Friday, August 03, 2012
The New York Times reviews Jim Holt's Why Does The World Exist?
It’s hard to visualize nothingness, though Holt quotes a beautiful definition by the physicist Alex Vilenkin: “a closed spherical spacetime of zero radius.” Try jumping out of that. No wonder the philosopher Robert Nozick said that “someone who proposes a nonstrange answer shows he didn’t understand the question.” Nozick’s own hypotheses were certainly strange. One was that the primal nothingness might have been so annihilating that it annihilated itself, thus producing being. This echoes a much-mocked line of Heidegger’s: “nothing noths” (“Das Nichts nichtet”). Silly as it sounds, this captures the sheer uncanniness of the Big Bang — and, as Heidegger said, the anxiety we feel in the thought of “nothing” brings us face to face with Being itself.
. . .
One evening in Oxford, Holt enjoys a fine meal and bottle of Australian shiraz, then strolls around feeling “a diffuse sense of contentment.” This is one beginning for philosophy; Heidegger’s “anxiety” is another (and perhaps Heidegger should have drunk more shiraz).
Local Bavarian plonk not good enough then?
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