Ultimate Reality


“[Philosophy is] the field generally concerned with the study of ultimate reality and the first principles of thinking, knowledge, and truth” (Philosophy (Greek: Love of Wisdom)).
Douglas Adams launches his phenomenally philosophical book, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, with a man of earth experiencing a hangover. Arthur drowned his anger in “the best drink in existence …, the Pan Galactic Blaster” (Adams 14), at the pub last night, after being furious when he found out that his home is to be laid waste to in order for a bypass to take its place. This bone of contention is paramount because he feels it is unfair to him, plus he was not notified on time by Genghis Khan’s direct male-line descendant, Mr. L. Prosser. In no time, he discerns how irrelevant his situation is when Ford Prefect, his amazing alien buddy, apprises him of knowledge on the in-a-couple-of-minutes destruction of the planet earth, the home of all of mankind, so an intergalactic bypass may take its place. Upon scrutiny, this prodigious unlikely turn of events directs one to ruminate about the meaning of life, the nature of reality and how they relate to the Universe. Douglas Adams leads one to express these ideas as a triangle in which without one leg, the other two will collapse. In fact, in her journal article, “The Meaning of Life," Law Stephen maintains that “… it is suggested, humanity amounts to little more than a dirty smudge on a ball of rock lost in an incomprehensively vast universe that will eventually bare no trace of us having ever existed, and which will itself collapse into nothingness” (25). Essentially, Law Stephen explains that the universe is so boundlessly immense, its “interstellar distances will not fit into the human imagination” (Adams 50). And humans, without competition, are extraneous. Emphatically, they are a mere Top Quark to a much-bigger-than-sun sized universe (Scale of the Universe). Indeed, the nature of reality is perceived, and one asks the meaning of life but the answer cannot be realized by anyone, nor can it understandably be answered by a computer. Hence, along the same lines of the short-lived Sperm Whale from Chapter 18, humanity shall still culminate in oblivion.

The Nature of Reality and The Meaning of Life

Douglas Adams' book illustrates a statement in the journal article, “Physics, Philosophy, and The Nature of Reality,” that “both science and philosophy have been characterized as seeking to understand the nature of reality” (Maudlin 63). The nature of reality question comes up because we are sometimes deceived. We want and must evolve to tell the real from the false. The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy clarifies Tim Maudlin’s statement as seen throughout the book; it turns to philosophical theories for guidance but produces a mathematical answer (42) to the ultimate question “of life, the Universe and Everything” (Adams 115). Hence, inciting the 2012 controversy seen in Tim Maudlin’s quote of Stephen Hawking and Leonard Mlodinow:

How can we understand the world in which we find ourselves? How does the universe behave? What is the nature of reality? … Traditionally these are questions for philosophy, but philosophy is dead. Philosophy has not kept up with modern developments in science, particularly physics. Scientists have become the bearers of the torch of discovery in our quest for knowledge (5).

This engenders the notion behind certain scientific theories. Such as that of Professor Micheal Friedman in Mauricio Suárez’s journal article, “Science, Philosophy and the A Priori.” Mauricio Suárez writes about Professor Friedman’s Dynamic of Reason and states in his view, “on the one hand, there are empirical a posteriori elements to scientific knowledge. On the other hand, there are also, according to Friedman, constitutive a priori elements.” In stating this, he explains that the philosophical term ‘a priori’ is an element in scientific knowledge, just as much as ‘a posteriori’ is. Therefore, both using observed facts to come to a conclusion on scientific knowledge, and knowledge gained deductively is acceptable. Even though a posteriori is the ultimate reality because it is more reliant on our senses (nature and properties of matter), art is not false but is an illusion that can be real because it aids in making sense of experience. But if they fail as art, then they are false. If you philosophically think or plan something, then that is as good as creating scientific knowledge on the topic—making it real, empirical knowledge is not needed. For instance, if I plan to add 5 oranges to the 4 I already have, I will have 9 oranges—this knowledge is gained deductively. However, if the plans will amount to nothing, then they are called fake. Ergo, Douglas Adams illuminates human being's nature of reality as false when Earth amounts to nothing. Also, gaining knowledge of earth deductively and producing an answer to ponder over is more acceptable, rather than Deep Thought gaining evidence and giving 42.

