Helena de Bres at Harvard Book Store


How to Be Multiple:
The Philosophy of Twins

in conversation with CAROL HAY


November 6, 2023
7:00 PM ET


Harvard Book Store
1256 Massachusetts Ave., Cambridge, MA 02138


This event is free; no tickets are required.

Harvard Book Store welcomes HELENA DE BRES—associate professor of philosophy at Wellesley College and author of Artful Truths: The Philosophy of Memoir—for a discussion of her new book How to Be Multiple: The Philosophy of Twins. She will be joined in conversation by Professor in the Department of Philosophy at the University of Massachusetts Lowell, CAROL HAY.

About How to Be Multiple

Wait, are you you or the other one? Which is the evil twin? Have you ever switched partners? Can you read each other’s mind? Twins get asked the weirdest questions by strangers, loved ones, even themselves. For Helena de Bres, a twin and philosophy professor, these questions are closely tied to some of philosophy’s most unnerving unknowns. What makes someone themself rather than someone else? Can one person be housed in two bodies? What does perfect love look like? Can we really act freely? At what point does wonder morph into objectification?

Accompanied by her twin Julia’s drawings, Helena uses twinhood to rethink the limits of personhood, consciousness, love, freedom, and justice. With her inimitably candid, wry voice, she explores the long tradition of twin representations in art, myth, and popular culture; twins’ peculiar social standing; and what it’s really like to be one of two. With insight, hope, and humor, she argues that our reactions to twins reveal our broader desires and fears about selfhood, fate, and human connection, and that reflecting on twinhood can help each of us—twins and singletons alike—recognize our own multiplicity, and approach life with greater curiosity, imagination, and courage.

Praise for How to Be Multiple

"Lucid, curious, and deeply felt, How to Be Multiple is a work of philosophy, an autobiography of twindom, and a captivating exploration of selfhood. Most of us are not twins, but we all know duality, and de Bres uses her exceptional condition as a lens to examine what makes us distinct and what we all share. What a fun, gorgeous book." —Melissa Febos, National Book Critics Circle Award-winning author of Girlhood

“Helena de Bres has written a brilliant, surprising, and philosophically complex exploration of what it means to be a twin, but more than that—she’s written a book that has transformed my understanding of what it means to be both one-of-a-kind and intimately connected to another human being. Profoundly illuminating, insightful, funny, and moving—How to Be Multiple is a must-read.” —Chloé Cooper Jones, author of Easy Beauty

"What is it like to be an identical twin? To know someone with such uncanny intimacy? To see another possible life with your genes played out? De Bres raises so many thrillingly mind-bending existential questions that she convinces you that twinship is a crucial key to understanding how we love and who we are." —Larissa MacFarquhar, author of Strangers Drowning: Impossible Idealism, Drastic Choices, and the Urge to Help

Mask Policy

Masks are encouraged but not required for this event.

Carol Hay
Carol Hay

Carol Hay

Carol Hay is a Professor in the Department of Philosophy at the University of Massachusetts Lowell and author of the award-winning Kantianism, Liberalism, and Feminism: Resisting Oppression and Think Like a Feminist: The Philosophy Behind the Revolution. She’s written for the New York Times, the Boston Globe, and Aeon magazine. She divides her time between Boston and San Francisco.

Photo Credit: Jill Goldman

Helena de Bres
Helena de Bres

Helena de Bres

Helena de Bres is an associate professor of philosophy at Wellesley College, where she researches and teaches ethics, philosophy of literature, and political theory. Her essays and humor writing have appeared in The Point, the New York Times, the Los Angeles Review of Books, McSweeney’s Internet Tendency, and elsewhere. Her book Artful Truths: The Philosophy of Memoir was published by the University of Chicago Press in 2021. She lives in Somerville, Massachusetts.

Photo credit: Ebony Lamb Photographer

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