Absence and Nothing: The Philosophy of What There is Not

ISBN : 9780198831532

Stephen Mumford
240 ページ
153 x 234 mm

Nothing is not. Yet it seems that we invoke absences and nothings often in our philosophical explanations. Negative metaphysics is on the rise. It has been claimed that absences can be causes, there are negative properties, absences can be perceived, there are negative facts, and that we can refer to and speak about nothing. Parmenides long ago ruled against such things. Here we consider how much of Parmenides' view can survive. A soft Parmenidean methodology is adopted in which we aim to reject all supposed negative entities but are prepared to accept them, reluctantly, if they are indispensable and irreducible in our best theories. We then see whether there are any negative entities this survive this test. Some can be dismissed on metaphysical grounds but other problems are explained only once we reject another strand in Parmenides and show how we can think and talk about nothing. Accounts of perception of absence, empty reference, and denial are gathered. With these, we can show how no truthmakers are required for negative truths since we can have negative beliefs, concerning what-is-not, without what-is-not being part of what is. This supports a soft ontological Parmenideanism, which accepts much though not all of Parmenides' original position.


1 Soft Parmenideanism
2 Negative Properties
3 Nonentities
4 Causation by Absence
5 Mere Possibilities
7 Perception of Absence
8 Empty Reference
9 Negative Truth
10 Negation and Denial
11 Negative Belief


Stephen Mumford is Professor of Metaphysics at the Department of Philosophy, Durham University. He was previously at the University of Nottingham where he was Head of Philosophy, Head of the School of Humanities, and Dean of the Faculty of Arts. He has written many papers and books in metaphysics, including a number of more popular works intended for a non-specialist audience including articles in Times Higher Education magazine, encyclopaedias, and magazines. His most famous book is Dispositions (Oxford, 1998) but he also authored Laws in Nature (Routledge, 2004), Getting Causes from Powers (with Rani Lill Anjum, Oxford, 2011) and Watching Sport: Aesthetics, Ethics and Emotions (Routledge, 2011). He is a frequent public speaker at both academic conferences and more popular events and has delivered talks in around 30 countries.