cover image How to Be Multiple: The Philosophy of Twins

How to Be Multiple: The Philosophy of Twins

Helena de Bres. Bloomsbury, $28.99 (272p) ISBN 978-1-63973-034-6

De Bres (Artful Truths), a philosophy professor at Wellesley College, explores in these stunning essays how “our intense reaction to twins... illuminates wider questions about what it means to be human.” In “Which One Are You?” de Bres contends that the tendency to sort twins into archetypal opposites—for example, the sun god Apollo and moon god Artemis of Greek mythology, or moral versus immoral twin story lines in literature, TV, and such movies as 1946’s A Stolen Life—is a subconscious attempt to manage anxieties about the “capacity to stably identify anyone,” which underlies all social interaction. “Twins in Wonderland” probes the social boundaries that “freaks” like twins violate, arguing that “we’re each only a car accident, a medical diagnosis, a same-sex crush... away from social failure,” while “Are You Two in Love?” explores how relationships that aren’t heterosexual and romantic are frequently coded as immature by Western society. In fluid prose, de Bres gracefully clarifies philosophical notions for the lay reader, and her own observations as an identical twin invigorate the book’s emotional center (“I am partly my body, I accept that now. But I’m also part of... a being whose boundaries stretch well beyond my skin, sometimes to the farthest reaches of the planet”) while leaving room for the many unsolved mysteries of identity, kinship, and closeness. This will challenge the way readers see the world. (Nov.)