I’m not losing any sleep over this question, unless you count some late nights reading books like Jim Holt’s Why Does the World Exist? Holt is an American philosopher, author and essayist. Mr. Holt tells his “existential detective story” by talking with “philosophers, theologians, particle physicists, cosmologists, mystics and one very great American novelist.”
This is one of those books I found myself rewinding every few pages in an effort to simply understand the words, the sentences. So I can’t review it but here’s what the NYT had to say.
I do manage to come away with something from books like this. First, an appreciation for how long really smart people have been thinking about questions like why-something-not-nothing. Second, how little I really know and understand about… everything. Okay, here’s a third thing: nothing that happens in our (humans) blink-of-an-eye existence is of much consequence when viewed against the backdrop of a 14 billion year old universe. Global warming; Rush Limbaugh; a nuclear Iran. Specs of dust. A few excerpts:
“For the vast majority of Americans there is no such thing as the “mystery of existence.” If you ask them why the universe exists, they’ll say it exists because God made it. If you then ask them why God exists, the answer you get will depend on how technologically sophisticated they are. They might say that God is self-caused, that He is the ground of His own being, that His existence is contained in His essence. Or they might tell you that people who ask such impious questions will burn in hell.”
The life of the universe, like each of our lives, may be a mere interlude between two nothings.
Perhaps we see too little of reality to be aware of the reason behind it, or because any such reason must lie beyond the intellectual limits of humans.
Nothing is popularly held to be better than a dry martini, but worse than sand in the bedsheets. A poor man has it, a rich man needs it, and if you it for a long time, it’ll kill you. On occasion, nothing could be further from the truth, but it is not clear how much further.
Nothingness – A possibility reality, a conceivable state of affairs: that in which nothing exists.
In the thirteenth century, the Catholic Church declared it to be an article of faith that the world had a beginning in time.
The entities making up the physical world are like the pieces in a game of chess: what counts is the role defined for each piece by a system of rules that say how it can move, not the stuff the piece is made of.
“Words like ‘theism’ and ‘atheism’ and ‘God,’ they’ve moved around so much that they’re practically meaningless. Who really cares? I do consider myself a Spinozist, however, for two reasons. First, I think Spinoza was right that we’re all tiny regions in an infinite mind. And I agree with him that the material world, the world described by science, is pattern of divine thought.” — Cosmologist John Leslie