Review of John Leslie, Infinite Minds, Oxford, Oxford University Press, 2001, 234 pages.1
University of Corsica
Post-publication of the review appeared in Philosophiques, Volume 30, number 2, Autumn 2003
Infinite Minds is the fourth book of John Leslie, which follows Value and Existence (1979), Universes (1989) and The End of the World (1996). Infinite Minds presents a very rich content, and covers a number of particularly varied subjects. Among these latter, one can notably mention: omniscience, the problem of Evil, the fine-tuning argument, observational selection effects, the identity of indiscernables, time, infiniteness, the nature of consciousness.
The book places itself clearly within the field of speculative philosophy. And Leslie is primarily concerned here with considerations not of rigorous demonstration, but rather of plausibility and of coherence. He thus does not hesitate sometimes to attribute a rather weak probability to certain assertions.
Some readers may be rebutted from the beginning by the counter-intuitive assertion that galaxies, planets, animals, but also each of us and our surrounding objects, are mere structures among divine thoughts. One can think that such an assertion has motivated the commentary placed on the book’s cover by a reader from Oxford University Press, according to which it may be difficult to believe that the universe is such that the author describes it. This was also my primary reaction. But if certain readers were to draw from that a hasty conclusion, they would miss then, I think, what constitutes the hidden treasure of the book. Because Infinite Minds resembles a sumptuous temple, whose access however is dissimulated by a gate which looks poorly attractive. Those who will not cross the door, rebutted by the aspect of this latter, will not have the occasion to contemplate the hidden treasures that the book contains. Because the book presents an overall deep structure and coherence, based on the consistency of the author’s pantheist conception of the universe with our current most advanced scientific views with regard to cosmology, physics, as well as with the solutions to several contemporary philosophical problems. To show synthetically how a pantheist vision of the world can cohere with our most recent views with regard to multiple universes, physics and quantum computer science, inasmuch as with relativity theory and recent discussions relating to omniscience, the problem of Evil, the fine-tuning argument, observational selection effects, etc. appears both an immense and deeply original task.