Many Worlds Interpretation, Critical Theory and the (Immanent) Paradox of Power

by | 22 Nov 2021

The Paradox and its Solution

Conclusion: Allow me to begin with the conclusion and work my way back to it. Only in contingency is the world possible, when the world is harnessed in necessity it is simply a simulacrum of the world through a simulacrum of power. Contingency (whose name in politics is democracy), as the infinite extension of intense difference, is necessary in all possible worlds.

Predefinition of Many Worlds Interpretation

When we poetize Hugh Everett´s groundbreaking and universe splitting theory known as the “Many Worlds Interpretation” (MWI) we may offer a new and compelling insight to deem power and thus two of its perplexing poles: necessity and contingency.

Although the theory is calling the attention of the paradoxical observations of wave functions (ψ) in quantum mechanics (Everett 1973, 5) the effects for philosophy are of a beautiful potential.

The theory proposes that there are as many universes as there are possible outcomes to be realized.

The fundamental tenet of the theory is that the worlds are infinite and increasingly complex as every possible outcome constitutes the need of a new universe (Everett, 1973) Everett is signaling the flaws of theories of quantum mechanics that depend on just one observer and therefore a single observation method in worlds riddled by a multiplicity of sets of observables (1973).

The main takeaway for us is that Everett proves that given a manifold, a unique observer fails in space and time.

Predefinition of potestas: potestas is power as domination, it is the negation or neutralization of beingness (any being) through the stratification of the conditions to exercise immanent power (negation of agency). It is the arrangement of solid systems of identity through the permanent construction of transcendent models (presuppositions) to define life and determine its exercise.

The paradox:  Allow me to propose a paradox working through Many worlds Interpretation as follows:

If there is an infinity of multiple parallel worlds (or universes) then it is absolutely necessary that there is a world where multiple parallel worlds are impossible, hence the infinity of multiple parallel worlds is limited and thus finite (Sanín-Restrepo 2020).

The Paradoxical: “This”, the world we live in, the world of potestas, is such a world, and because of it is but a mere simulation for it spins in one axis alone, to deny any other possible world. Potestas (power as domination, the denial of difference and this very world we live in) is the only world that is unreal, immaterial, and impossible. Precisely the most shocking and dire feature of potestas is that it has no reflection, no double side, it is a frozen state of identity and oppression. Potestas is thus the paradox of existence, a sheer simulacrum of world, the utter denial of difference and of multiplicity. The world of potestas (of the simulacrum of difference) is that which cannot exist outside itself, that which is not even different in itself. Every moment is its own actuality, as the “coming to be” in time is barred by the “given” perfection of what exists there in space.

It is the actuality of time where there is no difference. It is, ultimately a denial of any possible world that is not itself the pure denial of other worlds.

The Reasoning

Difference is always contingent, and thus any definition of it as necessity is its primal disavowal. Western philosophy´s driving force is to negate negativity, to summon the “some-thing”, the being, what in actuality is, so it may dissolve the abomination of non-being, of no-thing, of contingency. As non-being is pure contingency, any necessary order is always under the siege of the unpredictable, of the ungovernable and limitless, of what becomes itself from no pre-established order. As we have established previously:

While contingency is the unleashing of immanence, generation, transitions and creativity, necessity is the sovereign grip of every definition of time and space from a predefined point zero. While in necessity, the contingency of the future is captured in what is presently actual, contingency is the edge where possible and impossible are to be decided. Contingency is always the unbound multiplicity of becoming. Hence, there is no expression of difference that is not contingent as there is no negation of difference that does not always fall back into necessity. Contingency and necessity are then the gridlock of power, that is, of what is possible and impossible (Sanín-Restrepo 2018, xi).

It is in between contingency and necessity where the drama of power unfolds and achieves its fullest dimension of meaning.

Power is created in its exercise; all power is manifested in a relationship of forces and affections. “A kiss, a bomb, a decree are all expressions of power, they alter the world in its conditions of possibility and recognition. Power can vary its intensity, dispositionality and its formula as the act is inserted within ethical and aesthetic webs of significance” (Sanín-Restrepo 2020) What is fundamental in understanding power structures is not its categorical, or phenomenal corporality, but its expressions. As Michel Foucault showed us, the description of power structures will always be superficial, and bleak compared to the fields of reality they create (Foucault 1978).

Potestas, despite its horrors or better because of them, does in fact constitute the dimensions of our world, it generates an awful truth of race and gender, but a truth all together that we cannot avert or simply ignore.

