The Paradox of Non-Existence

Have you ever thought about what “being” means? Likewise, have you ever thought about it’s opposite? What is it’s opposite? Non-being, maybe? Nothingness, perhaps?

But, that makes no sense. Sure we have those two aforementioned words for it, but if I asked you to point me to — to identify — what’s “nothingness” or what’s “non-being,” you couldn’t do it. It’s illogical. As soon as you could point me to nothingness or non-being, then it becomes something, it becomes “being.”

Which makes our existence especially odd. If you look at it like a timeline, there’s thousands, millions, billions of years prior to my existence, then I come into being, but isn’t that weird? To say that I “came into being”? As if I came out of non-being or nothingness, which, as we’ve already established, can’t logically exist as a space to move in and out of because if it’s a space, then it’s a thing, a being, a something.

Likewise, I live my life and then there’s thousands, millions, billions of years after my existence, so I go into “non-being” or “nothingness.” But again, as we’ve established, there is no such thing as moving into a state of non-being or a state of nothingness. So, how do we make sense of this?

The only other option would be for there to be some sort of timeless permanence that underlines all of living things, all “beings.” But that sounds just as insane as the previous option. How can something just be there, always and forever?

Hello, paradox. I mean, look at the phrasing: I was not alive, then. There’s still situating an “I” in there. Obviously, it’s hard for our brains to conceptualize non-being since we are beings.

I’m drawing on these musings from Parmenides’ Poem where he talks about metaphysics and being vs. non-being. It’s interesting and I would recommend anyone to read it.

There’s a famous saying that to study philosophy is to learn how to die and in some ways, Parmenides meditations on being and non-being lead one through this study and the ability to better understand our death.

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