Friday, June 10, 2022

Headtrip: Everything Everywhere All at Once

from left: Stephanie Hsu, Michelle Yeoh, and Ke Huy Quan in Everything Everywhere All at Once.

Theories of the multiverse go as far back to ancient Greek philosophy, though we associate them today with the hard sciences. Part of the discussion, historically, involves speculation about whether ours is the best of all possible worlds. Gottfried Wilhelm von Leibniz (one of the most important early modern philosophers) made this idea the cornerstone of his work The Monadology. There, the German polymath addresses theodicy, or the problem of evil. He speculates that the world we inhabit must be the best of all possible worlds, since God – who is good and who could have chosen to make any world he wished – made this one. The presence of evil, then, must have some mysterious, salutary effect – perhaps contrasting goodness for us, so we appreciate it all the more. In a world without evil, he surmises, we wouldn’t be able to recognize goodness, since it would just be the banal, uniform state of affairs. A fish doesn’t notice water unless it’s thrown on land.