The Mystery of Existence edited by Robert Lawrence Kuhn

In the Philosophical Investigations (, Ludwig Wittgenstein writes that philosophical perplexities “arise when language is like an engine idling, not when it is doing work.” When we are engaged in everyday practicalities and challenges there seems no point in metaphysics. If that suffices, turn the page. If you have fallen prey to some of these speculations it’s best to reach for a guide offering what some other clever people have thought before. Perhaps they can help out?!

Here is one such study setting out the thoughts of philosophers and scientists on the most fundamental and haunting questions of all, such as ‘why is there anything rather than just nothing?’ It includes the thoughts of dozens of luminaries such as Plato, Aristotle, Aquinas, Leibniz, Stephen Hawking, Steven Weinberg, Robert Nozick, Derek Parfit, Alvin Plantinga, Richard Swinburne, and the Dalai Lama.

There are informative and helpful editorial introductions to each section whilst the editors provide a wealth of suggestions for further reading and research. The material is wide ranging and comprehensible. (See under-noted for table of contents). We read to know we’re not alone. Read right through and at least you’ll not be ‘spinning frictionless in the void’.

Follow up with Bede Rundle’s book ‘Why there is Something rather than Nothing’ (2004) reviewed by me here

Watch Bede Rundle in an interview with Robert Lawrence Kuhn ( here

John Leslie is University Professor Emeritus of Philosophy at the University of Guelph, Canada, and Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada. Well known in the philosophy of cosmology and religion, he has held visiting professorships at institutions including the Australian National University (Research Department of Philosophy) and the University of Liège (Institute of Astrophysics). He is the author of numerous publications including Value and Existence (Blackwell, 1979), Universes (Routledge, 1989), The End of the World: the Science and Ethics of Human Extinction (Routledge, 1996), Infinite Minds (Oxford University Press, 2001), and Immortality Defended (Blackwell, 2007).

Robert Lawrence Kuhn is a public intellectual and the creator and host of Closer To Truth, the long-running PBS / public television series on science and philosophy. With a doctorate in brain research (UCLA), he is the author or editor of more than 30 books, including Closer To Truth: Challenging Current Belief and Closer To Truth: Science, Meaning and the Future.

Immerse yourself in Kuhn’s series in the many YouTube videos available from here

Check if this title on the mystery of existence is in stock at your local library. Consult the online catalogue at

328 pages in John Wiley & Sons

First published 2013

ISBN  978-0470673546

Robert Lawrence Kuhn


1 General Introduction (pages 1-12)

2 Some Quotations

Leibniz, Kant (page 13)

Schopenhauer, William James, George Santayana, Ludwig Wittgenstein, Bertrand Russell, J.J.C.Smart (14)

John A. Wheeler, Stephen Hawking, Steven Weinberg (15)

3 Possible Responses to “”Why Anything?””

Nicholas Rescher (pages 16-17)

4 First Solution: A Blank is Absurd

Editorial Introduction (pages 18-24)

F.H. Bradley, Henri Bergson (24)

Bede Rundle (25-26)

David Lewis (26-30)

Peter Unger (30-38)

Steven Hawking and Leonard Mlodinow (39-40)

5 Second Solution: No Explanation Needed

Editorial Introduction (pages 41-46)

Epicurus (46-47)

Hume (47-49)

Fred Hoyle (49-50)

W.B.Bonnor (51-52)

Bertrand Russell and F.C.Copleston (53-56)

Adolf Grünbaum (56-70)

6 Third Solution: Chance

Editorial Introduction (pages 71-77)

Alan Guth (77-82)

Stephen Hawking (82-90)

Alex Vilenkin (90-98)

Martin Rees (98)

Peter van Inwagen (98-100)

7 Fourth Solution: Value/ Perfection as Ultimate

Editorial Introduction (pages 101-109)

Plato (109-110)

Aristotle (110-111)

Plotinus (111-112)

Aquinas (112-113)

Anselm (113-114)

Descartes (114-115)

Alvin Plantinga (115-118)

Spinoza (118-119)

Leibniz (119-122)

Hegel (122-123)

A.C.Ewing (123-124)

Keith Ward (125)

John Polkinghorne (125-126)

John Leslie (126-141)

8 Fifth Solution: Mind/ Consciousness as Ultimate

Editorial Introduction (pages 142-147)

Richard Swinburne (147-153)

Timothy O’Connor (153-155)

William Lane Craig (155-159)

Sayyed Hossein Nasr (159-160)

Tenzin Gyatso, Dalai Lama XIV (160-161)

Andrei Linde (161-163)

Paul Davies (163-170)

9 Fine-Tuning and Multiple Universes

Editorial Introduction (pages 171-178)

John Polkinghorne (178-189)

Leonard Susskind (189-192)

Steven Weinberg (192-194)

Max Tegmark (194-206)

Robin Collins (207-210)

10 The Problem Seems Genuine

Editorial Introduction (pages 211-219)

Derek Parfit (220-237)

Robert Nozick (238-246)

Robert Lawrence Kuhn (246-278)

Michael Heller (278-284)

Nicholas Rescher (284-288)

Bibliography and Further Reading 289


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