Bob & Trent,
As I wrote a week ago the suggestion we structure the discussion around a shared reading is an excellent one. Unfortunately, having just slogged through Holt’s ‘Why does the world exist?’, this may not be the book.
Notwithstanding the title the author is almost exclusively focused on one of the oldest canards in philosophy; “Why is there something rather than nothing?”.
Paradoxically the question is both to large and too small to be useful (in the sense it was recommended to Trent) as a philosophical primer.
To large in that it has been batted around by everyone from Heraclitus to Huxley so Holt can cite dozens of venues for the question (religion, philosophy, the quantums [physics and cosmology], mathematics, inter-dimensional hackers, etc.) and quote hundreds of opinions on either side of the question in each venue.
And to small in that while quoting philosophers’ opinions on either side of the question their beliefs are only exposed as touching on this one question. For example one could spend years studying The Stoics, or any other school of unified philosophy, and allocating an afternoon to that school’s dialogue on this question would leave you with time for a round of golf.
The triviality of the question is exposed when Holt cites the Beatles’ cartoon Yellow Submarine and Carroll’s Through the Looking-Glass alongside Spinoza and Aquinas.
AnyHowitzer as such, this is not a primer or survey course on philosophy.
Let me confess my goal; as you are two of the most intelligent people I know, my intent on engaging you over dinner was to fathom the source of your faith. I assumed it is closer to William F. Buckley’s apologia ‘Nearer My God’ than clinging to preposterous myths we were fed as children.
Let me confess my method; the pincer tactic of “Its bullshit….” and “Its evil….” was merely a polite way of putting Omar Khay Yam’s quatrain from his Rubaiyat:
And you think that unto such as you
a maggot minded, starved, frantic crew
God gave a secret and denied it to me
Well, well, what matters it
Believe that too
May I suggest Reza Aslan’s ‘Zealot’ as a quick and entertaining read to serve as the initial common parameter of discussion?
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