Mathematics and philosophy, as disciplines, have been always been intertwines through their common origin in ancient academic tradition. In these intersections, they shape one another's conceptions of things like logic, existence, and nothingness. This Independent Study focuses upon mathematical and philosophical accounts of nothingness in order to expose the pervasiveness of ideas of nothingness throughout human intellectual tradition, as well as throughout one's human life. Beginning with a historical account of conceptions of zero in Indian, Egyptian, Greek, and Chinese mathematics, several conceptual problems with talking about and signifying nothingness are revealed. Then, the focus of the project moves to a preliminary account of the concept of emptiness in Buddhism; addresses mathematical implications of treating zero as an arithmetic number through zero divisors and division by zero; and explores Kierkegaard's dread and despair as fundamental, early concepts in European existentialism. In conclusion, Zen Buddhist and Daoist accounts respond to all aforementioned conceptions of nothingness.


Pierce, Pamela

Second Advisor

Schiltz, Elizabeth


Mathematics; Philosophy


Algebra | Comparative Philosophy | Continental Philosophy | Metaphysics


ontology, nothing, zero, mathematics

Publication Date


Degree Granted

Bachelor of Arts

Document Type

Senior Independent Study Thesis



© Copyright 2016 Melissa M. Griffith