Emma asked:

Hiya, I’m Emma.

Well basically at school, we’re doing about philosophy, and I’ve got to study some people’s views on the world? I was wondering if someone could give me their response in answer to the question, ‘Is this world all there is?’

I just want your opinion, that’s all. If you could help me it would be great.

Thanks, Emma

Answer by Jürgen Lawrenz

Unwittingly, it seems to me, you’ve come up with a question that has exercised thinkers ever since there has been philosophy. But I will answer your question as simply as you wish.

You have to start with a subsidiary question: ‘What is the world?’

When you’ve done this, you can resolve it easily by taking note of some features of the world that can be weighed and measured, like all the objects of science and technology. This would include your shoes, the rain, the trees in the forests, the stars and galaxies, and the atoms and particles of physics. It is the material world.

Many people hold the opinion that this is all there is, and they would describe such other contents of the world as God, angels, saints, spirits, demons, ghosts etc. as figments of the imagination. Of course one could always contradict this opinion by saying: They exist in people’s mind, so they are definitely contents of the universe. Accordingly this is described by many people as the spiritual world.

The people who believe exclusively in one or the other very often do not understand each other. Mainly because the spiritual seems not to actually exist. But this might boil down to the basic problem that ideas cannot be weighed or measured. Yet even those materialists who deny their existence have ideas, so perhaps they are living in self-contradiction?

There are many more things in the universe. Perhaps only on earth? I’m not sure. But where human beings live, there are colors and sensations like pain and pleasure. There are feelings like grief and happiness. The are concepts like beauty and justice. And so on. All these definitely exist. You know it and I know it.

So what you should understand by this is that the most intelligent people who have thought about this problem, have not found an answer. So the answer to your question is: No-one knows; there are only opinions. And none of these opinions can be proved or disproved.

To say the word ‘world’ is to take a guess from what we know, about what we don’t know. In a word, we extrapolate the known on the unknown. But this is not something on which anyone in their right mind could be absolutely certain.