Embracing the Groundlessness of Things

12.1 Problems of Emptiness

In the previous chapter I argued that everything is empty. Things have no self-nature: everything is what it is in relation to, and only in relation to, other things. In this chapter I will discuss two important (and interacting) objections to the view.

The first objection is to the effect that the view collapses into nihilism. It generates a vicious regress, voiding all things of being. The second objection is to the effect that the view is self-refuting. If anything is empty, this can only be because some things (such as the relations between things) are not.

In the first part of this chapter, I will take up the first objection; in the second, we will turn to the second.

12.2 The Regress of Quiddities

If an object is empty, its nature (quiddity) depends on its relation to other objects. In particular, it is what it is, at least in part, because they are what they are. This obviously generates a regress. Indeed, as we saw in Section 11.4, every branch of the structural tree for an object is infinite downwards. And one might think—indeed, many people have thought—that such a regress is vicious. a0 depends for its nature on a_1, which depends for its nature a_2, which depends for its nature on . . . . If this regress never bottoms out then there is nothing, ultimately, to determine the quiddity of anything. So nothing has a quiddity.

Why would this be a problem?—Maybe things are inherently natureless. But anything that is an object has a quiddity—if only that of being an object. So if there are no quiddities, there are no objects. Nothing would be (an object). The whole position therefore collapses into nihilism. If there were no ultimate

One: Being an Investigation into the Unity of Reality and of its Parts, including the Singular Object which is Nothingness by Graham Priest