Why Does the World Exist?: An Existential Detective Story

Why Does the World Exist?: An Existential Detective Story - Jim Holt The author uses the question "why does the world exist" and each of his interviews as a narrative device in explaining the fundamental questions of philosophy. There are commonly two ways of explaining philosophy, 1) look at philosophy in its chronological order of development as in the book by Will Durant, "The Story of Philosophy", or as this author does 2) look at how different people consider the question "why there is something instead of nothing".

The author is really good at setting up the background and summarizing the perspective of each of the people interviewed in each of the chapters. The author introduces the listener to many different schools of philosophy both relatively modern and ancient (though almost always from the western tradition). The book really filled in my gaps since Durant's book stopped at 1926 and I got a good background on some philosophy after that period.

I had to listen to each chapter more intently than I usually do for science books but the author explains things such that even a non-philosopher can follow the points being made.

One odd note, I never would have finished a written version of this book, because I would have been doing a constant stream of wiki and google searches on the concepts he kept bringing up. Listening doesn't allow me to do that.

Before reading the book, I would never have been able to say something like this: Aristotle thinks of the world made up of both stuff and structure. The structure can be thought of as the math or process that hold the pieces of the stuff together and so on.... The point is even a non-philosopher can listen to this story and follow what's being said.

The book is not for everyone. After all, it is a survey of philosophy book, but the author tells the story so well that the casual reader will be on the look out for other accessible books on philosophy.