Monday, November 12, 2018
In The Point, David Egan on nothing at all.
Heidegger agrees with Carnap and the cheerleaders for science: the sciences tell us all about the things the world is made up of—and leave nothing out. What the sciences fail to uncover isn’t a something—there are no supernatural truths that scientific investigation is somehow unequipped to handle—but rather this “nothing” that allegedly nothings.
What on earth is Heidegger talking about here? Part of the trouble is that he’s trying to get behind the world of facts that Carnap’s logically respectable language describes. For the most part we just get on with the business of life, immersing ourselves in a world full of work to do, people to love, buses to miss, tweets to retweet. But occasionally, just for a brief moment, all this stuff can suddenly seem pointless and strange, the way a familiar word starts to sound like meaningless babble if you repeat it enough times. That people are people and trees are trees, that life has rules and goals and structure, all this comes to seem like an arbitrary mask spread over an existence that has no underlying significance. Behind our world full of somethings, we momentarily apprehend an underlying—nameless and unnameable—nothing.
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