Book event index: Worlds Without End

Contributions to our event on Mary-Jane Rubenstein’s Worlds Without End:

And a response from the author.

Worlds Without End: Response from Mary-Jane Rubenstein

I am grateful for the careful and generous readings reflected in these five posts. While each of them pulls my thoughts in unique and productive directions, I would like to attend to their collective effort to make more explicit the ethical and political contours of the material Worlds engages. I shall do so briefly, insofar as the essays are already doing the constructive work they call for—work that the book under consideration was very much hoping to provoke. So before and above all, my thanks to the respondents, to Catherine Keller for her dark-luminous introduction, and to the editors for curating this conversation.

To begin (again), I should make it clear that Worlds Without End is not a book about everything. It is a book about a particular and particularly stubborn tendency to lay claim to “everything,” both intellectually and materially. Continue reading Worlds Without End: Response from Mary-Jane Rubenstein”

Take me to the multiverse that doesn’t have Donald Trump

This is a guest post by Lisa Gasson-Gardner. Lisa is a PhD student at Drew University. She is writing about revelation, affect, and evangelical politics.

MaryJaneRubenstein-WorldsWithoutEnd-coverI did not watch the August 6th GOP debates (though I cannot get over this video of Trump) but I did do a search for mentions of science, particularly of climate change from the event. What came up was not claims about how God created the world and would not allow climate change to destroy the planet (or about how young the earth is or whatever), but silence. Science reporter Seth Borenstein specifically watched the debates to fact check claims about science. The fruit of his two hours of television watching? Nothing. Rather than outright antagonism against the claims of science, the GOP candidates simply avoided the topic all together. This is, of course, not to say that the individual candidates have not said some insane things about climate change. Here’s Trump saying on Twitter in 2012 that China invented climate change to make US manufacturing “non-competitive.” Trump’s comment is not about religion, but rather about production—about money. Add to this blatantly capitalistic take on climate change the fact that only two of the GOP candidates faced 13,000 evangelical Christians on July 27th at the annual convention of the Southern Baptists in Nashville, TN and it appears that the relationship between certain kinds of evangelical Christianity and the Republican party might be changing. (This is not to say there wasn’t plenty of God-talk during the debate, but see: here and here.)

Two goals of Mary Jane Rubenstein’s book Worlds Without End: The Many Lives of the Multiverse—both having to do with power— are relevant to the shifting relationship between Republican politics, certain kinds of fundamentalist Christianity, and science. My aim here is to draw out the political/ethical layer that is so important to Rubenstein’s work and to think about its implications for contemporary politics. Continue reading “Take me to the multiverse that doesn’t have Donald Trump”

The Politics of Everything

What to say, to a book about more than everything—more than what we thought we were talking about when we used to say “everything”? A book that introduces us to the entangled complexity of what we might call the politics of everything, Rubenstein not only charts the dizzying swells and speculative history of cosmos-talk, but also occasionally and artfully pulls back—back from the incomprehensible magnitudes of years, talk of dimensions, and tens to the innumerable powers—giving us glimpses of the human all too human drives at the heart of the discussion, at the root of our star gazing, at site of the stake where dear Bruno was burned.

What does this or that everything commit us to, where “us” is those with distinct stakes in the stars?

What unbound teeming bed of worlds, for the ancient Lucretian, might work to “clear away all theistic cosmogonies?” (43) What muscular mathematical ontology, for MIT cosmologist Max Tegmark, might (quite literally) make everything exist, such that we might rest well that God does not? What combination of accident and (actual or potential) infinity might be set center stage to kick big bang theology out of the play? Continue reading “The Politics of Everything”

The Singular Whiteness of the Multiverse

Worlds without End is its own multiverse of multiverses. Probable, possible, and profoundly unlikely universes multiply across its pages, splitting off from one another in infinite trouser-legs of time, bubbling up from one another’s surfaces, emerging from the queer turns of those that precede them, branching genealogically upwards and outwards, and exploding outwards from the ruins of their predecessors. This unruly menagerie of possible worlds can be sorted, Rubenstein tells us, into a fourfold taxonomy: worlds that are spatially multiple, existing alongside one another in monadic isolation or chaotically colliding like cosmic dodgems; worlds that are temporally multiple, phoenix-universes born from one another’s ashes, rising from the dead either changed or unchanged by their descent into the hell of nothingness; worlds that make free will not the rupture internal to an inconsistent order of being but the sliding-door birthing-points of new and parallel universes where everything is the same but for that one decision; or modal universes in which everything that could exist, does exist, over and over again, unendingly.
Yet for all this multiplicity, the multiverse whose contours emerge as the frame of Worlds without End is ultimately one of the eternal return of the same; a cosmology which – Rubenstein tells us – Nietzsche inherited from the Stoics, and which surfaces partially in Kant, then is reborn once again in the new ekpyrotic model of Paul Steinhardt and Neil Turok. Continue reading “The Singular Whiteness of the Multiverse”

Introduction: Worlds Without End book event by Catherine Keller

This introduction comes from Catherine Keller

Mary Jane Rubenstein’s

Worlds Without End: The Many Lives of the Multiverse

MaryJaneRubenstein-WorldsWithoutEnd-coverThere are many second books that this multigifted philosopher of religion might have written. Why this one? Mary-Jane Rubenstein could have staged another round of the dazzling conversation staged in her first, Strange Wonder: The Closure of Metaphysics and the Opening of Awe. With Derrida, Heidegger, Nancy she had probed Western philosophy’s tendency to parlay its initiating wonder into a calculating certainty: that is, to shut down the wonder that provokes philosophy in the first place. She reopens awe—and so philosophy itself: just where it reveals the extraordinary in the ordinary. Just where, tinged with Kierkegaardian fear and trembling, ethics and theology enter the dance. But then why has she escaped the universe of continental philosophy of religion for the physics of the multiverse?

Or has she? For here, the most everyday—the matter of any material world—turns almost unthinkably strange. Speaking of incalculability: our home universe of 15 billion galaxies each with about that many stars is already unheimisch. But now a growing number of astrophysicists postulate an infinite universe—worse, a possible infinity of universes. Rubenstein lays out for us—any of us who might follow An Und Fur Sich, for instance–the multiplicity of these new theories, and at the same time, because she is a nosy philosopher, an entire genealogy of multiverse theories that includes atomists, stoics, Aquinas, Cusa, Bruno, Kant…

If it is the wondrous weirdness and the irreducible multiplicity that had attracted her—cosmic support for the boundless pluralism and the ethical indeterminism wanted now, wanted philosophically—she delivers it. Continue reading “Introduction: Worlds Without End book event by Catherine Keller”