chapter  7
Shakespeare’s monster of nothing
ByHoward Caygill
Pages 10

The contrast between the nothing of the philosophers and that of Shakespeare is evident from the significance given to the transition from nothing to being in the ontologies of Hegel and Heidegger. The movement from nothing to being by means of becoming is the explicit object of discussion in Hegel’s Logic (1812-16), and informs its entire demonstration. In order to initiate this movement Hegel found it necessary to confront ex nihilo, nihil fit, describing the maxim as ‘one of those propositions to which great importance was ascribed in metaphysics’ and from which two opposed conclusions could be drawn. The first was the pagan eternity of the world-the claim that the world did not emerge out of nothing, but that there was always something-while the other was the doctrine of divine creation: ‘Later, especially Christian, metaphysics, whilst rejecting the proposition that nothing comes of nothing, asserted a transition from nothing into being’ (Hegel 1969:84). Both positions save the ex nihilo, nihil fit, but in ways which assume the priority of being-cosmic or divine-over nothing.