The Washington Post Notable Non-Fiction of 2013 “I can imagine few more enjoyable ways of thinking than to read this book.”Sarah Bakewell, New York TimesBook Review, front-page review Tackling the “darkest question in all of philosophy” with “raffish erudition” (Dwight Garner, New York Times), author Jim Holt explores the greatest metaphysical mystery of all: why is there something rather than nothing? This runaway bestseller, which has captured the imagination of critics and the public alike, traces our latest efforts to grasp the origins of the universe. Holt adopts the role of cosmological detective, traveling the globe to interview a host of celebrated scientists, philosophers, and writers, “testing the contentions of one against the theories of the other” (Jeremy Bernstein, Wall Street Journal). As he interrogates his list of ontological culprits, the brilliant yet slyly humorous Holt contends that we might have been too narrow in limiting our suspects to God versus the Big Bang. This “deft and consuming” (David Ulin, Los Angeles Times) narrative humanizes the profound questions of meaning and existence it confronts.
Jim Holt, a prominent essayist and critic on philosophy, mathematics, and science, is a frequent contributor to the New York Times Book Review and the New York Review of Books. He lives in New York City.
Table of Contents
Prologue: A Quick Proof That There Must Be Something Rather Than Nothing, for Modern People Who Lead Busy Lives 1
1 Confronting the Mystery 3
Interlude: Could Our World Have Been Created by a Hacker? 13
2 Philosophical Tour d'Horizon 17
Interlude: The Arithmetic of Nothingness 36
3 A Brief History of Nothing 41
4 The Great Rejectionist 63
5 Finite or Infinite? 81
Interlude: Night Thoughts at the Café de Flore 88
6 The Inductive Theist of North Oxford 95
Interlude: The Supreme Brute Fact 108
7 The Magus of the Multiverse 120
Interlude: The End of Explanation 131
8 The Ultimate Free Lunch? 138
Interlude: Nausea 149
9 Waiting for the Final Theory 154
Interlude: A Word on Many Worlds 164
10 Platonic Reflections 171
Interlude: It from Bit 186
11 "The Ethical Requiredness of There Being Something" 197
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