Thought ISSN 2161-2234
Out of Nothing
& Giuseppe Spolaore
Liceo Statale Machiavelli, Firenze
University of Padua
Graham Priest proposed an argument for the conclusion that ‘nothing’ occurs as a singular term
and not as a quantier in a sentence like (1) ‘e cosmos came into existence out of nothing’.
Priest’s point is that, intuitively, (1) entails (C) ‘e cosmos came into existence at some time’, but
this entailment relation is le unexplained if ‘nothing’ is treated as a quantier. If Priest is right,
the paradoxical notion of an object that is nothing plays a role in our very understanding of reality.
In this note, we argue that Priest’s argument is unsound: the intuitive entailment relation between
(1) and (C) does not oer convincing evidence that ‘nothing’ occurs as a term in (1). Moreover,
we provide an explanation of why (1) is naturally taken to entail (C), which is both plausible and
consistent with the standard, quanticational treatment of ‘nothing’.
1. Graham Priest (2000, p. 23) rightly observes that the sentence:
is naturally understood to entail that:
(C) e cosmos came into existence at some time (viz., the cosmos’s life does not
extend indenitely towards the past).
According to Priest, we cannot account for this prima facie entailment if we adopt
the standard, quanticational treatment of ‘nothing’. For in that case, (1) could be
equivalently rewritten as.
(1*) No thing x is such that the cosmos came into existence out of x,
which does not entail (C). Priest concludes that ‘nothing’ occurs as a term in (1) (see also
Priest 2002, p. 241). He would add that ‘nothing’, when so used, denotes the object that
is nothingness (see Priest 2014). Others would regard it as an empty term (see Oliver and
Priest has a point here. It seems that (1) does entail (C), whereas (1*) does not. And
plausibly, if ‘nothing’ is a quantied expression in (1), then (1) is tantamount to (1*).
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132 Thought 7 (2018) 132–138 © 2018 The Thought Trust and Wiley Periodicals, Inc.