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Why Does the World Exist?: One Man's Quest for the Big Answer by [Holt, Jim]
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Why Does the World Exist?: One Man's Quest for the Big Answer Kindle Edition

4.1 out of 5 stars 28 customer reviews

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Length: 316 pages Word Wise: Enabled Enhanced Typesetting: Enabled
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Product Description


The author takes on the origin of everything in this wonderfully ambitious book encompassing mathematics, theology, physics, ethics and more. --Michael S. Roth


Starred review. Winding its way to no reassuringly tidy conclusion, this narrative ultimately humanizes the huge metaphysical questions Holt confronts, endowing them with real-life significance. A potent synthesis of philosophy and autobiography.

Product details

  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • File Size: 1957 KB
  • Print Length: 316 pages
  • Publisher: Profile Books (21 Jun. 2012)
  • Sold by: Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B008FR6ZOA
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
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  • Word Wise: Enabled
  • Enhanced Typesetting: Enabled
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars 28 customer reviews
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #234,299 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
Reading this book feels like working out in one of the finest philosophical and intellectual gyms in town. In it Jim Holt takes us on a journey which tackles one of the oldest and most profound questions that humans have asked; "Why is there something instead of nothing?". To his credit Holt does not try to answer the question but instead leads us through a set of meetings with some of today's leading philosophers and scientists who all have their own fascinating takes on the problem. Holt starts the book with accounts of different schools of philosophy which have tried to stake out paths from something to nothing. It turns out that it's far from easy to define the existence of "nothing" partly since the very entity defining that nothing is something. Interestingly a few of the philosophical attempts also fly in the face of the latest insights from theoretical physics, and in fact one of the goals of the book is to demonstrate the creative tension between science and philosophy, hinting that both disciplines will continue to learn much from each other. Listing philosophical attempts to explain nothing and something, Holt dwells on the work of thinkers like Heidegger, Wittgenstein, Schopenhauer and Leibniz, giving us a sampling of philosophical speculations on the question over the last five hundred years or so.

The heart of the book however involves Holt's conversations with some very smart thinkers even as he criss-crosses the globe and spends his time in French cafes contemplating the quirks and facts of his own existence, sometimes poignantly so as he thinks about the demise of his dog (a practical instance of the transformation of something into nothing?).
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By Hande Z TOP 500 REVIEWER on 12 Aug. 2012
Format: Paperback
The title might have been designed to capture the attention of the book browser because the true question that Holt pursues so meticulously and vigorously throughout the book is "Why is there something rather than nothing?" That is the most profound and difficult of all existential questions. It is a question pursued by scientists, philosophers, and religious people. Hence, Holt consulted thinkers from these fields as well as mathematicians, cosmologists, and biologists. The reader will be introduced to the thoughts on this specific subject by Plato, Adolf Grunbaum, Roger Penrose, Derek Parfit, David Deutsch, Richard Swinburne, Martin Heideggar, David Hume, Bertrand Russell, John Leslie, and Stephen Hawking among many others. However, the two questions though related, are entirely different. The first (from the title) includes a value element, implicitly seeking a purpose for its existence. The second raises the question, "What is the meaning of `Nothing'?"

Holt discusses theory after theory and exposes the problems with each of them. In the case of living proponents of the respective theories Holt travels the world to interview and discuss the theories and their problems with those proponents. One of the delightful aspects of this book is that the conversations Holt has with the thinkers he talked to contain many witty and humorous anecdotes. The Canadian cosmologist John Leslie was so proud of his theory until he found that Plato beat him to it 2,500 years ago.

Some of the theories may sound incredible to the uninitiated but Holt describes them with clarity and simplicity without any appearing pedantic. He shows how Plato's (and Leslie's) idea that "existence arose out of a need for goodness" made no sense because such an existence could only be "mental".
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Is this the ultimate book of popular science and beyond?

In the plethora of popular science books - on evolution, quantum physics, the big bang - there are occasionally the odd hints and nudges about ultimate questions - about consciousness, a theory of everything, "Why does the universe bother to exist?" - where workaday science nudges up against philosophy and metaphysics, poses a few of the most basic and unanswerable (or are they ?) questions and stops.

Bolder than them all, this author goes further, grappling with one of the most - maybe the most -fundamental questions - Why is everything here ( if it is?)?

Other authors have been brave at communicating complex and subtle ideas - higher mathematics and physics for the masses. But this guy takes it too another level - in your face metaphysics. Not the easiest topic to convey, but he succeeds. With a heady mix of cosmology, theology, philosophy, he takes us on an exploration of questions that have challenged - and often defeated - the brightest of historical and contemporary minds. Yet he does it in a style that is never boring, never condescending, never obscure.

This is essentially a book about metaphysics - questioning the very nature of reality. Now that, I think, is a tough topic not just to write about but to write about in a way that compels the attention of a respectably sizable audience. Does he succeed? - in my opinion, yes. This is one of the most unputdownable books I have ever read. I have read books about hugely interesting subjects that are incredible in their boringness. I have read books that are of largely uninterestig subjects that are tolerable. This subject , though, is compelling yet intellectually demanding, but its treament here is acccesible and readable.
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