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a category in a number of idealist systems of ontology, signifying the absence or nonexistence of a specific essence or the total absence of being.

From classical times, two fundamental approaches to nothing may be observed in the history of idealist philosophy. In the systems of one group (Platonism and Neoplatonism, medieval Christian mysticism, Hegelianism) nothing is one of the key categories of ontology (as god, being, the absolute) and the principle ex nihilo nihil fit (nothing can be created from nothing) is rejected. The second approach to the problem, dating back to the Eleatic school of Greek philosophy, affirms the origin of nothing from formal negation, that is, nothing is only a concept in formal logic. Thus, the problem of nothing in ontology is completely removed.

In materialist philosophy, nothing is not a philosophical category, since materialist philosophy proceeds from the fact that the material world is indestructible, and pure nonexistence and absolute emptiness are not possible.

References in classic literature ?
Craven looked at each other in a troubled way, but there was evidently nothing to be done.
And yet, as nothing prevents me from marrying to-morrow if I choose, His will can be destroyed by mine?
I could do nothing, however, so I plucked up what heart I could and said that we had better hasten, as the afternoon was passing.
It is a pity he should have so much trouble for nothing.
But while the last word was in my ears, the whole group vanished, and there was nothing between me and the Chinese printed folding- screen that stood before the door.
Nothing ever happened on either side that was not announced immediately.
Thus chance determined that all should be dull and grave around the bridal pair; nothing reflected, outwardly, the happiness that reigned within their hearts.
It was nothing to them that I, a stranger, must be sacrificed upon the altar of their unholy ambition.
Civilization held nothing like this in its narrow and circumscribed sphere, hemmed in by restrictions and conventionalities.
As Mrs Squeers had previously protested, however, that she was quite certain she had not got it, Smike received another box on the ear for presuming to contradict his mistress, together with a promise of a sound thrashing if he were not more respectful in future; so that he took nothing very advantageous by his motion.
In Flora de Barral's particular case ever since Anthony had suddenly broken his way into her hopeless and cruel existence she lived like a person liberated from a condemned cell by a natural cataclysm, a tempest, an earthquake; not absolutely terrified, because nothing can be worse than the eve of execution, but stunned, bewildered--abandoning herself passively.
The girls may have little beauty, yet plainly do they establish between them and the good boy the most agreeable, confiding relations, what with their fun and their earnest, about Edgar and Jonas and Almira, and who was invited to the party, and who danced at the dancing-school, and when the singing-school would begin, and other nothings concerning which the parties cooed.