The absence of cheese

Imagine spacetime has the surface of a sphere. Now suppose that this sphere is shrinking like a balloon that is losing its air, the radius grows smaller and smaller and eventually the radius goes all the way to zero. The surface of the sphere disappears completely and with it spacetime itself. We have arrived at nothingness, we have also arrived at a precise definition of nothingness: a closed spacetime of zero radius. This is the most complete and utter nothingness that scientific concepts can capture. It is mathematically devoid not only of stuff but also of location and duration. Nothing is nowhere. It’s not anything like a chunk of vacuum because a chunky vacuum has extension. It’s not anything like anything. It’s nothing.

Consider a particular hole in a piece of swiss cheese. That particular hole is not nothing, it has properties, for example, a shape: it is circular. The circular hole has a definite radius, diameter, and circumference. It has a definite area equal to pi times the radius squared. If the piece of cheese is 1/16th of an inch thick, then the hole is a disk having a definite volume. The hole has a definite location relative to the edges of the piece of cheese and relative to the other holes. The hole has causal properties: it affects the texture and flexibility of the cheese and its resistance to the tooth, it is perceivable by the senses: you can see it and touch it. You touch a hole by putting a finger or other appendage into it and experiencing no resistance. If anything has properties, then it exists. The has properties; so the hole exists.

The hole exists and the piece of cheese exists. The hole depends for its existence on the piece of cheese; the latter does not depend for its existence on the former. It is a particular, well-defined, indeed wholly determninate, absence of cheese. It is a particular, existing absence. As an absence of cheese it depends for its existence on the cheese of which it is the hole. So I say the hole exists in a different way than the piece of cheese. It has a dependent mode of existence whereas the piece of cheese has a relatively independent mode of existence.




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