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    to the medieval antipathy to

anxiety about nothing--which has long been pregnant with heretical implications--has been a major theme of Western thought for close to three millenniums. it was hated, even feared, by the ancient Greek philosophers and medieval Christian theologians alike, and for much of our history, the mere possibility of nothing was strenuously denied. "nature abhors a vacuum," Aristotle declared in the 4th-century BC, effectively silencing dissent for the next 2,000 years.

Christian attitudes were inherited not only from the Greek philosophers (many of whom agreed with Aristotle) but also from the Jewish tradition, which saw nothing as the antithesis of God: he whose defining act had been to create the world out of nothing. what stronger evidence could there be that Nothing was something undesirable: a state without God, a state which He had acted to do away with.

for Christians, nothingness was the characteristic of being apart from God, hence it was considered atheistic to speak seriously of the void. St. Augustine equated nothing with the Devil; for him nothing represented the greatest evil. how then could it exist before the creation of the world? the prior existence of nothing implied there was something God lacked before He created the universe, an idea so heretical it had to be combated. Augustine's solution to this dilemma remains one of the great leaps in Western intellectual history: the universe was not created in time, he declared, but with time. that is, when God created the world so too He created time. there was no nothing before creation because there was quite simply no before. more than 1,500 years later, physicist Stephen Hawking proposed the same idea, albeit outside the theological context, in his bestselling book, "A Brief History of Time."

christianity, however, is a dynamic system, and by the late 13th century, the existence of nothing--or at least the possibility of true empty space--was being championed by some of the most conservative theologians.

- based on a text by Margaret Wertheim


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foreningen av ingenting -  association of nothing
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