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Why Does the World Exist? A large question, with many (unsatisfactory) answers.

Rarely does a review convince me to read a book, but this one seems to have done the trick.

The author, Jim Holt, seems to have explored all the answers humanity has come up with over the hoary ages, from God made it to the big Bang, and everything in between.

Discussions that really attracted me:

“Those who profess puzzlement at the existence of a world like ours — one teeming with life and stars and consciousness and dark matter and all kinds of stuff we haven’t even discovered yet — seem to have an intellectual prejudice, one that favors the Null World. Nothingness is the natural state of affairs, they implicitly believe, the ontological default option. It is only deviations from nothingness that are mysterious, that require an explanation.”

and

 “descriptions of reality can be arranged in order of their simplicity.… On a priori grounds, a simple universe is more likely than a complicated one. And the simplest universe of all is the one that contains nothing — no objects, no properties, no relations. So, prior to the evidence, that is the hypothesis with the greatest probability: the hypothesis that says there is Nothing rather than Something.”

I can spend an entire week, pondering over just such imponderables– it is the sort of luxury those on enforced bed-rest can well afford– unless you listen to Queen Victoria:

“To try and find out the reason for everything is very dangerous,” wrote the queen to Princess Victoria of Hesse, in 1883. It leads to “nothing but disappointment and dissatisfaction, unsettling your mind and in the end making you miserable.”

What about you– would you read a book about being and nothingness to while away the hours?

Damyanti Biswas

Damyanti Biswas is the author of You Beneath Your Skin and numerous short stories that have been published in magazines and anthologies in the US, the UK, and Asia. She has been shortlisted for Best Small Fictions and Bath Novel Awards and is co-editor of the Forge Literary Magazine. Her forthcoming literary crime thriller, The Blue Bar is represented by Lucienne Diver from The Knight Agency, and will be published by Thomas & Mercer on January 1, 2023.

I appreciate comments, and I always visit back. If you're having trouble commenting, let me know via the contact form, or tweet me up @damyantig !

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10 Comments

  • Although it's a profound question, I probably wouldn't read something like this. Back when I was a teen, I might have.

  • nutschell says:

    So many ways that question can be answered. I'm definitely interested in how the author breaks down his answers to this question.

    Nutschell
    http://www.thewritingnut.com

  • Lynn Proctor says:

    oh yeah, i would so read it!

  • Since the author seems to not have a bias (except maybe toward the simple), I would probably enjoy it. Wouldn't want to read a similar book slanted in one direction too much.

  • I agree with Queen Victoria. The more you know, the unhappier you are. And if we knew the answers to more things, I'm sure a lot of fiction wouldn't exist. 😉

  • Jo says:

    Bit abstruse for me I'm afraid.

  • Gibson Goff says:

    Not only would I read a book about it, I write about it, as well.

    And firmly believing there is always a reason for everything, with precise timing, I examine questions such as, "Why does the world exist?", with a qualifier:

    "Why does the world exist, and why do I think that?"

    Then I'm filled with joy, because learning and growing makes me happy.

  • D.G. Hudson says:

    I like Queen Victoria's quote too, she was a smart lady.

    I wouldn't apply her comment to everything, but it would apply to abstract, intangible subjects or theories. Hubs reads physics and loves it. I prefer science fiction.

  • What Angela said – the answer is probably so simple we miss it.

  • Angela Brown says:

    The question of why the world exists is so profound that I wonder if the simplest answer, the easiest answer, is just too easy to accept. Though what that answer is, I don't know 🙂

    I favor the queen's quote. In our curiosity, we can tend toward disappointment when we make a discovery because of so many precipitous expectations heaped on a matter.

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