Worlds Upon Worlds, According to George Eliot

Coincidentally, after writing this morning about the great philosopher David Lewis’s strange position concerning possible worlds, I read the following in George Eliot’s novel Daniel Deronda:

“Suppose he had introduced himself as one of the strictest reasoners. Do they form a body of men hitherto free from false conclusions and illusory speculations? The driest argument has its hallucinations, too hastily concluding that its net will now at last be large enough to hold the universe. Men may dream in demonstrations, and cut out an illusory world in the shape of axioms, definitions and propositions, with a final exclusion of fact signed Q.E.D. No formulas for thinking will save us mortals from mistake in our imperfect apprehension of the matter to be thought about….the unemotional intellect may carry us into a mathematical dreamland where nothing is but what is not….”

Eliot (born Mary Anne Evans) was no mean philosopher herself. And she could certainly turn a phrase.

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