Thursday, September 15, 2016

Metaphysics in Brooklyn

Filed under: General — Tags: — m759 @ 11:45 PM

"Every Story Has a Deadline"

— Cover of a novel, Graveland

Cover:  Night at the Brooklyn Bridge

"Francesco Joseph Barbaro was born in Brooklyn
on Dec. 18, 1927. His father was an Italian immigrant
fisherman who became a master butcher. His mother
was from Sicily. They lived in what became known as
Carroll Gardens, then fell on hard times and moved
to Red Hook and then to Bensonhurst. . . . ."

Obituary in yesterday's online New York Times
   by Sam Roberts

Metaphysics at Notre Dame

Filed under: General,Geometry — Tags: , , — m759 @ 11:07 PM

Recommended reading —

"When Analogies Fail," by Alexander Stern,
a doctoral candidate in philosophy at Notre Dame, in
The Chronicle of Higher Education  online September 11, 2016.

Related material —

That same Alexander Stern in this  journal on April 17, 2016:

See also the eightfold cube in the previous post,
Metaphysics at Scientific American:

Metaphysics at Scientific American

Filed under: General,Geometry — Tags: — m759 @ 9:36 PM

In 2011 Scientific American  magazine ran
the following promotional piece for one of their articles —

"Why 5, 8 and 24 Are the Strangest Numbers 
in the Universe
," by Michael Moyer, "the editor
in charge of physics and space coverage."

This is notably bad metaphysics. Numbers are, of course,
not  "in  the universe" — the universe, that is, of physics.

A passage from G. H. Hardy's Mathematician's Apology 
is relevant:

The contrast between pure and applied mathematics
stands out most clearly, perhaps, in geometry.
There is the science of pure geometry, in which there
are many geometries, projective geometry, Euclidean
geometry, non-Euclidean geometry, and so forth. Each
of these geometries is a model , a pattern of ideas, and
is to be judged by the interest and beauty of its particular
pattern. It is a map  or picture , the joint product of many
hands, a partial and imperfect copy (yet exact so far as
it extends) of a section of mathematical reality. But the
point which is important to us now is this, that there is
one thing at any rate of which pure geometries are not
pictures, and that is the spatio-temporal reality of the
physical world. It is obvious, surely, that they cannot be,
since earthquakes and eclipses are not mathematical

By an abuse of language such as Burkard Polster's
quoted in the previous post, numbers may be said to be
in  the various "universes" of pure mathematics.

The Scientific American  article above is dated May 4, 2011.
See also Thomas Mann on metaphysics in this  journal
on that date.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Unity and Multiplicity

Filed under: General — Tags: — m759 @ 9:00 AM

Continued from Crimson Walpurgisnacht.

EpigraphsTwo quotations from  
Shakespeare's Birthday last year

Rebecca Goldstein
   on first encountering Plato

"I was reading Durant's section on Plato, struggling to understand his theory of the ideal Forms that lay in inviolable perfection out beyond the phantasmagoria. (That was the first, and I think the last, time that I encountered that word.)"

Screenwriter Joan Didion

"We tell ourselves stories in order to live….

We interpret what we see, select the most workable of multiple choices. We live entirely, especially if we are writers, by the imposition of a narrative line upon disparate images, by the 'ideas' with which we have learned to freeze the shifting phantasmagoria which is our actual experience."

From Thomas Mann, "Schopenhauer," 1938, in Essays of Three Decades , translated by H. T. Lowe-Porter, Alfred A. Knopf, 1947, pp. 372-410—

Page 372: THE PLEASURE we take in a metaphysical system, the gratification purveyed by the intellectual organization of the world into a closely reasoned, complete, and balanced structure of thought, is always of a pre-eminently aesthetic kind. It flows from the same source as the joy, the high and ever happy satisfaction we get from art, with its power to shape and order its material, to sort out life's manifold confusions so as to give us a clear and general view.

Truth and beauty must always be referred the one to the other. Each by itself, without the support given by the other, remains a very fluctuating value. Beauty that has not truth on its side and cannot have reference to it, does not live in it and through it, would be an empty chimera— and "What is truth?"


Page 376: … the life of Plato was a very great event in the history of the human spirit; and first of all it was a scientific and a moral event. Everyone feels that something profoundly moral attaches to this elevation of the ideal as the only actual, above the ephemeralness and multiplicity of the phenomenal, this devaluation  of the senses to the advantage of the spirit, of the temporal to the advantage of the eternal— quite in the spirit of the Christianity that came after it. For in a way the transitory phenomenon, and the sensual attaching to it, are put thereby into a state of sin: he alone finds truth and salvation who turns his face to the eternal. From this point of view Plato's philosophy exhibits the connection between science and ascetic morality.

But it exhibits another relationship: that with the world of art. According to such a philosophy time itself is merely the partial and piecemeal view which an individual holds of ideas— the latter, being outside time, are thus eternal. "Time"— so runs a beautiful phrase of Plato— "is the moving image of eternity." And so this pre-Christian, already Christian doctrine, with all its ascetic wisdom, possesses on the other hand extraordinary charm of a sensuous and creative kind; for a conception of the world as a colourful and moving phantasmagoria of pictures, which are transparencies for the ideal and the spiritual, eminently savours of the world of art, and through it the artist, as it were, first comes into his own.

From last night's online NY Times  obituaries index—


"How much story do you want?" — George Balanchine

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