extent.

The best book on shadows is probably Seeing Dark Things by Roy Sorenson. It's full of little braintwisters like, "When you experience the total blackness of a cave, are you seeing in the dark? Or are you merely failing to see anything (just like your blind companion)?" Or like this one.
posted by painquale at 4:15 AM on February 18 [1 favorite]


Thank you so much for the suggestions, everyone! In combination, all of these in some way get a kernel of what I was aiming for and, thus, they collectively are exactly what I was looking for.
posted by sendai sleep master at 7:34 PM on February 18


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