The Void (philosophy)

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The Void is the philosophical concept of nothingness manifested. The notion of the Void is relevant to several realms of metaphysics.

The manifestation/obtaining of nothingness is closely associated with the contemplation of emptiness, and with human attempts to identify and personify it. As such, the concept of the Void, and ideas similar to it, have a significant and historically evolving presence in artistic[1] and creative expression, as well as in academic, scientific and philosophical debate surrounding the nature of the human condition.

In Western mystical traditions, it was often argued that the transcendent 'Ground of Being' could therefore be approached through aphairesis, a form of negation.[2]


Western philosophers have discussed the existence and nature of void since Parmenides suggested it did not exist and used this to argue for the non-existence of change, motion, differentiation, among other things.[3] In response to Parmenides, Democritus described the universe as only being composed of atoms and void.[4]

Aristotle, in Book IV of Physics, denied the existence of the Void (Greek: κενόν) with his rejection of finite entities.[5]

Stoic philosophers admitted the subsistence of four incorporeals among which they included void: "Outside of the world is diffused the infinite void, which is incorporeal. By incorporeal is meant that which, though capable of being occupied by body, is not so occupied. The world has no empty space within it, but forms one united whole. This is a necessary result of the sympathy and tension which binds together things in heaven and earth. Chrysippus discusses the void in his work On Void and in the first book of his Physical Sciences; so too Apollophanes in his Physics,[6] Apollodorus[7] , and Posidonius in his Physical Discourse, book ii."[8]

There were questions as to whether void was truly nothing or if it was in fact filled with other things, with theories of aether being suggested in the 18th century to fill the void.[9]

Particle physics[edit]

In The Void (2007), particle physicist Frank Close discusses the concept of 'empty space' from Aristotle through to Newton, Mach, Einstein and beyond (including the idea of an 'aether' and current examinations of the Higgs field).[10]

Another perspective on the matter from a scientific angle is the work of the physicist Lawrence Krauss, particularly his 2012 book A Universe from Nothing, in which he explores the idea of the universe having been derived from a quantum vacuum (which may or may not be the same as a philosophical concept of the nothingness of the Void, depending on how it is defined).

A further consideration is the enigmatic nature of dark energy which may be seen as coterminous with the Void.[11] His work has received sustained criticism from David Albert and others working in both philosophy and physics.[clarification needed]

In popular culture[edit]




Video games[edit]

  • The Void, released in 2008
  • The Dishonored franchise.
  • EverQuest contains a zone called "The Void".
  • Hollow Knight by Team Cherry, with Void being one of the main elements.
  • Dark Souls contains an analogous concept known as "the Abyss."
  • Rain World contains an acidic sea called "The Void Sea" which is capable of halting reincarnation
  • Risk of Rain 2 has a realm called The Void and several enemies and locations therein.
  • Voidigo is entirely based on The Void and The Antivoid (likely Aether)
  • DOOM fan-wad Void.wad also presents an early gaze into such a realm


See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Yves Klein, Harry Shunk, Janos Kender: Leap into the Void (1992.5112) | Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History | The Metropolitan Museum of Art". 2012-10-24. Retrieved 2012-11-06.
  2. ^ Morley, Simon. "The Sublime Unknown". Retrieved 24 June 2014.
  3. ^ DK fragment B 8.5–6, 8.22–24.
  4. ^ Diogenes Laërtius ix.72.
  5. ^ "Continuity and the Void". Retrieved 2012-11-06.
  6. ^ Yonge, C. D.; Seddon, Keith (2007). A Summary of Stoic Philosophy: Zeno of Citium in Diogenes Laertius Book Seven (revised ed.). p. 142. Apollophanes of Antioch... discussed the void in his book on physics.
  7. ^ Donald J. Zeyl, ed. (1997). Encyclopedia of Classical Philosophy. Routledge (published 2013). p. 44. Apollodorus (2nd cent., B.C.E.), of cited for [asserting]... the cosmos is... surrounded by infinite void.
  8. ^ Diogenes Laërtius, Lives of the Eminent Philosophers(tr. R. Hicks), Book VII (140), tr. R. Hicks
  9. ^ Isaac Newton, The Third Book of Opticks (1718).
  10. ^ Close, Frank (2007-10-25). The Void. Oxford University Press. ISBN 9780191607714. Retrieved 21 June 2014.
  11. ^ Siegel, Ethan. "Empty space has more energy than everything in the Universe, combined". Science Blogs. Retrieved 11 August 2014.
  12. ^ "Marina Abramović". Retrieved 21 June 2014.
  13. ^ "The Collection | Alberto Giacometti. Hands Holding the Void (Invisible Object). 1934 (cast c. 1954-55)". MoMA. Retrieved 2012-11-06.
  14. ^ "Yves Klein, Harry Shunk, Janos Kender: Leap into the Void (1992.5112) | Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History | The Metropolitan Museum of Art". 2012-10-24. Retrieved 2012-11-06.
  15. ^ "Lee Ufan". Retrieved 24 June 2014.
  16. ^ Leviton, Richard (2006). Stars on the Earth: Domes and Stargates, and How To Interact with Them. Bloomington, IN: iUniverse, Inc. p. 348. ISBN 0595407811. Retrieved August 22, 2012.