14 of 17 people found the following review helpful
Why Does the World Exist? An Existential Bromance?,
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This review is from: Why Does the World Exist?: An Existential Detective Story (Hardcover)
I fell in love with this book the moment I started reading it. I am a visual artist for whom the paradoxes of existence and consciousness are frequent themes. As a teenager I read the works of George Ganow, Bertrand Russell and Fred Holye. Holt's book is a comprehensive and amazingly well explained survey of the philosophy and science of these questions. It was even humorous in parts as in where background radiation from the big bang was initially mistaken for pigeon droppings on an antenna. The book is comprised of both the history of ideas and interviews with living scholars. The style is breezy and juxtaposes idiosyncrasies and the personalities of thinkers from Plato to Hawking with their ideological and theoretical stances in revelatory ways. Descriptions of Holt's drinks and dinners with his subjects are great foils for the seriousness of the matter at hand, even if they verge on shtick by the end. The recounting of the death of his dog and later his mother are both touching and relevant. If consciousness is important to the creation of reality, what happens when an individual consciousness is extinguished? My mind raced with such questions. For instance- what happens to the anthropic principle if the human race becomes extinct? I was so excited that I bought two extra copies which I gave to friends before I was even half done.
About two thirds of the way through I noticed something odd. Of the dozens of interview Holt conducted with scientists, writers and philosophers of widely varying beliefs, there were none with women. Surely there are some women thinkers who have ideas relevant to this book. Lisa Randall and Rebecca Goldstein (who blurbed the book) immediately come to mind. The only reference I can recall is a brief one to Simone DeBeauvoir. My wife is currently reading "The Apprentice" by Iris Murdoch. This novel is as passionately concerned with ideas of existence as anything by John Updike, who figures prominently Holt's text. I don't quite know what to make of this. Holt is an absolutely terrific writer and has brilliantly succeeded in presenting complicated ideas with breathtaking clarity, where other authors have lost me. The book is the best of its kind that I have ever read. Yet the omissions in seems to be a strange oversight to me. He loses one star because of this.
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Initial post: Sep 26, 2012 11:07:14 PM PDT
Carrie Waterston says:
Thank you!! Like you, I always notice when half the population is cut out - it really affects my enjoyment of a book, movie, or play. Thanks for letting us know.
Posted on Sep 13, 2014 8:26:54 PM PDT
Lilli R. Sloane says:
Yes, totally agree that the lack of ANY female perspective is odd. The book also lacks ANY non-Western perspective. I was first irked by the dated use of the pronoun "he" to refer to humans in general. It took me a while to realize that this was bothering me because I think I was caught in a state of wishing to feel included in the conversation as I had growing up with the men around me. I think this issue is actually bigger than a minus one star, however, because there are much bigger implications for a world of ivory tower philosophizing that is disconnected from the experience of billions of people. This book was so interesting and almost accessible for me but so alienating at the same time. Thanks for your comments. It is especially helpful when men take notice of such lapses.
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