Can 1 come from 0?

Nothing
Nothing

There seems to be an assumption in, let’s say, metaphysics, that everything must have came from something, which makes sense for apparent reasons. A concept of nothing seems to be just a concept, since nobody has dealt with absolute Nothing. Infinitely regressing to the first “something,” or infinitely progressing to the last something, depending on how you look at it shows the uncertainty in if there is a first (or last), if it is indeed finite, infinite, or circular, according to conventional possibilities.

Infinite, Finite, or Circular?

Polycyclic_Aromatic_Hydrocarbons_In_Space

If the stream of things coming from things is finite, then what is the first thing (some say it is God). If it is infinite, where does that lead us in terms of the stream and can it really be infinite? If it is circular, that is, everything depends on everything else, then how did that come about? These are very serious questions for the armchair-sitting, intensely-meditating, migraine-enduring philosopher.

Before I came across this idea this week, my brother and I were thinking about how the Tao can be empty but still be the “master of all things,” as the Zhuangzi rhetorically puts it. This ultimately led to the idea that 1 can come from 0, or more aptly, capital-E-everything or (Everything) came from capital-N-nothing (or Nothing), which is probably a radical idea in western thought. But is it so radical?


 

The Justification

The thought process for understanding this goes along the lines of: There is Everything and Nothing, because one is necessary for the other. Everything is said to come out of some Thing. Yet this Thing cannot be the thing that brings about Everything because by definition, everything includes all things capital or lowercase T. So, the idea that Everything comes from something inside of everything, effectively makes it so that some Thing made itself, which makes scarce sense. To add to that, some Thing would be a limited entity because it is included in Everything, of which comprises bounded, defined things. On the other hand, Nothing is limitless or unbounded and separate from Everything, so it at least has the capacity to beget Everything, and being that the only two possibilities were that some Thing or Nothing brings about Everything, with the former being ruled out, Nothing seems to beget Everything, which is coherent with understandings with the Tao.


 

Exactly how Nothing can bring about Everything is one for an armchair-sitting endeavor. What do you think? Am I committing some error in my thought process? Is the explanation intelligible? If so, leave some feedback and if you liked the post, consider following TaoPracticed.

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Published by

Hui Ho

I attend the University of Rochester and plan on majoring in philosophy. I try to talk to many people about Taoism to see their perspective, but that often can't be done because most don't know what Taoism or eastern philosophy teach. So, I contribute to taopracticed.wordpress.com to help others know the merits of eastern philosophy, and more specifically the philosophy of Zhuangzi.

14 thoughts on “Can 1 come from 0?”

  1. I think of it like this sometimes: “Nothingness” is the infinite capacity for relationship. “Something” is created out of “nothing” so that the first relationship can be experienced.

    But sometimes my thoughts change on that too…

    Liked by 1 person

    1. That’s a good thought. I, say, postponed thinking about how nothing can create something, but soon found out that those relationships are part of the concept of mutual arising. I have yet to find out what causes mutual arising, though.

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  2. I choose to go with the concept that “God” is unknowable by the human mind. That allows me to listen to religious tracts (for a limited time…) and read philosophical thoughts.

    Liked by 2 people

      1. You did not answer the question. Are you looking for an ultimate cause? I humbly suggest you consider the Supreme Consciousness. Or, does your “philosophical analysis” not allow for the existence of God?

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    1. If we were to consider God, the definition of him would be either vague or ambiguous, since philosophical theology has its own problems/contradictions and traditional theology does not give a consistent definition. In some ways the Tao and God allows one to draw parallels and they can coexist, but the concept of a “supreme consciousness,” for us, would need to be more understood. However, what do you say about my notion that a Thing (God) would not be able to create Everything due to that meaning that it has created itself? It expresses the common question: What/who created God?

      Liked by 1 person

  3. As you suggest, the ideas of everything and nothing are sort of inherent in each other. There is no cause and effect between them – perhaps they are like the two sides of a coin, and one cannot exist without the other.

    In mathematics,
    1+0=1, wholeness is, and nothing can increase it
    1*0=0, nothingness is, even when multiplied by everything

    Liked by 2 people

    1. They do relate closely. This post was prompted by a dialogue wherein one person asked was asked to consider ox and non-ox, i.e. everything, then he was asked to consider what is left after taking those away (leaving nothing or emptiness (Tao)). So in that context, it seems that Everything entails Nothingness but the converse isn’t true.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. I’m enjoying your blog. I like the analogy of 0 and 1.

    As far as the logic, I suppose one could start by saying that each thing must be produced by a thing, therefore rule out Nothing as the cause, and say the cause must be Something. (I don’t agree with that, but it’s a similar, alternative argument.)

    Maybe the two are eternally linked–you can’t have a zero without a one, and vice versa. Maybe they eternally give birth to each other.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. It’s generally accepted that something was the first cause of everything (like the big bang or God), but the notion that everything was created by itself since some Thing exists inside the scope of everything hints at the more known problem of “who/what caused ‘God’ or ‘the big bang?””

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