Nothing comes from nothing

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Nothing comes from nothing (Latin: nihil fit ex nihilo) is a philosophical expression of a thesis first argued by Parmenides. It is associated with ancient Greek cosmology, such as is presented not just in the opus of Homer and Hesiod, but also in virtually every internal system – there is no break in between a world that did not exist and one that did, since it could not be created ex nihilo in the first place.

De Rerum Natura[edit]

The Roman poet and philosopher Lucretius expressed this principle in his first book of De Rerum Natura (eng. title On the Nature of Things)

Principium cuius hinc nobis exordia sumet,
nullam rem e nihilo gigni divinitus umquam.[1]

English translation:

But only Nature's aspect and her law,

Which, teaching us, hath this exordium:

Nothing from nothing ever yet was born.[2]

He then continues on discussing how matter is required to make matter and that objects cannot spring forth without reasonable cause.

Nam si de nihilo fierent, ex omnibus rebus

omne genus nasci posset, nil semine egeret.
e mare primum homines, e terra posset oriri

squamigerum genus et volucres erumpere caelo;[3]

English translation

Suppose all sprang from all things: any kind

Might take its origin from any thing,
No fixed seed required. Men from the sea
Might rise, and from the land the scaly breed,

And, fowl full fledged come bursting from the sky;[2]

English Translation - Ex nihilo nihil fit[edit]

Literally translated, this Latin phrase means, "out of nothing, nothing [be]comes." The Latin prefix 'ex', which the reader may recognize from English words such as, Exit, means 'out of'. 'Nihilo' is the ablative form of the Latin nominative 'Nihil' meaning 'Nothing'. And, 'fit' is the present indicative form of the Latin verb Fio meaning 'to become'.

Modern physics[edit]

Some physicists, such as Lawrence Krauss, Stephen Hawking and Michiu Kaku, define nothing as an unstable quantum vacuum that contains no particles.[4][5][6] This is incompatible with the philosophical definition of nothing, since it can be defined by certain properties, and is governed by physical laws. Many philosophers criticize physical explanations of how the universe arose from nothing, claiming that they merely beg the question.[7][8][9]

The law of conservation of energy states that the total energy of an isolated system cannot change. The zero-energy universe states that the total amount of energy in the universe is exactly zero. That is the only kind of universe that could come from nothing, assuming such a zero-energy universe is, already, nothing.[10] Such a universe needs to be flat, a state which does not contradict current observations that the universe is flat with a 0.5% margin of error.[11]

References in works of fiction[edit]

In William Shakespeare's King Lear, the king's daughter Cordelia is unable to put her love for him into words, saying, "my love’s More ponderous than my tongue" (Act 1.1). The king says, "Nothing will come of nothing", meaning that as long as she says nothing to flatter him, she will receive nothing from him.[12] Later, Lear nearly repeats the line, saying, "Nothing can be made out of nothing" (Act 1.1 and Act 1.4 respectively).

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Lucretius, Titus. "Book 1". De Rerum Natura (in Latin). Lines 149-50: PHI Latin Texts. Retrieved 18 June 2013. 
  2. ^ a b Lucretius, Titus; Leonard, William Ellery. "Book 1". De Rerum Natura. Internet Classics Archive. Retrieved 20 August 2011. 
  3. ^ Lucretius, Titus. "Book 1". De Rerum Natura (in Latin). Line 159: The Latin Library. Retrieved 20 August 2011. 
  4. ^ Krauss, Lawrence (2012). A Universe from Nothing. New York: Free Press. ISBN 978-1-4516-2445-8. 
  5. ^ Hawking, Stephen; Mlodinow, Leonard (2010). The Grand Design. Bantam Books. ISBN 0-553-80537-1. 
  6. ^ "A Universe is a Free Lunch". Big Think. Retrieved 12 May 2015. 
  7. ^ Albert, David. "On the Origin of Everything". The New York Times. Retrieved 10 January 2013. 
  8. ^ Craig, William. "A Universe from Nothing". Reasonable Faith Podcast. Retrieved 9 January 2013. 
  9. ^ Gutting, Gary. "Can Physics and Philosophy Get Along". The New York Times. Retrieved 10 January 2013. 
  10. ^ "A Universe from Nothing". Astronomical Society of the Pacific. Retrieved 10 March 2010.  by Alexei V. Filippenko and Jay M. Pasachoff
  11. ^ "Will the Universe expand forever?". NASA. Retrieved 18 October 2011. 
  12. ^ Commentary on King Lear by Dr. Larry A. Brown, Professor of theater