At this point, involving and poetizing Everett´s Many Worlds Interpretation (MWI) may show us a different dimension of power, necessity, contingency and thus the possibilities of the worlds we inhabit. It is a decisive step to supersede Leibniz “best of possible worlds” as conformity to power as potestas through necessity.

Hence, as we previously established, no account, no formula, no narrative may be given from one perspective (the very definition of solipsism). As Everett puts it:

It is now clear that the interpretation of quantum mechanics with which we began is untenable if we are to consider a universe containing more than one observer. We must therefore seek a suitable modification of this scheme, or an entirely different system of interpretation. Several alternatives which avoid the paradox are: Alternative 1: To postulate the existence of only one observer in the universe. This is the solipsist position, in which each of us must hold the view that he alone is the only valid observer, with the rest of the universe and its inhabitants obeying at all times Process 2 except when under his observation. (Everett 1973, 6).

Insofar, a richer and more congruent observation system arrives only if “Observation processes are to be described completely by the state function of the composite system which includes the observer and his object-system, and which at all times obeys the wave equation” (Everett 1973, 8). Everett´s conclusion, that resounds so mightily with our enterprise is that “All processes are considered equally (there are no ‘measurement processes’ which play any preferred role)” (Everett 1973, 8). Nevertheless, Everett´s thesis is not to be deemed through the flat platform of the Cartesian mind, “as if the mind would be capable of splitting, as Buda, in as many universes as it takes for the mind to think. As if the quality and quantity of the worlds depended on the ‘mirror image’ (Rorty) of the mind” (Sanín-Restrepo 2020). Although the Everettean universe is observer dependent, the outcome is that no object, and definitely no form of observation is able to grasp a unique form of truth over any other. As he states “It is therefore improper to attribute any less validity or ‘reality’ to any element of a superposition than any other element, due to this ever-present possibility of obtaining interference effects between the elements. All elements of a superposition must be regarded as simultaneously existing.” (Everett 1973, 107) The Many worlds are pure virtuality and their properties the opening of all fields for the intensive in the most Bergsonian (and Proustian) way possible.

“From every possible present a new virtual present is detached as infinite maize from an infinite cob” (Sanín-Restrepo 2020). Infinite universes sprouting in infinite directions. For a way the world is in actuality, there is a distinct possibility of another world that is otherwise. It is Borges´ garden of infinite pathways into infinite realities. No present is actual, no future is predestined, no past is irrevocable. All states may be split.

Questions pour in. Is the splitting a question of time or space? Can these splitting ends diverge infinitely or come back to colonize and overdetermine the others? But then, is there an original split? A center, as it would be, in the spiderweb of time? Time as infinity is the swarming of all becoming where all becoming makes up the stuff of time in the sense it is indistinguishable from all other forms of becoming.

According to Everett´s theory everything that could have happened but did not happen, happened in another world. Necessity in one world does not entail necessity in the other. Consequently, the only true necessity is pure contingency. Many worlds interpretation assumes realism while actuality is its founding formal structure.

As we have pointed “The hornet´s nest of the theory is the use of the concept of actuality. Going back to Lewis´ principle of indexicality, it is clear the actual world is one of the many possible worlds. Henceforth, the name ‘actual’ necessitates the name ‘now’ to be actual, a minimal point in space and time where to slice open the multiplicity of worlds; and this spins us off to a new dizzying set of problems. Actuality, as the minimal given, the key to open all possible universes is hugely problematic in itself.” (Sanín-Restrepo 2020)

Now we can understand the full power of the paradox. If there is an infinity of parallel worlds then it is absolutely necessary that there is a world where parallel worlds are impossible, hence the infinity of parallel worlds is limited and thus finite.

Let us move a bit further. Actuality means the need of one universe where we could open up and connect into the others. To that extent we would need a mark, a “now”, an Aristotelean “nun”, as the minimal opening for the construction and nomination of time-space. As we described in another text, the nun is “a non-temporal particle that affords time existence so that change can hold its substance. The nun is a construction of a name, a graph, as a numbering name that once said is devoured back into the current of time” (Sanín-Restrepo 2018, 194). Ultimately the fundamental Aristotelean name is “nun”, it is the nonbeing of time where time is made possible for beingness, the name that opens up the possibility of being in time. But here, the paradox is at its thickest. If everything is halted in the necessity of “this” universe as the measure that defines all the others, then there is a stabilization process that names “what is the case”.

