“The importance of the creation of the zero mark can never be exaggerated. This giving to airy nothing, not merely a local habitation and a name, a picture, a symbol, but helpful power, is the characteristic of the Hindu race from whence it sprang. It is like coining the Nirvana into dynamos. No single mathematical creation has been more potent for the general on-go of intelligence and power.” – G.B. Halsted
Zero is a special mathematical concept. As previously discussed signs represent actions or quantities that we can point to and say that is what the sign represents. Zero is a special sign that can’t be seen, measured, or even conceptualized. In the number system all positive numbers are signs that represent quantities that we can empirically experience. For example if we look at the number seven, I can see seven apples or seven people. Although the concept of the sign that represents number seven is abstract its quantity can be seen and measured. Negative numbers are also concepts and even though the quantity is absent it can be conceptually quantified. If I can measure seven apples I can conceptualize the physical absence of seven apples. Zero is different; zero is a sign that points to another dimension, a pure concept existing solely in our consciousness. Negative numbers are the absence of the quantity they represent, zero is nothingness.
Next: Absence vs. Nothingness