Null & Nothingness

Last updated last month

What is nothingness? Is there nothingness only in outer space? If a tree falls in the forest and nobody is there to listen, does it make a sound? Starting to see the point? Does nothing really mean nothing? To be or not to be? Ok, I think we are going in a philosophical tangent, so let's get back to our geekiness:

null is Java's way to refer to "nothingness.", something that does not exist and has no value. In CFML, we also use null even though the null keyword is yet to be introduced into the language.


We can use the isNull() method in CFML to evaulate for nothingness and we can even create a null value with a javaCast( "null", "" ) function call or in Lucee you can use the nullValue() function as well. However, please note that the null keyword is coming to CFML in the near future.

In Practice

If you have three eggs, eat three eggs, then you might think you have "nothing", but in terms of eggs you have "0". Zero is something, it’s a number, and it’s not nothing.

If you’re working with words and have a string like "hello" then delete the "h", "e", "l"s, and "o" you might think you’d end up with nothing, but you really have "" which is an empty string. It’s still something.

Null in CFML is usually encountered when you ask for something that doesn’t exist. When looking at arrays, for instance, we created a list with five elements then asked CFML to give us the sixth element of that list. There is no sixth element, so CFML gave us null. It isn’t that there’s a blank in that sixth spot (""), it’s not a number 0, it’s nothingness – null.


function getData( filter ){
if( isNull( arguments.filter ) ){
// then do this
} else {
// use the filter
function returnsNull(){
if( key.exists( "invalid" ) ){
return key[ "invalid" ];
results = returnsNull();
writeOutput( isNull( results ) );

Also note that if a function returns nothing it will be the same as returning null.