Maarten Maartensz:    Philosophical Dictionary | Filosofisch Woordenboek                      

 Z - Zero


Zero: Null, the arithmetical representation of nothing, as in 10-(2*5)=0.

It is an interesting fact about the human mind that the idea of zero - at least in the sense of: a special number with a place of its own in arithmetic and algebra - only arose in the 2nd C, probably in India.

It is very useful in algebra and bookkeeping, and also has the great virtue of making possible a positional notation for numbers, as in 101 = one hundreds plus zero tens plus one ones.

Before the zero was thought of arithmetic was much more difficult for lack of a positional notation (as with Roman numbers). The Ancient Greeks did not even have a special notation for numbers, but used letters to represent numbers.

The zero started being used in the West only in the 13th C.



See also: Empty set, Number


Newman Ed.

 Original: Aug 16, 2004                                                Last edited: 12 December 2011.   Top