Mystery 101

An Introduction to the Big Questions and the Limits of Human Knowledge

By Richard H. Jones

Subjects: Philosophy, Religion, Philosophy Of Religion, General Interest
Hardcover : 9781438468211, 216 pages, February 2018
Paperback : 9781438468204, 216 pages, January 2019

Alternative formats available from:

Table of contents


1. Philosophy of Mystery

2. Do We Create Our Own Mysteries?

3. Do We Know Anything at All?

4. What Is Reality?

5. Why Is There Something Rather Than Nothing?

6. Why Is Nature Ordered?

7. Reductionism and Emergence

8. Does Science Dispel Mystery?

9. What of Current Mysteries in Physics and Cosmology?

10. What of Current Mysteries in Biology?

11. What Am I?

12. What Is Consciousness?

13. Do We Have Free Will?

14. Does God Exist?

15. Is There an Objective Meaning to Our Lives?

16. The Mystery of the Ordinary

Further Reading

Delineates the knowable from the unknowable in philosophy, science, and theology.


Offering readers much to ponder, Richard H. Jones approaches the "big questions" of philosophy such as the nature of reality, consciousness, free will, the existence of God, and the meaning of life not by weighing the merits of leading arguments in these debates, but instead by questioning the extent to which we are even in a position to answer such questions in the first place. Regardless of continuous technical and even groundbreaking advances in knowledge, there will always be gaps in what we can fully understand. Distinguishing true mysteries from problems yet to be solved but within the scope of our intellectual grasp, Jones provides a penetrating and high-level overview of the scope and limits of scientific and philosophical inquiry.

Richard H. Jones is the author of several books, including Mysticism Examined: Philosophical Inquiries into Mysticism and Philosophy of Mysticism: Raids on the Ineffable, both also published by SUNY Press.


"With Mystery 101, Jones has provided us with an important work that questions our very ability to know the basic reasons for our existence or the existence of our universe. The format and accessibility of the book make it useful for a number of contexts. It is helpful as an introduction to epistemology; for discussing the relationship between science, philosophy, and religion; and for studying the challenges associated with philosophical inquiry into the big questions of life. " — Reading Religion

"Exceptionally original, Mystery 101 specializes in questions rather than answers but also analyzes in fascinating detail a whole host of putative answers to the fundamental questions it raises. The book is a wide-ranging, thought-provoking treat. It shows why daunting, seemingly unfathomable mysteries underlie many of our most confident assumptions and claims to truth. And it counsels us wisely on how to live in the face of this fact. The scholarship is impeccable, drawing on many sources, including those of religion (and not just Western religion), philosophy (and not just Western philosophy), science, and literature. An insightful and enjoyable read. " — Donald A. Crosby, author of The Extraordinary in the Ordinary: Seven Types of Everyday Miracle

"Jones takes us on an interesting journey through all the big questions that perplex people. We end up knowing a lot but, as Socrates, knowing that we do not and indeed cannot know enough. Clear, engaging, and accessible, the book is a bit of a tour de force. " — George Allan, author of Modes of Learning: Whitehead's Metaphysics and the Stages of Education