Worlds Without Limit: Borges’s Library and the Contours of the Universe

Conference: The European Conference on Arts & Humanities (ECAH2022)
Title: Worlds Without Limit: Borges’s Library and the Contours of the Universe
Stream: Literature/Literary Studies
Presentation Type: Oral Presentation
Alfonso J. García-Osuna, Hofstra University & The City University of New York, Kingsborough, United States


This paper analyzes how Jorge Luis Borges, in his Library of Babel (1941), constructs a symbolic, fictional algorithm (a set of rules to be followed in calculations) to explain the universe. The story becomes a study in futility, as the algorithm is made of letters and punctuation marks, meaning-producing tools that are incongruously applied to a meaningless universe (the library). Because the universe/library is infinite, the algorithm ends up interpreting chance combinations of letters as purposeful structure. Consequently, a critical review of scientific literature has been undertaken, mapping the Scopus and WoS databases, and defining, through a literature review, how scientific hypotheses have influenced Borges. The main objective is to demonstrate that Borges methodizes his algorithm by bringing together current scientific concepts subsequently defined by Hugh Everett in his "relative state formulation" ("Schrödinger's cat"), which states that all possible outcomes of quantum measurements are physically realized in some of the infinite number of universes (1957), in Nick Bostrom’s (2002) anthropic bias principle, which proposes the perceived "design" of the universe as product of the shortcomings of human analyses, and in Jürgen Schmidhuber’s (2002) anthropic principle, which affirms that "the conditional probability of finding yourself in a universe compatible with your existence is always 1". The main conclusion of this study highlights how Borges’s library, in line with aforesaid hypotheses, functions as a symbolic algorithm that depends on anthropocentric cognition to explain a random environment (the universe) that is devoid of intentionality. Its pointless end result reflects preferentiality and anthropic bias.

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