Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Tuesday February 24, 2009

Filed under: General,Geometry — Tags: — m759 @ 1:00 PM
Hollywood Nihilism
Pantheistic Solipsism

Tina Fey to Steve Martin
at the Oscars:
"Oh, Steve, no one wants
 to hear about our religion
… that we made up."

Tina Fey and Steve Martin at the 2009 Oscars

From Wallace Stevens: A World of Transforming Shapes, by Alan D. Perlis, Bucknell University Press, 1976, p. 117:

… in 'The Pediment of Appearance,' a slight narrative poem in Transport to Summer

 A group of young men enter some woods 'Hunting for the great ornament, The pediment of appearance.' Though moving through the natural world, the young men seek the artificial, or pure form, believing that in discovering this pediment, this distillation of the real, they will also discover the 'savage transparence,' the rude source of human life. In Stevens's world, such a search is futile, since it is only through observing nature that one reaches beyond it to pure form. As if to demonstrate the degree to which the young men's search is misaligned, Stevens says of them that 'they go crying/The world is myself, life is myself,' believing that what surrounds them is immaterial. Such a proclamation is a cardinal violation of Stevens's principles of the imagination.

Superficially the young men's philosophy seems to resemble what Wikipedia calls "pantheistic solipsism"– noting, however, that "This article has multiple issues."

As, indeed, does pantheistic solipsism– a philosophy (properly called "eschatological pantheistic multiple-ego solipsism") devised, with tongue in cheek, by science-fiction writer Robert A. Heinlein.

Despite their preoccupation with solipsism, Heinlein and Stevens point, each in his own poetic way, to a highly non-solipsistic topic from pure mathematics that is, unlike the religion of Martin and Fey, not made up– namely, the properties of space.


"Sharpie, we have condensed six dimensions into four, then we either work by analogy into six, or we have to use math that apparently nobody but Jake and my cousin Ed understands. Unless you can think of some way to project six dimensions into three– you seem to be smart at such projections."
    I closed my eyes and thought hard. "Zebbie, I don't think it can be done. Maybe Escher could have done it."


A discussion of Stevens's late poem "The Rock" (1954) in Wallace Stevens: A World of Transforming Shapes, by Alan D. Perlis, Bucknell University Press, 1976, p. 120:

For Stevens, the poem "makes meanings of the rock." In the mind, "its barrenness becomes a thousand things/And so exists no more." In fact, in a peculiar irony that only a poet with Stevens's particular notion of the imagination's function could develop, the rock becomes the mind itself, shattered into such diamond-faceted brilliance that it encompasses all possibilities for human thought:

The rock is the gray particular of man's life,
The stone from which he rises, up—and—ho,
The step to the bleaker depths of his descents ...

The rock is the stern particular of the air,
The mirror of the planets, one by one,
But through man's eye, their silent rhapsodist,

Turquoise the rock, at odious evening bright
With redness that sticks fast to evil dreams;
The difficult rightness of half-risen day.

The rock is the habitation of the whole,
Its strength and measure, that which is near,
     point A
In a perspective that begins again

At B: the origin of the mango's rind.

                    (Collected Poems, 528)

Stevens's rock is associated with empty space, a concept that suggests "nothingness" to one literary critic:

B. J. Leggett, "Stevens's Late Poetry" in The Cambridge Companion to Wallace Stevens— On the poem "The Rock":

"… the barren rock of the title is Stevens's symbol for the nothingness that underlies all existence, 'That in which space itself is contained'….  Its subject is its speaker's sense of nothingness and his need to be cured of it."

This interpretation might appeal to Joan Didion, who, as author of the classic novel Play It As It Lays, is perhaps the world's leading expert on Hollywood nihilism.

More positively…

Space is, of course, also a topic
in pure mathematics…
For instance, the 6-dimensional
affine space
(or the corresponding
5-dimensional projective space)

The 4x4x4 cube

over the two-element Galois field
can be viewed as an illustration of
Stevens's metaphor in "The Rock."

