Monthly Archives: November 2012

On reading too much into words

First let it be noted that nothing I say here will have any effect on hostilities in the so-called Holy Land or anywhere else. I have no need here to take any particular line; no reader should assume that I do or do not elsewhere follow any particular line.

I do wish to promote clear thought. I should like to think that my friends and colleagues have a similar wish, especially when they are academics like me.  Of course, what counts as clear thought may vary. I am a mathematician, professionally; I work in the mathematics department of a university. Certain modes of thought are therefore habitual with me; they may not be habitual in other departments, not to mention other walks of life. I may adopt my modes of thought at the expense of others.

I feel compelled to say such things, having been shocked to find that what I say here may be at all controversial. Continue reading

Science and anti-science

I published most of the following as a Note on Facebook, Wednesday, October 3, 2010.

Is there an ongoing or perhaps an increasing antipathy to science, and if so, are scientists to blame? The passage below treats this question, but was written 75 years ago, in December, 1935. The author could remember the war of 1914–1918, a war that he described in his Autobiography as “an unprecedented disgrace to the human intellect”, but “an unprecedented triumph for natural science.” Continue reading

Michael Psellus on learning

(As I have time, I shall move to this medium some notes I once wrote on Facebook. I wrote the following on October 11, 2010.)

The value of learning was in question, even a thousand years ago in what was to become Istanbul. Short attention spans were noted too. Here is a passage from an engaging book, Fourteen Byzantine Emperors, by Michael Psellus (London: Penguin, 1966). Michael was born in 1018; the emperor Basil II died in 1025. Continue reading