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Why Does the World Exist? Audiobook

Why Does the World Exist?: An Existential Detective Story

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Publisher's Summary

"I can imagine few more enjoyable ways of thinking than to read this book."
—Sarah Bakewell, New York Times Book Review, front-page review

Tackling the "darkest question in all of philosophy" with "raffish erudition" (Dwight Garner, The New York Times), author Jim Holt explores the greatest metaphysical mystery of all: why is there something rather than nothing? This runaway best seller, 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.

©2012 Jim Holt (P)2013 Audible, Inc.

What Members Say

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3.9 (187 )
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  •  
    Gary Las Cruces, NM, United States 07-20-13
    Gary Las Cruces, NM, United States 07-20-13 Member Since 2016
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    "Excellent survey of philosophy book"

    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.





    8 of 8 people found this review helpful
  •  
    CHET YARBROUGH LAS VEGAS, NEVADA, United States 03-02-15
    CHET YARBROUGH LAS VEGAS, NEVADA, United States 03-02-15 Member Since 2015
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    "WHY DOES THE WORLD EXIST?"

    With a smile and a pair of tennis shoes, Jim Holt tries to sell the idea that there is an answer to the question, “Why Does the World Exist?” Like Willy Loman, in “Death of a Salesman”, Holt has a gift for gab but neither he nor anyone else is able to close the sale.

    It is certainly not that Holt is not a good salesman but he tries to sell a thing impossible to define. No known person has enough theoretical or experimental proof to convince one there is an answer to “Why Does the World Exist?” All that remains is faith, either in science, religion, or philosophy. Holt’s “…Existential Detective Story” is a terrific synthesis of physics, religion, and philosophy but the mystery remains, “Why Does the World Exist?”

    Like Don Quixote, Holt puts a pan back on his head, grabs his lance, swings his leg over Rocinante, and tilts at Descartes’ “cogito ergo sum” to answer the question of why the world exists. It is simply a matter of what you think. Of course, Holt does not believe this is an answer either. He is a very smart guy, a good writer, and an interesting philosopher.

    4 of 4 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Let's Be Reasonable Greensboro, NC 05-09-14
    Let's Be Reasonable Greensboro, NC 05-09-14 Listener Since 2004
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    "Fatal Reader Flaw"
    What made the experience of listening to Why Does the World Exist? the most enjoyable?

    Interesting topic and coverage


    What was your reaction to the ending? (No spoilers please!)

    None


    Would you be willing to try another one of Steven Menasche’s performances?

    No. This reader is fine with one fatal exception: Every few sentences he will suddenly lower his voice to near silence and consequently you miss a word or phrase during this "quiet period" in his dynamics. You can turn up the volume, but then most of the text is unpleasantly loud. And even with the volume up high, if you're driving or there's other ambient noise--you just cannot hear some words. It's extremely annoying. Sometimes, to hear a crucial word, I've rewound 30 seconds and really blasted the volume! This guy reads well otherwise, but these "dramatic" whispers are terrible. Audible needs to run his reading through a compressor or something to even out the dynamics.


    8 of 9 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Bookman San Francisco, CA, United States 04-25-13
    Bookman San Francisco, CA, United States 04-25-13
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    "Deep, deep, DEEP listen..."
    If you could sum up Why Does the World Exist? in three words, what would they be?

    I am now depressed.


    What other book might you compare Why Does the World Exist? to and why?

    Don't know.


    What about Steven Menasche’s performance did you like?

    Made very difficult topics sound easy. It is a long book and his voice carries it nicely. Nice tone (not too serious)


    What’s the most interesting tidbit you’ve picked up from this book?

    Nothing exists!


    Any additional comments?

    Be prepared to re-listen to chapters as this stuff is heady.

    6 of 8 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Nassir 07-31-17
    Nassir 07-31-17 Member Since 2017
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    "Maybe read this one"

    This is a charming book, which is kind of the problem. In my experience, there are two kinds of audiobook: the kind you concentrate on, and the kind you don't. It's not that don't pay attention to the latter, it's just that you don't really need to "hear" every word. You can space out for a few minutes and not lose your place. They're good for the background while you clean your kitchen or play a game or ignore your family.

