Monday, April 23, 2007

Being and/or Nothingness?


Anastikaya – Sanskrit’ use in Jainism to mean “nonphysical.”

Ouk – Greek term for nonbeing (nothing).

Sartre’s masterwork, Being and Nothingness [L’Etre et le Neant] ruminates about psychic life, but accepts, explicitly, existence; there is something: consciousness is directly a revelation of a being other than consciousness – an ontological proof for Sartre. [A Commentary on Jean-Paul Sartre’s “Being and Nothingness” by Joseph S. Catalano, Harper TorchBooks, NY, 1974, Page39]

“Consciousness… by its nature is a revelation of a reality other than consciousness.”

Sartre, relying on Hegel, posits that nonbeing, nothingness, is only possible by the reality of being; that is, non-being (nothingness) is part of the gestalt known as being.

But what if “nothingness” is not an abstract as some say or the other side of Sartre’s life-coin – the complimentary of being?

What if nothingness is ouk, without the semantic hodgepodge of Hegel, Heidegger, and Sartre himself?

That is, nothingness is the total and actual state where existence (or being) is not just an archetypal void but nihilo, pure and simple.

Can that be? Is the Universe bounded by nothing? Creation in the midst of an absolute void?

Physicists (and that dying breed, philosophers) have to contend with being. It’s not just a matter of career, but a substance of the curious mind.

Yet, it is futile, that search for the explanation of everything, is it not? Because, after all, one bumps up against the possible demise of consciousness, not just the death of the body (and concomitant brain).

If Sartre is right, that being and nothingness, are two-sides of existence, then how can the fragile, non-tangible side exist without the physical attribute that constitutes the part of being that is accessible to reason, or seems to be?

Nirvana is bliss, not non-being, as some mistakenly think.

Anastikaya is only non-physicality, not the total absence of everything.

Nothingness does not, as Seinfeld told George, have to be something.

Nothing means no thing.

Is it possible for there to be nothing? After all our senses tell us that things exist.

But the senses can not tell us if things exist after consciousness departs from the body from which those senses operate. (Human senses are relegated to use by the body filled with life only.)

And we have the possibility (harking back to our previous post) that consciousness may not exist at all after death ensues.

Here’s the dilemma: There seems to be being. But the question of non-being seems to be unanswerable.

How is that part of the human equation to be addressed? Can it be? Or does it all boil down to nihilism or faith?

And even scientists have to have faith, else they’d quit searching for a theory of everything, since to go on seeking that theory implies faith that one exists.

Even the rabid Richard Dawkins has to admit that.

See if this helps:


Dr. C. said...

I am a Jain of some scholarship. There is no term like anastikaya in Jainism. There is however astikaya which refers to the beings which occupy more than unit of space in the universe. There are five categories of astikaya viz. soul, matter, medium of motion, medium of rest and space (Sky). A particular being can be comprehended by four types of asti (= is) viz its substratum, its location, its time and its state. and the same being can be negated or nasti (= is not) in the opposite of the above four parameters. There is nothing like nothingness in absolute terms in Jainism.
Thank you for permitting me to share my little knowledge on Jainism with reference to this topic.

RRRGroup said...

Thank you Dr. C for the clarification.

We found the term "anastikaya" in the "Dictionary of Philosophy and Religion, Eastern and Western Thought" by Wiiliam L. Reese, Department of Philosophy, State University of New York, Albany [New Jersey: Humanities Press, 1980, Page 14] which reads as follows:

ANASTIKAYA -- Sanskrit term meaning "nonphysical." Used in Jainism (q.v. 1) in the phrase anastikaya dravya ("nonphysical substance").