Thursday, June 29, 2023

William James and the “harlot” of the “multiverse” in 1895

In his 1895 lecture "Is Life Worth Living?", William James coined the term "multiverse", but he did not mean it in our sense of many universes. Rather, he meant that the universe does not offer humanity a singular morality: "Visible nature is all plasticity and indifference, a moral multiverse, as one might call it, and not a moral universe. To such a harlot we owe no allegiance; with her as a whole we can establish no moral communion [...]." The figure of the "harlot" that James uses to characterize this actually amoral multiverse must have been the most striking one he could imagine for a talk given at the Harvard YMCA. (Andrew Shields, #111words, 29 June 2023)


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