Das Nichts nichtet


Senior Member
Spanish - Spain
Hello to everyone: I am new to german but I have found an expression in that language in the translation of an English book: Could you tell me what is the meaning of this sentence?: "Das Nichts nichtet". It seems to be an expression used by Heidegger and should mean something as "nothing of nothing" or so —I guess—.

This is the full context: "the difference between iggle piggle higgle and "Das Nichts nichtet" is the difference between an utterance composed of signs in which no meaning can be perceived and sentences composed of meaningful signs arranged in ways that violated syntactical rules". —I know, I know, its just so exciting…—.

I really need some help.

Many thanks in advance,

Have a very Nice Christmas, by the way:)

  • Hutschi

    Senior Member
    It is a little difficult to explain but I try:

    There are words (signs) without sense like "iggle piggle higgle".
    There are words (signs) with sense and you can combine them but the sentence or combination violates grammatical (syntactical) rules.

    "Nicht" is a particle. "Das Nichts" exists, too, But there is no verb "nichten". This way "Das Nichts nichtet" does not exist as proper build sentence because one of its words is not proper build word. The nothing nothings (verb) violates grammatical rules. But you can understand something in contrary to the pure utterances "iggle piggle higgle" which do not exist in German.

    The non verb "nicht" is used as verb.

    Compare: "Das Nichts vernichtet" (the nothing destroys) would be correct, because "vernichten" exists.

    Note that "Nichts" is a noun here. It represents an empty set - the non-existence.

    So we could understand the sentence as "The nothing changes it into nothing."
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    Senior Member
    I think Heidegger´s full phrase is "Das Sein ist, aber das Nichts nichtet." - "The being is (exists) but the nothing is not. (does/can not exist)"


    Senior Member
    Spanish - Spain
    OK. ¡Absolutely lucid! I was already understanding that the author is contrasting two "nonsenses", one made of pure "noise" we may say, and the other constructed with real signifiers but, as you say, with the wrong rules.

    You have saved my life.

    My eternal thanks. :)



    Senior Member
    I think Heidegger´s full phrase is "Das Sein ist, aber das Nichts nichtet." - "The being is (exists) but the nothing is not. (does/can not exist)"
    In this case would adjust a little bit:

    The existence exists, but the nothing nothings. (The last part should show that the verb does not exist. Or is "nothings" a proper build English verb?

    Merry Christmas!
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    Senior Member
    American English; USA
    Das Sein in English Heidegger scholarship is usually translated as "Being" or "being," (the non-capitalized version being currently the more accepted one) in contrast to Das Seiende or "beings."

    Das Nichts nichtet (formulated in "What is Metaphysics?") has been translated by one authoritative Heidegger scholar (John Sallas) as:

    The nothing nihilates.

    I don't know why he didn't just use: the nothing nothings.

    That's what Heidegger would have done.

    Nichten is meant to express a verbal action on the part of Das Nichts. "To nothing" is no more a verb in English than nichten is in German.
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