Space or The Nothing

In my latest essay, The 3 and the 4: emergenc(y) of the unknown future, I refer to the perplexity within science in its efforts to understand “space” or nothingness:

For over a century physics has been caught in the grip of the mystery of space: oscillating between a universal acceptance of space as a living fluid (the ether), to a conception of space as a vacuum, a nothingness, to a nothingness being a fullness after all as a creative locus, where particles are born and die. (p.10)

This perplexity is the mystery of the 3 and the 4 today, as my essay shows.

This mystery is approached today in all those disciplines that are concerned with “the gap”—the gap described in so many ways, in so many vocabularies, as my essay Overcoming the Gap shows. Our perplexity persists and the mystery remains, for all our efforts to overcome the gap, in one way or another. We sought to overcome the gap ever since we noticed that we essentially live in two worlds that do not “talk to each other”—the world of science and its description of appearances and a “lived” world in which we mover about intelligently and meaningfully with no need for any reference to the appearances of the scientific world (particles, waves, quanta, etc.). 

My introduction to this cultural split began in childhood, organically and quite unconsciously, but I was first intellectually drawn to this split when I was introduced to C. P. Snow’s book, Two Cultures:

The notion that our society, its education system and its intellectual life, is characterised by a split between two cultures – the arts or humanities on one hand and the sciences on the other – has a long history. But it was C. P. Snow’s Rede lecture of 1959 that brought it to prominence and began a public debate that is still raging in the media today.

But it is not simply an intellectual problem for academics. As my essay, The 3 and the 4 shows, the split, along with our culturally privileging one side of the split (the rational), is producing a culture increasingly favouring “normalcy” and erasing any hint of possible changes that could challenge our ossification while also fructifying or nourishing us. This condition is a death sentence, as we are now finding out and many creative individuals have worked their entire lives to investigate and find a path to the future that may save us or, more importantly, save existence! 

In this post I want to draw your attention to a particularly succinct essay that I came across recently in AEON magazine, called Peak Ellipses: does philosophy reside in the unsayable or should it care only for precision? Carnap, Heidegger and the great divergence. 

The title may be a bit daunting but it is primarily about the gap, expressed as a rational/poetic split. The author tells a story of philosophy and 20th C. efforts to approach the question of the gap, or the problem of the Nothing, and I found it a very readable history of those modern philosophical efforts to deal with the intractable gap. I urge you to take a look.