Heinlein should perhaps have had in mind the Klein correspondence when he discussed "some way to project six dimensions into three." While such a projection is of course trivial for anyone who has taken an undergraduate course in linear algebra, the following remarks by Philippe Cara present a much more meaningful mapping, using the Klein correspondence, of structures in six (affine) dimensions to structures in three.


Philippe Cara on the Klein correspondence
Here the 6-dimensional affine
space contains the 63 points
of PG(5, 2), plus the origin, and
the 3-dimensional affine
space contains as its 8 points
Conwell's eight "heptads," as in
Generating the Octad Generator.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

… Are Gods

Filed under: General — m759 @ 11:59 PM

Robert A. Heinlein—

    "How about those empty universes?" I demanded.
    "Maybe they are places about which stories will be written
or maybe stories have already been told but aren't favorites
of us four, so we don't emerge close to their scenes.
But those are guesses. So far as my theory is concerned,
such Universes are 'null' — they don't count one way or the other.
We find our  universes."
    "Sharpie, you have just invented pantheistic multiperson solipsism.
I didn't think it was mathematically possible."
    "Zeb, anything  is mathematically possible."
    "Thanks, Jacob. Zebbie, 'solipsism' is a buzz word. I'm saying that
we've stumbled onto 'The Door in the Wall,' the one that leads to
the Land of Heart's Desire. I don't know how and have no use for
fancy rationalizations. I see a pattern; I'm not trying to explain it.
It just is ."

Ernest Hemingway—

"Isn't it pretty to think so?"

Tuesday, May 27, 2003

Tuesday May 27, 2003

Filed under: General,Geometry — Tags: — m759 @ 5:01 AM

Mental Health Month, Day 27:

Conspiracy Theory and
Solomon's Seal

In our journey through Mental Health Month, we have now arrived at day 27. This number, the number of lines on a non-singular cubic surface in complex projective 3-space, suggests it may be time to recall the following note (a sort of syllabus for an imaginary course) from August 1997, the month that the Mel Gibson film "Conspiracy Theory" was released.

Conspiracy Theory 101
August 13, 1997


(A) Masks of the Illuminati, by Robert Anton Wilson, Pocket Books, New York, 1981.  Freemasonry meets The Force (starring James Joyce and Albert Einstein).
(B) The Number of the Beast, by Robert A. Heinlein, Ballantine Books, New York, 1980.  "Pantheistic multiple solipsism" and transformation groups in n-dimensional space combine to yield "the ultimate total philosophy." (p. 438). 
(C) The Essential Blake, edited by Stanley Kunitz, MJF Books, New York, 1987.  "Fearful symmetry" in context.


(1) The Cosmic Trigger, by Robert Anton Wilson, Falcon Press, Phoenix, 1986 (first published 1977).  Page 245 reveals that "the most comprehensive conspiracy theory," that of the physicist Sir Arthur Eddington, is remarkably similar to Heinlein's theory in (B) above.
(2) The Development of Mathematics, by E. T. Bell, 2nd. ed., McGraw-Hill, New York, 1945.  See the discussion of "Solomon's seal," a geometric configuration in complex projective 3-space.  This is as good a candidate as any for Wilson's "Holy Guardian Angel" in (A) above.
(3) Finite Projective Spaces of Three Dimensions, by J. W. P. Hirschfeld, Clarendon Press, Oxford, 1985.  Chapter 20 shows how to represent Solomon's seal in the 63-point 5-dimensional projective space over the 2-element field.  (The corresponding 6-dimensional affine space, with 64 points, is reminiscent of Heinlein's 6-dimensional space.)

See also China's 3,000-year-old "Book of Transformations," the I Ching, for more philosophy and lore of the affine 6-dimensional space over the binary field.

© 1997 S. H. Cullinane 

For a more up-to-date and detailed look at the mathematics mentioned above, see

Abstract Configurations
in Algebraic Geometry

by Igor Dolgachev.

"Art isn't easy." — Stephen Sondheim

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