Wednesday, March 19, 2008

footnote, expanded. with footnotes.

so, listen, it's spring break, and whatever arrangement of hours i'm sleeping in can hardly be called a "pattern", and i'm working on the kind of paper that i have to take a lot of breaks from writing, and i noticed that it's almost impossible to read the second footnote and it all adds up to a second post, made discretely, at least, below the first.

the loss of a possibility! i promised myself that this post would have nothing whatsoever to do with possible worlds, but i will allow myself one footnote: lewis talks of learning about our world in terms of locating, among all of the logically possible worlds, which world is our own. given that we aren't la placean demons, we can't be sure which possible world we live in-- there are a large number of possible worlds which, for all we know, might be our own. there are many possible people who, for all i know, might be me. there are many possible people who, for all i know, might be you. and as you and i go on being ourselves and events unfold and i learn more about us both, i learn that you and i aren't some of the people that it was possible we might be-- and sometimes i learn that you (or i!) might be someone that i hadn't considered possible.1

but, anyway, the point is that ariely seems to be saying that there is a real sense of loss that comes with eliminating possibilities, and yet eliminating (relevant) possibilities might be, according to lewis, the best way of describing what it is we're doing when we learn the facts about who we are and the world we inhabit-- shutting doors to possible worlds. not really, of course, because what we choose or don't choose or haver endlessly among is determined-- theres only one world that we're in, and it touches no other. but it's true that we don't know what world we're in, what possible me i am, until we see which it will be.

it sometimes happens to each of us that we stand choosing between doors that each pull so hard it feels like we're tearing. i'm a hard-hearted naturalist with no sympathy for so much as a horoscope, let alone accounts of souls and the supernatural, but among the infinite me's that it's turned out i'm not, there are one or two that were so near to my heart that it feels like part of my heart must be with them somewhere, living those lives i don't live. so for all lewis's theory depends on and underwrites unwarm unliving things like logical systems, i think it also appeals, like religion appeals, to our inescapable sense that there is something more than what is-- that there is more of us than what we are-- only it doesn't demand any nonsensical belief in the supernatural.

[1] he reverses everything, you see: the world isn't first-- the thing from which we abstract possibilities-- it's the space of logical possibility that comes first, and we locate ourselves in it. our knowledge of the world we live in is contingent (if the world were different, our knowledge of it would be correspondingly different). but the space of logical possibility is necessary-- contingent on nothing-- no matter what the world we live in were like, it would be the same.

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