Naval: The Beginning of Infinity is not an easy book to read. Deutsch wrote it for other physicists and philosophers. He has a certain peer group that he respects, and that respects him, and he has to meet them at their level.
I wanted to understand the principles in the book so I could confirm or refute them for myself. I love the old motto from the Royal Society, “Nullius in Verba,” which means, “Take no one’s word for it.” In other words, figure it out yourself. That’s the only way to know anything.
To do that, I was reading the book and started reading blog posts on it. Eventually I came across Brett Hall and started listening to his podcast, ToKCast, which stands for the “Theory of Knowledge-Cast.” I’ve brought him on this podcast to discuss the ideas in The Beginning of Infinity.
Brett, listening to your podcast helped me clarify a lot of these principles. I would love to explore the depth, clarity, reach, and importance of these ideas. Then hopefully someone out there can become smarter by it.
Brett Hall: Hello Naval, it’s great to be here. You’ve raised so many interesting aspects of The Beginning of Infinity, which has become a real passion of mine. Like a lot of people who enter science, when I was at school I thought, “Well, I want to be an astronomer, so I’ll go to a university and do a physics degree, then do an astronomy degree, and then become a professional astronomer.”
One day I picked up David Deutsch’s The Fabric of Reality in a bookstore and started reading it. The first chapter described what I was trying to achieve in my life. It was putting into words what I felt my university studies and my general outlook on life was about.
Deutsch says that the ancient philosophers thought they could get an understanding of the entire world. As time passed, though, modern science made it seem as though this was an impossible project. There’s no way you could understand everything about reality. There’s too much to know.
How could you possibly know everything?