Metaphysics of Absence

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Metaphysics of Absence

Western philosophy apparently has an aversion to or rarely takes care seriously of the idea of absence. Indeed, the history of its birth was not started by its looking for what is not, which is non-existent, but for what is, that becomes the nature of all beings. The desire of philosophy to find what really is makes it forgets to think of, or even deliberately subordinates, what is not. It was the strict Monism of Parmenides that began the subordination of absence, of non-existent entities or non-being, in the history of philosophy. The thesis of Parmenidesian monism is that what it is is only what is, and it is impossible that what is originates from what is not, because what is not does not exist at all and is not a part of reality. We cannot at all speak of what is not because once we use a language to refer to what is not, it means that what is not to which we refer by a language is in fact what is. What is not, therefore, never really exists, because what is is single, that is being itself.

Metaphysics, therefore, always ask “what is the nature of being?” and “why is there being rather than nothing?”. It rarely asks “what is the nature of nothing?” and “why is there nothing rather than being?”. The typical question of metaphysics presupposes that being is always more important than nothing, so it is only being that must be explained, whereas it doesn’t matter if nothing is left behind. This problem has also taken place in scientific discourse. Scientific knowledge always attempts to explain some phenomena based on what is, not what is not, because science assumes that it is only what is that has causal power, so it will be meaningless if science explained something based on what is not. However, is what is not, which is absent, really impotent? The more radical question: is there really no what is not, which is non-existent?

The lecture titled “Metaphysics of Absence” aims to address those questions. It will be presented by a professor of metaphysics from Durham University, Prof. Stephen Mumford, in four sessions for two days. In this lecture, Stephen Mumford will introduce “negative kind” that is an absence moment of “positive kind”. If the positive kind, for example, is a horse, then the absence moment of the horse is non-horse. The question: is there non-horse? If any, what it is like? Does the absence moment of the horse, that is non-horse, also have causal power, so it is essential for science to involve it in its every explanation? If the non-horse is considered to have causal power, is it a natural kind?


Prof. Stephen Mumford
(Professor of Metaphysics in the Departement of Philosophy at Durham University)
Auditorium Persatuan Faculty of Philosophy Universitas Gadjah Mada
Friday 25 May 2018 and Saturday 26 May 2018
09.30 – 15.00 (GMT +7)