For some folks the question whether something can come from nothing appears meaningful in discussions around the existence of God or the creation of the world. For instance, how did the world come into being, and what was there before it came into being: something else, or was there nothing. And if there was initially nothing other than a God, how was he able to create something from nothing, etc.
Aside from discussions around the existence of a God – usually a matter of wishful thinking versus a rational discourse about substantiated beliefs – it is easy to get caught up in language games. Words pushing words – without actually being to assert anything either concrete or definitive. For instance, if something is not nothing, and nothing is not something – then, presumably, these terms are mutually exclusive, and it would be difficult to use either term, something or nothing, in some kind of meaningful relationship beyond stating that the one excludes the other on purely logical grounds.
Of course, we could involve the distinction between denotation and connotation and denotation – what event or object a term refers to versus what this object or event means or signifies, e.g. the difference between Venus the evening star and Venus the morning star – they both reference the same object but we have different contextual meanings for them – and is something British analytical philosophers such as Austin spent a lot of time on, or Frege’s Sinn and Bedeutung, which means something similar in my mind – although Bertrand Russell would likely disagree – but in the end we would in all likelihood be even less clear of what we mean by the distinction between something and nothing other than that nothing is the negation of something.
The question that might be meaningful to me in some sense is the one that asks: is the concept of non-existence even available to us? Clearly, the answer is no. Nothing – nothing existing – is not available to us for discussion except, perhaps, in some abstract sense, where we can approach the concept of non-existence, which – of course – is really a contradiction of terms, and by pointing this out, we have come as close to it as appears feasible, given the rules of language that are there to keep things intelligible to the extent that some kind of discussion it about appears possible. And that should not be a function of the fact that – when we say something like “in the beginning there was nothing” – we have actually implied the existence of nothing at some time or another, as that would clearly be a function of grammar as opposed to making an ontological statement. Clearly, our language is misleading us here.