TIME TRAVEL, MULTIPLE WORLDS, AND JASON STANLEY’S DELETED TWEET: can science fiction help us understand?

Jason Stanley, apparently a famous American analytic philosopher, recently tweeted: « I would regard myself as an abject failure if people are still not reading my philosophical work in 200 years ». This tweet cannot be read even now, yet alone in 200 years, as he deleted it. But it is still being discussed.

The best reaction to this sort of will-to-future ambition is through a science fiction sensibility, and Eric Schwitzgebel makes a proposition in this sense. He considers predictive SF utopias and dystopias, but I find his envisioned futures, even the « utopias », all dystopian.

Despite giving an SF-tinged analysis Schwitzgebel does not even consider time travel, whether physical or mental, nor does he envisage the possibility of the future influencing the past. I have argued that all these are perfectly valid, and readily available, mental acts (see my review of TENET in relation to the thought of Zizek, Deleuze, Stiegler: Christopher Nolan’s TENET: Absolute Knowledge as living with temporal paradox | AGENT SWARM (wordpress.com)

However, the question is not one of prediction, anticipation, or projection, but one of desire. Jason Stanley is clear about his desire, and I find it to be dystopian. This desire to imprint one’s mark on the future in SF is often the mark of the villain.

Personally, my own motivation is the opposite of Stanley’s. I write so as to prevent the ambition evinced by intellectuals such as Stanley from ever coming to pass. As was the case for my intellectual educators Friedrich Nietzsche, Paul Feyerabend, Gilles Deleuze, Pierre Bourdieu, François Laruelle.

I agree with Deleuze’s aim to write not for people in the future, but for « a people yet to come » who are already here amongst us. Perhaps they have, even unknowingly, come back from the future to warn us about Stanley. Such people can be found in dreams, conversations, and moments of insight.

My favourite science fiction image to describe and motivate my own writing is to write for people in multiple divergent worlds. Please let’s not call them « parallel » worlds, that is still too much uniformity to my taste. Nor should we call them « possible » worlds, they are very real. Think not David Lewis, but Deleuze’s multiple worlds, Badiou’s logics of worlds, Bourdieu’s microcosms.

I write for people in multiple worlds, and I try to give them the resources I have found that may help them prevent the Convergence that Stanley desires and works towards.

An inspiring SF image of that sort of process would be Adrian Tchaikovsky’s novel THE DOORS OF EDEN – see my review: A DREAM OF DIFFERENCE: Adrian Tchaikovsky’s THE DOORS OF EDEN | Xeno Swarm (wordpress.com)

To sum up: I write to help people both keep the worlds divergent and keep the passages between the worlds open. I have no desire to mark the future, but I hope people will continue to favour divergence and passages over convergence and linear history.

Further reading:

For Schwitzgebel’s discussion see: The Splintered Mind: Will Today’s Philosophical Work Still Be Discussed in 200 Years? (schwitzsplinters.blogspot.com)

Daniel Tutt has a very interesting discussion on his blog: https://danieltutt.com/2022/04/26/how-are-philosophers-remembered-in-the-age-of-meltdowns-and-pile-ons/

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