Thus, we could not regard the opening of multiplicity as a “superposition that must be regarded as simultaneously existing”, as Everett´s concluded above. Again, in actuality, everything is detained, held at a stop in the necessity of the world that measures and compares the others. This would suppose the need of one actual world to create all others. This is nothing but subjugation, and at least ideally, would hinder the very possibility of the “alternate” and the “parallel” as uniquely different. There is a stabilization process that names “what is the case”, a conduit that ordains the universes under the guise of one of them. Among the infinite possible worlds, there is one that serves as a kind of milieu for all the other worlds

We are asking a very specific question, what is the time unit needed for (to name) the split? Or is time senseless? As the multiverse is not only spatial but temporal when we connect into other worlds at what time or ordering of time (nun) do we do so? At what expressive form of “now” is every possible universe split? What is its value? What is the name? Or are these questions a form to pull the problem back to the Cartesian mind? But let us think simply, without invoking the mind problem, that if there is no time unit of bifurcation then all universes are piled up in space and are undiscernible. To think the latter, we can undo the Cartesian mind. “It is not a simple matter of knowledge but of Kripkean stipulation. To think a multiverse there are infinite times and spaces, nonetheless, to inhabit one and differentiate it from another we need an opening, a link to connect them, but this “nun” is never neutral, it is always… yes! also a matter of power.” (Sanín-Restrepo 2020)

To the question of what is a now, what is a fact logically follows. What is (the) instant? We must think of the time it takes for a fact to be formed (distinctive fact), but then the problem is to settle what a distinctive fact means or represents, or how it can be named. Are we inside the total dependence of the fact to the relation and the latter as our capacity to displace time from itself? Can we only perceive the words “difference” “multiplicity” as they leave our actuality but not their probable outcome in another world? “Another world” becomes through the exercise of “this” difference and to what it is that is blocked there by a form of identity that we must recognize as coming forth from our world.

However, the paradox meets a melting point. Accordingly, at every quantic event the universe is divided into two parallel opposed universes (or worlds). Whatever happens in one, the exact contrary happens in the other. What is troublesome is the idea of the “contrary” when enouncing the possibility of endless parallel universes. Does not “contrary” mean one? Does it mean we know then what the state of affairs are at any given moment in any given space-time, so we declare (prove) that the contrary has happened? “Contrary” necessarily supposes a system of equivalence with a hard identity as its origin (Sanín-Restrepo 2020). What is utterly problematic is that the idea of contraries is anchored in binarity, and not any kind of binarity, but one that begs the necessity to decide between normality and exception, between positives and negatives. As if these terms could be given from one single states of affairs that holds within it every form of identity. If the latter is true, then we would be in the need, every time we break into a new universe, to depart from eminent, transcendent models, to have them as a kind of launching pad, and therefore immanence would be logically cut off and finality (telos) would sit comfortably as the only possibility. To be sure, when there is a telos, a finality that we cannot set off immanently, we are before the most nefarious form of transcendence. Exactly! power as potestas.

It must be clear that we are “poetizing” MWI as we know that the jump to an alternate world in quantum mechanics is performed from a stable and fully determinable state. Hence the point of departure is objective to the extent that it is determined within a stream of space/time.

Nevertheless, from poetics (for example critical theory) we cannot know the state from which we begin, this state must be stipulated if we are to talk of immanence and power as constitutively different. As we have maintained “Ultimately, critical theory cannot reproduce the instances of the given. It cannot be a mere bizarre copy of the determinable states of normality, of what it is putting on the ledge of criticism.” (Sanín-Restrepo 2020). If it is true that potestas must be confronted in its own terms of production of what we live as real, it is also equally true that it cannot be duplicated when we slice it through critique. Potestas is the contradiction of existence. That which cannot exist outside itself, that which is not even different in itself. Insofar, democracy, as the infinite extension of intense difference, is necessary in all possible worlds.


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Foucault, Michel. 1978. The History of Sexuality Volume I: An Introduction. New York: Pantheon Books.

Kripke, Saul. 1980. Naming and necessity. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press

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Sanín-Restrepo, Ricardo (Ed.). 2018. Decrypting Power. London: Rowman & Littlefield International.

Sanín-Restrepo, Ricardo. 2020. Being and Contingency: Decrypting Heidegger´s Terminology. London: Rowman & Littlefield International.

Ricardo Sanín-Restrepo is Professor of legal theory at Pontificia Universidad Javeriana (Bogotá, Colombia).


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