CFP: CFP: JoLMA, vol. 5, Issue 2, 2024. The Dark Side of Being: on What There is Not

Submission deadline: May 31, 2024

Topic areas


Title: The Dark Side of Being: on What There is Not

Editors: Filippo Costantini (Ca’ Foscari University), Filippo Casati (Lehigh University)

In contrast to Quine’s Parmenidean (meta-)ontology and his preference for desert landscapes, recent years have seen a renewed interest in the non-being: non-existent entities, mere possibilia, negative properties, negative facts, absences, nothingness, voids, holes, etc. Interest in the category of the non-being is not limited to ontology, but has found applications in the philosophy of mind, both with the role that intentionality plays in relation to non-entities (Crane 2013, Priest 2016) and with the problem of perception of absences, and also in the philosophy of art with the much discussed status of absence art, i.e., art that features absences as esthetic objects (Farinnikova 2019). This issue of JoLMA aims to critically examine the role of nonexistence in our theorizing. We aim to collect both sympathetic and critical studies on this topic. 

The questioning of Quine’s orthodoxy began by first challenging the Parmenidean assumption that we cannot have reference to the non-being. Indeed, this view seems self-defeating (aren’t we speaking of the non-being right now, and thus referring to it?), and this has motivated philosophers to explore the realm of non-existence, especially with the revival of neo-Meinonghian (meta-)ontologies. Alternative approaches consist in exploring the possibility of empty reference, i.e., fully legitimate singular terms without any reference. But soon non-entities acquired an even more important role. Philosophers began to discuss that strange object which is nothingness, characterized as the absence of everything (Priest 2014, Casati & Fujikawa 2019, Costantini 2020); sometimes arguing that it grounds all of reality (Priest & Gabriel 2022); others have argued for causation by absences or omissions, claiming that absences can enter into causal explanations (Dowe 2001, Shaffer 2004). The idea that the non-being can play an explanatory role in various philosophical contexts seems to be gaining ground. At the same time, these ideas have also been heavily criticized, for example by Mumford (2021) and Della Rocca (2020); while the former defends a position called Soft Parmenidism, the latter argues for the far more extreme position that there are no distinctions in reality denying any positive role to the non-being. 

If we admit reference to nonexistent objects, why should we not admit that there are circumstances in which we see what there is not? Psychologists are familiar with illusory contours such as the Eherenstein illusion or the Kanizsa triangle. But recently, there has been a growing body of literature arguing that we experience and/or perceive absences. For example, Farennikova (2013) argues that absence experiences are perceptual phenomena. Moreover, Farennikova (2019) even argues that absences can have esthetic properties, with the implication that absence art enjoys objective value. By contrast, others have claimed that while we can experience absences, we do not perceive them (Gow 2021a, 2021b). 

In this issue of JoLMA, we would like to discuss the deeper reasons that may lead us to admit the non-being (in whatever form) in our theorizing in various fields. First, what kind of theoretical role can the non-being play? Can it have any explanatory power? Or even a causal power? Second, can we experience absences and omissions? And if so, is this experience a perceptual phenomenon, or should it be explained in other terms? Third, how can the more traditional ontological views (such as Quine’s) resist such an admission? Do we really need the non-being, or can we do without it? Possible topics might include (but are not limited to) the following:

Philosophy of language & metaphysics: (supposed) reference to non-existent entities; non-being & nothingness; empty terms/ and empty reference; mere possibilia; absences, omissions, voids, holes, empty space; absences and the number zero; negative properties and/or negative facts; negative truths (truthmakers for negative truths).

Philosophy of Mindperception of absences and omissionsillusory counters; perceptual paradoxestheories of intentionality.

Philosophy of art: absence art; depicting absences; figures of absence; figural voids.


Bernstein, S., & Goldschmidt, T. (Eds.). (2021). Non-Being: New Essays on the Metaphysics of Nonexistence. Oxford University Press.

Casati, F., & Fujikawa, N. (2019). Nothingness, Meinongianism and Inconsistent Mereology. Synthese196, 3739-3772.

Casati, R., & Varzi, A. C. (1994). Holes and other superficialities. MIT Press, Cambridge, MA; 

Costantini, F. (2020). Extending Everything with Nothing. Philosophia48(4), 1413-1436.

Crane T.,  (2013) The Objects of Thought. Oxford University Press, Oxford. 

Della Rocca, M. (2020). The Parmenidean Ascent. Oxford University Press.

Dowe, P. (2001). A Counterfactual Theory of Prevention and ‘Causation' by Omission. Australasian Journal of philosophy79(2), 216-226.

Farennikova, A. (2013). Seeing Absence. Philosophical studies166, 429-454.

Farennikova, A. (2019). Would You Buy Absence Art?. In Perception, Cognition and Aesthetics (pp. 255-278). Routledge

Gow, L. (2021a). Empty Space, Silence, and Absence. Canadian Journal of Philosophy51(7), 496-507.

Gow, L. (2021b). A New Theory of Absence Experience. European Journal of Philosophy29(1), 168-181.

Irimia, A. (2021). Depicting Absence: Thematic and Stylistic Paradoxes of Representation in Visual and Literary Imagery. Volume 4, The Rhetoric of Topics and Forms, ed. by Gianna Zocco, Berlin, Boston: De Gruyter, 2021, pp. 533-544.

Mumford, S. (2021). Absence and Nothing: The Philosophy of what There is Not. Oxford University Press.

Priest, G. (2014). Much Ado About Nothing. The Australasian Journal of Logic11(2).

Priest, G. (2016). Towards Non-Being. Oxford University Press, Oxford.

Priest, G., & Gabriel, M. (2022). Everything and Nothing. John Wiley & Sons.

Schaffer, J. (2004). Causes need not be physically connected to their effects: The case for negative causation. Contemporary debates in philosophy of science, 197-216.

Invited contributors:

Friederike Moltmann (CNRS)

Graham Priest (NYU)

Stephen Mumford (Durham University)

Submission deadline: May 31th, 2024

Notification of acceptance: August 15th, 2024

Articles must be written in English and should not exceed 6,500 words. The instructions for authors can be consulted in the journal’s website: Editorial Guidelines.

Submissions must be suitable for blind review. Each submission should also include a brief abstract of no more than 650 words and five keywords for indexing purposes. Latex documets are not accepted. Notification of intent to submit, including both a title and a brief summary of the content, will be greatly appreciated, as it will assist with the coordination and planning of the issue.

For any question, please use the following address: Filippo Costantini ([email protected]) or the journal ([email protected])

Please submit your proposals to the email [email protected] or using the section ‘Submit’ of the journal’s website.

About the journal

JoLMA is an Open Access journal (no APCs) indexed in Scopus, ERIH Plus, DOAJ. The Italian Ministry agency ANVUR recognizes it as a Classe A journal (11c4 and 11c5). Professor Luigi Perissinotto (Ca' Foscari Venice) is the editor-in-chief. 

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