We have endeavored to become aware of all that is going on around us, to understand our world, and in doing so, have discovered that the estimated size of the observable universe is 1027.0 times the size of one man (Scale of the Universe). Thus, man wants to learn how Earth and, more so, how the Universe behaves. This consequently involves the Nature of Reality. The world around us is seen from our perspective, and with knowledge that there is so much more out there (in the universe), that the Universe is colossally bigger than one man, then we must become knowledgeable of our universe. As a result, we ask what the meaning of life is and beg to be united with the answer. Nevertheless, Stephen Hawking and Leonard Mlodinow’s questions, and Douglas Adams’ Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy are tied to one another (they ask the same philosophical questions concerning the universe and the nature of reality) and venture into the ultimate quest to determine the meaning of life (Deep Thought and Arthur Dent’s voyage). However, according to the quote Philosophy is dead so, and Douglas Adams’ philosophical book displays this by deriving this astonishing answer to the meaning of life through scientific means: 42.

In addition, on a giant computer created by mice, according to the World Population Clock, live about 7 billion people. This giant computer is "[an] utterly insignificant little blue green planet” (1) called Earth. Regardless, the existence of humans is humorous and quite frankly irrelevant. Which is seen as one accelerates forward through The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy and becomes acquainted with Arthur Dent’s trivial bulldozer situation and with how he incessantly survives his journey through space. We experience an improbable pattern but also begin to see how his perception of the Nature of Reality continues to broaden. As a matter of fact, Yaroslav Barsukov’s “On The Nature of Reality” is rather explicating, it explains that “science works by generalization; my desk consists of atoms, the same quarks and electrons as the cubes – by extension, it doesn’t exist either. Nor do the walls, the floor, the ceiling.” In other words, as important as your needs and foremost possessions may be to you, they are absolutely negligible, as Arthur realizes when he learns the world is to end thus, his house will be destroyed with it. Douglas Adams’ book deciphers such ideas, and displays that your needs and possessions’ insignificance does not begin to match your nugatory life; by nonchalantly destroying earth and many lives with it in the early chapters. Ultimately, there is nothingness in the existence of matter.


The upshot of all this is that each individual differs from the next, consequently, everyone shares dissimilar perspectives. In attempt to understand the world around us, one must reflect on how the universe behaves. In doing so, we question the nature of reality, which considers the meaning of life. Douglas Adams’ Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy entails these philosophical queries and although Arthur Dent did not begin the book with these questions, through his experiences, we are met with humanity’s nature of reality—a world created by mice to aid in giving an answer to the meaning of life. It follows then that Deep Thought’s answer to life is forty-two. This calculated answer was never explained so, it is safe to say that a philosophical answer may be welcomed. This brings me to Amitabh Vikram and Dwivedi’s poem, “Meaning of Life,” which serenely and subtly analyzed Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. For through the journey through the galaxy, going with the flow (wherever the ship takes me), my understanding of the universe expands just as much as my nature of reality begins to have truthful meaning, but I shall not forget that I belong to those who were to produce the answer to life, so I, as Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy states, must proceed to achieve “my purpose in life:”

My moving body sets out with my floating soul;
In an expedition to find out the meaning of life.
And my life spreads its fragrance when the wind blows.
It is an expansion; I often touch the essence.
Then a divine voice murmurs-softly yet audible:
Your soul is still waiting for the essence.
I set off my journey again.
For the one who can tell me the meaning of life (26).

Work Cited

[1] Adams, Douglas. The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy | http://aufbix.org/~bolek/download/guide1.pdf

[2] Barsukov, Y. On the Nature of Reality. Nature Physics, vol.11, no. 11, 2015., pp. 980. | doi:http://dx.doi.org.ezproxy.libproxy.db.erau.edu/10.1038/nphys3570

[3] Dwivedi, Amitabh V. Meaning of Life Social Alternatives, vol. 34, no. 2, 2015., pp. 26 http://search.proquest.com.ezproxy.libproxy.db.erau.edu/docview/1707841334?accountid=27203

[4] Huang, Cary. The Scale of the Universe.

[5] Law, Stephen. The Meaning of Life. Think, vol. 11, no. 30, 2012., pp. 25-38 doi:http://dx.doi.org.ezproxy.libproxy.db.erau.edu/10.1017/S14771756110003

[6] Maudlin, T. Physics, Philosophy, and the Nature of Reality. Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences, vol. 1361, 2015., pg 63–68.doi:10.1111/nyas.12877

[7] "Philosophy (Greek: Love of Wisdom)." The Macmillan Encyclopedia, Market House Books Ltd, 2003. Credo Reference, http://ezproxy.libproxy.db.erau.edu/login?url=http://search.credoreference.com/content/entry/move/philosophy_greek_love_of_wisdom/0

[8] Suárez, Mauricio. Science, Philosophy and the A Priori. Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part A, vol. 43, no. 1, 2012., pg 1, http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.shpsa.2011.10.001

[9] World Population Clock http://www.worldometers.info/world-population/

Written by Teslim Balogun © | Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University | balogunt@my.erau.edu