I love this article (Bahn’s Three Zeros)… I find it very deep, for such a short text. And it clarifies Bannerji’s dicussion of the Brahman, as well.

The whole discussion reminds me of the book about the Zero (Zero : The Biography of a Dangerous Idea, by Charles Seife). I worked on this a number of years ago, extending Seife’s ideas to a broader understanding of measurement. Hence the Babylonians integrated a rudimentary idea of zero around 500 B.C. as a « placeholder » in large numbers (like the zero in the number « 201 » for example) - so a « zero as marker ». The Chinese also had a placeholder system, based on decimals (the number ten - the basis of the Babylonian numbering system was 60) as early as 1400 B.C. By the third century B.C., the Chinese incorporated zero without actually naming it (hence, for example, they worked with negative numbers although did not actually represent them either). So the Chinese notion was « zero as inferred », which actually relates to the idea presented by Bahm of « zero as the absence of exclusion ». The Greeks did not manipulate zero, but did work with irrational numbers, although these were treated as « monstrous » by many of that culture. It was the Persians who developed the modern idea of zero. This was later transferred to the Arabs, who are credited with our modern numbering system although in fact the Persians were there first (remember Persia then is roughly speaking Iran today). So the Persians had « zero as the absence of being » - so we inherit this idea from the Muslim world! As for the Indians, they played a peripheral role in the propagation of algebraic ideas in the ancient world (developed by the Arabs), but they sidestepped the whole « zero » thing, which is perhaps partly why they have a different idea of zero (that is, no concept of zero!).

It was the Renaissance that brought these ideas to the West. In fact, if I might speculate, the western idea of zero might be linked to the invention of calculus. For us, zero is the result of a process (taking the limit), or, alternatively, as arbitrarily small quantities (differentials), so we have « zero as a limit of being » when we are not simply copying the older ideas (or perhaps it is really « zero as a limit of becoming »). And maybe that is also what we are doing here - infinity is also the result of a process of taking the limit (infinite conversations…). So we are giving philosophical form to this idea of working with limits. Why limits? Because the world and society coming into being today is by its nature liminal - we are living at the finite edge of what the planet can support. Just an idea…