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Author Topic: The quest for answers on why the world exists to begin with  (Read 3205 times)
Joe Carillo
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« on: September 03, 2012, 10:05:49 PM »

Although many thinkers through the ages had pondered what the world is made of, it wasn’t until 1714 that the specter of non-being was raised by the German mathematician and philosopher Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz with this question: “The first question which we have a right to ask will be, ‘Why is there something rather than nothing?’” Now, in the book Why Does the World Exist? An Existential Detective Story (Liveright Publishing/W. W. Norton & Company, 298 pages), Jim Holt takes it upon himself to come up with plausible answers to this primal riddle of existence.

THE STAR V838 MONOCEROTIS’ LIGHT ECHO  Photograph from NASA via Reuters

After surveying the wide range of mystical and bizarre answers from the ancient world to modern times, Holt zeroes in on more solidly reasoned thoughts on the question by seven present-day philosophers and cosmologists: David Deutsch, Adolf Grünbaum, John Leslie, Derek Parfit, Roger Penrose, Richard Swinburne, and Steven Weinberg. He also discussed the question with the philosophically inclined novelist John Updike. From them and from a few other thinkers of the Zen and monotheistic mould, Holt comes up with a brilliant and fascinating synthesis of cosmology, mathematics, and physics.


Says Kathryn Schulz in her review of Holt’s Why Does the World Exist? in the New York Magazine: “The pleasure of this book is watching the match: the staggeringly inventive human mind slamming its fantastic conjectures over the net, the universe coolly returning every serve... Holt traffics in wonder, a word whose dual meanings—the absence of answers; the experience of awe—strike me as profoundly related.”

Read Sarah Bakewell’s review of Jim Holt’s Why Does the World Exist? in The New York Times now!
 
Read Peter Forbes’s review of Jim Holt’s Why Does the World Exist? in the Independent of UK now!

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Jim Holt is a prominent essayist and critic on philosophy, mathematics, and science. A frequent contributor to the New York Times Book Review, the New York Review of Books, and The New Yorker, Holt has written on string theory, time, infinity, numbers, and truth and bullshit, among other subjects—and is the author of Stop Me If You’ve Heard This.

RELATED READING:
In “Apocalypse Not: Here’s Why You Shouldn’t Worry About End Times,” an article that came out in the August 17, 2012 issue of Wired.com, book author and The Wall Street Journal columnist Matt Ridley says on the run-up to December 12, 2012—when the Mayan Long Count calendar ends and “the sun will be aligned with the center of the Milky Way for the first time in about 26,000 years”—that no matter how often apocalyptic predictions fail to come true, the prophets of apocalypse always draw a sizable following. But Ridley argues that religious zealots like the end-of-the-world Millerites in 1843 and Harold Camping’s final-rupture believers in 1994 and 2011 hardly have a monopoly on apocalyptic thinking. Every so often, Ridley says, a well-known or self-professed expert also makes a forecast of an inevitable environmental cataclysm that doesn’t come to pass. “Humanity is a fast-moving target,” he says in explaining the failure of these predictions of doom. “We will combat our ecological threats in the future by innovating to meet them as they arise, not through the mass fear stoked by worst-case scenarios.”

Read Matt Ridley’s “Apocalypse Not: Here’s Why You Shouldn’t Worry About End Times” in Wired.com now!
« Last Edit: March 01, 2017, 07:17:24 PM by Joe Carillo » Logged

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