Author Archives: David Pierce

Mathematician & logician; amateur of philosophy; having journalists in family; alumnus of St John’s College (USA); living in Ankara & Istanbul since 2000

War and Talk

This is a foray into the mystery of how things happen, based the 164th of the 361 chapters of War and Peace. This chapter contains, in a one-sentence paragraph, a summary of Tolstoy’s theory of history:

Each man lives for himself, using his freedom to attain his personal aims, and feels with his whole being that he can now do or abstain from doing this or that action; but as soon as he has done it, that action performed at a certain moment in time becomes irrevocable and belongs to history, in which it has not a free but a predestined significance.

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On Chapman’s Homer’s Iliad, Book III

Index | Text

The Iliad is about the feud between Achilles and Agamemnon, a feud that occurs during the Trojan War. Book III of the Iliad has nothing to do with Achilles, a little to do with Agamemnon, and everything to do with why the whole war is happening at all.

Photo of the tower of books used for this article

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The Private, Unskilled One

I went into Istanbul’s Pandora Bookshop a month ago, looking for an English translation of War and Peace, since the Garnett translation I had read at college was falling apart. I was told the Oxford World’s Classics edition (with the Maude translation) was coming the next week, and it did come.

Elif Batuman, The Idiot, in Nesin Matematik Köyü, Kayser Dağı Mevkii, Şirince, Selçuk, İzmir, Turkey, 2017.05.18

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Edirne

This is about a May Day trip to the second Ottoman capital from the third. In the latter, the government has been suppressing May Day demonstrations in Taksim Square since 2013. That year, the suppression may have helped provoke the Gezi Park protests, as I suggested in “May Day One Month Late.” I reported on the following year’s suppression in “Madness, Stupidity, or Evil?” This year (2017), labor unions held a legal May Day demonstration in Bakırköy, further west in European Istanbul, as reported by the Anadolu Agency (which as far as I know is owned by the Turkish state). My wife and I just got out of town.

Selimiye Mosque, 2017.04.30

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On Chapman’s Homer’s Iliad, Book II

Index | Text

Even gods must sleep; but under the weight of his responsibility to Thetis, Zeus cannot. As Achilles pointed out in Book I, “dreams are often sent from Jove”; now we shall have a case in point.

All ways cast, this counsel serv’d his mind
With most allowance; to despatch a harmful Dream to greet
The king of men, and gave this charge: ‘Go to the Achive fleet,
Pernicious Dream…’
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Thinking in the age of cyborgs

I am reblogging this article because I like it, and because it may help amplify or refine (or correct?) some ideas I tried to express in “The point of teaching mathematics.” Mathematics should teach both the possibility of peaceful cooperation and the power of our own thought.

Junaid Mubeen, PhD

We have our clearest indication yet that the cyborgs are coming.Elon Musk has formally accepted his invitation to the AI party the only way he knows how: by founding a company. Neuralink will create brain-enhancing digital implants; the first step on the road to merging humans with software. Musk has taken on the mantel of preserving the human race, and he believes the only way to counter the threat of AI’s rapid ascent is by meshing together biological and digital forms of intelligence.

To date, cyborgs have been the preserve of Sci-Fi. But Musk has form for bringing outlandish fantasies to bear. In fact, to Musk the cyborg is no fantasy at all. He recently argued that humans have already merged with technology. Musk is not the first to make the point: over half a century has passed since Marshall McLuhan declared technology “the extensions of man”

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36th Istanbul Film Festival, 2017

This is about seeing six films in the Istanbul Film Festival, which began this year (2017) on Wednesday, April 5.

Kazimer Malevich, Suprematist Composition: White on White, 1918 (MoMA)

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On Chapman’s Homer’s Iliad, Book I

This is the first of a planned series of articles on the 24 books of Homer’s Iliad. Before turning to the first book, I take up the provocative article of fellow mathematician Cathy O’Neil, “What If We Could Upload Books to Our Brains?” (Bloomberg View, April 13, 2017). It turns out that I first met O’Neil’s doctoral advisor Barry Mazur when he came to St John’s College in Annapolis in my freshman year, 1983–4, to talk about Faltings’ Theorem.

Index to this series | Text of Book I of Chapman’s Homer’s Iliad Continue reading

Homer for the Civilian

The source of this essay is an essay and an ensuing conversation in 2009, on the theme of what Homer may mean in one’s life, and whether an application to one’s life involves an abuse of the original text. I wrote in July 2016 on analogies in Homer and elsewhere in “Thinking & Feeling”; my last post here considered an apparent instance of abuse of the Hebrew Bible.

At the end of the Iliad, to retrieve the body of his son Hector from Hector’s killer, King Priam of Troy visits Achilles in his tent in the evening, in the camp of the hostile Greeks. The scene may recall two political enemies from the 1980s, President Ronald Reagan and Congressman Thomas O’Neill, Speaker of the House: these two were able to be on friendly terms “after 6 PM.”

Homer, Iliad,  Wordworth edition

Aleksandr Andreevich Ivanov, “King Priam begging Achilles for the Return of Hector’s Body,“ 1824 (Tretyakov Gallery, Moscow)


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The Hands of an Angry Deity

I first drafted the following essay in late October, 2011, a few days after the first of the earthquakes in Van, and a few weeks after moving to Istanbul from Ankara. I rediscovered the essay recently by chance. It seems worth revisiting, given the political upheaval in the United States last fall, and the potential for more around the world.

Above Mehmetçik Caddesi in Şişli, one of the most densely populated of Istanbul’s 39 boroughs; 2017.04.02

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