About nothing

f3ef1dae7ebfcca387f0272e1dd138d0_numbers20clipart200-number-zero-clip-art_187-227For reasons that will become apparent, I’m contemplating the idea of emptiness at the moment. And perhaps something more empty than emptiness, more absolute than mere negation, more devoid of anything and everything than just void.

What I’m talking about is perhaps what the Jewish theologian Richard Rubenstein refers to as Holy Nothingness, the infinite God, which can be in no sense a thing such that it might resemble the finite things of this universe. This conception of God would reject even such understandings, found in say, Tillich and Aquinas, of the Divine as ‘being itself’. Rather, it makes Him out to be, if anything, infinite potential, ultimate non-being. So, as Rubenstein explains, the very absence of anything, makes for ‘an indivisible plenum so rich that all existence derives from his very essence. God as the nothing is not absence of being but superfluity of being.’(1)

For the next four weeks I’m going to explore some ideas around nothingness, absence, lacunae, silence. So, watch this (empty) space.


Thirty spokes

Share one hub.

Adapt the nothing therein to the purpose in hand, and you will have the use of the cart. Knead clay in order to make a vessel. Adapt the nothing therein to the purpose in hand, and you will have the use of the vessel. Cut out doors and windows in order to make a room. Adapt the nothing therein to the purpose in hand, and you will have the use of the room.

Thus what we gain is Something, yet it is by virtue of Nothing that this can be put to use.

Lao Tzu (551-479 BCE) Tao Te Ching, trans. D.C. Lau (Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1963).


Spinoza’s God, Self and Ecology


I’m giving a talk at 7.30pm tonight at Kant’s Cave, a series of lectures organsied by Philsosophy for All.


What I am going to do as best I can is to sketch out how we might understand Spinoza’s God or Nature”. Then I will try and explore what Spin’s metaphysics ­– how he understands reality at the fundamental level – means for how we understand ourselves. What makes an individual for Spinoza and how does it relate to Spinoza’s God?


 In part 2 I am going to switch to the subject of environmental philosophy and see how some of Spinoza’s statements suggest that he may give little comfort to those seeking an ethic of concern for nature. I’ll then show how a recent Spinozist philosopher, has based an environmental philosophy – Deep Ecology – not on ethics but on Spinoza’s metaphysics: his conception of the self and its place in Nature. Finally I’ll conclude that Deep Ecology places too much emphasis on self-actualization, and would do better to stress a more fruitful element in Spinoza’s thought: the Intellectual Love of God.


7.30pm Wednesday 4 December 2013: Upstairs at the Exmouth Arms at 1 Starcross Street, London NW1 2HR. The Exmouth Arms is in a quiet residential street about five minutes walk from Warren Street, Euston and Euston Square stations.

Philosophy for All

Details on Meet up