    The problem here is that this book is REALLY not that kind of audiobook, it's the other kind... the kind you need to really screw your brain up and concentrate on. Good for sitting in your garden with a cup of tea or walking aimlessly around the park or sitting around ignoring your family. But the author is one of those "fun scientist" types who reasons that a spoonful of sugar makes the medicine go down, and so he sugars up the gaps with amusing anecdotes about his journey of discovery to interview interesting people about interesting things. The meals he ate, the rooms he was in, the foibles of eccentric brilliant people aaaaand now for a refutation of Saint Anselm's proof of the existence of God. And you're like, what? Saint Anselm? Weren't you just contemplating the weather in Oxford? Weren't you just escaping death at the hands of elderly driver? Weren't you just jealously oogling an attractive student on a professor's sofa? Am I supposed to be paying attention now?

    It's a pity, because this is good stuff in here, this is stuff I want. It's just unnecessarily hard to get at. It took me two times to slog my way through this and I don't feel I got half of it. It makes me long for a nice series of lectures from the Teaching Company.

    If I had the book I could've just flipped the pages ahead to the good bits. My recommendation is that you do that instead, if at all possible.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Robert 10-20-13
    Robert 10-20-13 Member Since 2012
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    "Great book marred by poor narration."

    Steven Menasche is considered a capable narrator, but this time it doesn't seem to work for him.
    He sounds very “robotic” with almost complete lack of timing and “presence”. It sounds like he doesn't understand what he is reading, or perhaps more likely; he doesn't care about the book at all.
    The book itself is very good though.

    5 of 7 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Nemen M. Terc usa 01-18-14
    Nemen M. Terc usa 01-18-14 Member Since 2016
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    "Brilliant, beautifully written and well read."
    Would you consider the audio edition of Why Does the World Exist? to be better than the print version?

    I read and heard the book. I enjoyed both formats. The warmth and personal traits of the author show through the reader.


    What other book might you compare Why Does the World Exist? to and why?

    No idea. I believe every book is unique and comparisons are not helpful.


    What does Steven Menasche bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you just read the book?

    Better. His voice translates the mood of the author and his humanity.


    If you could give Why Does the World Exist? a new subtitle, what would it be?

    A personal search for meaning. Is there any purpose for the existence of the world, and its sentient beings.


    Any additional comments?

    I would encourage the author to write another interesting book.

    3 of 5 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Anonymous 09-25-17
    09-25-17 Member Since 2017
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    "History of question of why is there something..."

    Title is deceptive it should have been called the history of the question why is ....

    The author does not offer any original ideas but simply reminisces of what others have thought. Unfortunately history did not spare us of the many that should have never had asked the question

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Gilbert Harttree, 07-15-17 Member Since 2012
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    "A Distraction!"

    The narrator, Steven Menasche, struggles with the pronunciation of many many words . . . to the point of distraction -- painfully distracting his audience. His fairly competent French pronunciation is not enough to make up for his blunders with all the English words he mangles -- words familiar to the average college graduate. One wonders how Audible auditions its performers -- or even if it does. When the "performer" becomes a distraction the author is betrayed.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    hans sandberg Princeton Jct., NJ 01-25-17
    hans sandberg Princeton Jct., NJ 01-25-17 Member Since 2014
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    "An unresolved mystery"

    You learn a lot and meet many fascinating philosophers and scientists as you follow the author on his quest, but you probably knew from start that it is a question that doesn't have an ultimate answer besides "it was God" or "it's turtles all the way down." His often conversational style is charming, but at times borders on silly and the repetition of the title becomes a distraction. Also, he and many of the eminent philosophers who speculate that the world it's born out of goodness, which is absurd, and explains nothing since it's an ill-defined category with little explanatory value.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful

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