Is Nothing Sacred?

Quotations compiled by Steven H. Cullinane
on March 9, 2000:

----- I -----

"Today, as we face the twenty-first century, our task is not to repeat the mistakes of the twentieth century."
-- Hilary Putnam on nihilism in Renewing Philosophy

"A bemused Plato reasoned that nonbeing must in some sense be, otherwise what is it that there is not? In our own day Martin Heidegger ventured that das Nichts nichtet -- 'the nothing nothings' -- evidently still sensing a problem."
-- W. V. Quine in Quiddities

"Heidegger's philosophy of Dasein, his model of the ego, reminds me of... the ancient temple of Jerusalem.... in the innermost chamber, the holy of holies, the room was completely empty. The essence of Dasein, similarly, is nothingness, a fact that it tries to hide by assuming the trappings of existence."
-- Heinz Pagels in The Dreams of Reason

"Nothing is the great mystery. It cannot be described. Words can try to touch it. Zen may be such a word and Tao, Christ, Allah, Buddha, and others. There is a word called 'God.'"
Janwillem van de Wetering in A Glimpse of Nothingness

----- II -----

"One of my teachers told me I was a nihilist... I took it as a compliment."
-- Susanna Kaysen in Girl, Interrupted

"I know what 'nothing' means."
-- Joan Didion in Play It As It Lays

"Nothing is random."
-- Mark Helprin in Winter's Tale

"692" -- Pennsylvania lottery, Ash Wednesday, 2000;
"hole" -- Page 692, Webster's New World Dictionary, College Edition, 1960

"This hospital, like every other, is a hole in the universe through which holiness issues in blasts. It blows both ways, in and out of time."
-- Annie Dillard in For the Time Being (1999)

"These people have discovered how to turn dreams into reality. They know how to enter their dream realities. They can stay there, live there, perhaps forever."
-- Alfred Bester on the inmates of Ward T in his 1953 short story, "Disappearing Act"

"In the pictures of the old masters, Max Picard wrote in The World of Silence, people seem as though they had just come out of the opening in a wall... "
-- Annie Dillard in For the Time Being

"And the wall is made of light -- that entirely credible yet unreal Vermeer light. Light like this does not exist, but we wish it did."
-- Susanna Kaysen in Girl, Interrupted

"Send a poet into Ward T. He'll learn how they do it. He's the only man who can."
-- Alfred Bester in "Disappearing Act"

"Pray for the grace of accuracy
Vermeer gave to the sun's illumination
stealing like the tide across a map
to his girl solid with yearning."
-- Robert Lowell, "Epilogue," in Day by Day (1977)

----- III -----

The central aim of Western religion --

"Each of us has something to offer the Creator...
the bridging of
                 masculine and feminine,
                      life and death.
It's redemption.... nothing else matters."
-- Martha Cooley in The Archivist (1998)
The central aim of Western philosophy --
                 Dualities of Pythagoras
              as reconstructed by Aristotle:
                 Limited     Unlimited
                     Odd     Even
                    Male     Female
                   Light     Dark
                Straight     Curved
                  ... and so on ....

"Of these dualities, the first is the most important; all the others may be seen as different aspects of this fundamental dichotomy. To establish a rational and consistent relationship between the limited [man, etc.] and the unlimited [the cosmos, etc.] is... the central aim of all Western philosophy."
-- Jamie James in The Music of the Spheres (1993)

"In the garden of Adding
live Even and Odd...
And the song of love's recision
is the music of the spheres."
-- The Midrash Jazz Quartet in City of God, by E. L. Doctorow (2000)

----- IV -----

"I really have nothing to add."
-- W. V. Quine on philosophy in the twentieth century, as reported by Sarah Boxer in the New York Times of August 15, 1998.

"Be fruitful, and multiply."
-- God, in Genesis, Chapter One, Verse 28

"0! = 1." -- Quine's Shema at the end of Quiddities (1987)

"Pure Being and pure Nothing are therefore the same."
-- Hegel, Science of Logic, quoted by Heidegger in "What is Metaphysics?" (1929)

"Quod erat demonstrandum."
-- Euclid, as translated from the Greek.

For less ado, see The God-Shaped Hole.

Page last modified March 3, 2001. Page created Feb. 23, 2001 shc759.