Saturday, June 18, 2016


Filed under: Uncategorized — m759 @ 10:00 PM

From a poet discussed in Plato's Meno  —

Click the above image for an animated version of Feb. 12, 2008.

See also this journal on Feb. 12, 2008.

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Plato’s Ghosts

Filed under: Uncategorized — m759 @ 6:00 PM

The previous post, “Ennead Boo,” refers indirectly to
a passage from Pindar in Plato’s Meno :

See also posts from nine years ago
on the death of director Robert Wise.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Realism in Plato’s Cave

Filed under: Uncategorized — m759 @ 8:08 PM

In memory of the late combinatorialist-philosopher Gian-Carlo Rota

Excerpts from the introduction to Allan Casebier's

Film and Phenomenology: Towards a Realist Theory of Cinematic Representation
(Cambridge Studies in Film, Cambridge University Press, 1991) —

Pages 1-2,  pages 3-4,  pages 5-6.

Cover illustration: Durer's 'Knight, Death, and the Devil'

Cover illustration: Knight, Death, and the Devil, by Albrecht Dürer

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Plato’s Code

Filed under: Uncategorized — m759 @ 12:00 PM

John Allen Paulos yesterday at Twitter

"Plato's code cracked? http://bit.ly/ad6k1S
Fascinating if not a hoax or hype."

The story that Paulos linked to is about a British
academic who claims to have found some
symbolism hidden in Plato's writings by
splitting each into 12 parts and correlating
the 12 parts with semitones of a musical scale.

I prefer a different approach to Plato that is
related to the following hoax and hype—


From Dan Brown's novel Angels & Demons  (2000)

IMAGE- Illuminati Diamond, pp. 359-360 in 'Angels & Demons,' Simon & Schuster Pocket Books 2005, 448 pages, ISBN 0743412397


Image-- From 'Alchemy,' by Holmyard, the diamond of Aristotle's 4 elements and 4 qualities

This  four-elements diamond summarizes the classical
four elements and four qualities neatly, but some scholars
might call the figure "hype" since it deals with an academically
disreputable subject, alchemy, and since its origin is unclear.

For the four elements' role in some literature more respectable
than Dan Brown's, see Poetry's Bones.

Although an author like Brown might spin the remarks
below into a narrative—  The Plato Code — they are
neither  hoax nor hype.


Image-- From the Diamond in Plato's Meno to Modern Finite Geometry



For related non-hoax, non-hype remarks, see
The Rational Enterprise: Logos in Plato's Theaetetus,
by Rosemary Desjardins.

Those who prefer  hoax and hype in their philosophy may consult
the writings of, say, Barbara Johnson, Rosalind Krauss, and—
in yesterday's NY Times's  "The Stone" columnNancy Bauer.

Image-- The Philosophers' Stone according to The New York Times

— The New York Times

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Plato’s Logos

Filed under: Uncategorized — m759 @ 9:00 AM

“The present study is closely connected with a lecture* given by Prof. Ernst Cassirer at the Warburg Library whose subject was ‘The Idea of the Beautiful in Plato’s Dialogues’…. My investigation traces the historical destiny of the same concept….”

* See Cassirer’s Eidos und Eidolon : Das Problem des Schönen und der Kunst in Platons Dialogen, in Vorträge der Bibliothek Warburg II, 1922/23 (pp. 1–27). Berlin and Leipzig, B.G. Teubner, 1924.

— Erwin Panofsky, Idea: A Concept in Art Theory, foreword to the first German edition, Hamburg, March 1924

On a figure from Plato’s Meno

IMAGE- Plato's diamond and finite geometry

The above figures illustrate Husserl’s phrase  “eidetic variation”
a phrase based on Plato’s use of eidos, a word
closely related to the word “idea” in Panofsky’s title.

For remarks by Cassirer on the theory of groups, a part of
mathematics underlying the above diamond variations, see
his “The Concept of Group and the Theory of Perception.”

Sketch of some further remarks—


The Waterfield question in the sketch above
is from his edition of Plato’s Theaetetus
(Penguin Classics, 1987).

The “design theory” referred to in the sketch
is that of graphic  design, which includes the design
of commercial logos. The Greek  word logos
has more to do with mathematics and theology.

“If there is one thread of warning that runs
through this dialogue, from beginning to end,
it is that verbal formulations as such are
shot through with ambiguity.”

— Rosemary Desjardins, The Rational Enterprise:
Logos in Plato’s Theaetetus
, SUNY Press, 1990

Related material—

(Click to enlarge.)


Monday, May 14, 2018

Logos at Harvard

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , — m759 @ 3:01 PM

In 2013, Harvard University Press changed its logo to an abstract "H."

Harvard University Press Logo, Before and After

Both logos now accompany a Harvard video first published in 2012,
"The World of Mathematical Reality." 

In the video, author Paul Lockhart discusses Varignon's theorem
without naming Varignon (1654-1722) . . .

Paul Lockhart on geometry

A related view of "mathematical reality" —

Note the resemblance to Plato's Diamond.

Saturday, April 14, 2018

Immanentizing the Transcendence

Filed under: Uncategorized — m759 @ 10:15 AM

The title refers to the previous two posts.

Related literature —

Plato's Ghost: The Modernist Transformation of Mathematics
(Princeton University Press, 2008)  and . . .

Plato's diamond-in-a-matrix:

Plato's diamond in Jowett's version of the Meno dialogue

Friday, April 6, 2018

A Service

Filed under: Uncategorized — m759 @ 11:36 AM

From a Boston Globe obituary for Andrew Lewis, an Oscar-nominated
screenwriter who reportedly died at 92 on Feb. 28, 2018 —

"A service has been held for Mr. Lewis . . . ."

—  Bryan Marquard, Globe staff, April 5, 2018

From this  journal on the reported date of his death —

The Globe reports that Lewis's father was Clarence Irving Lewis,
a professor of philosophy at Harvard University.

Fact check:  See page 246 of C. I. Lewis: The Last Great Pragmatist ,
by Murray G. Murphey (SUNY Press, 2005).

Figure (a) above is not unrelated to philosophy. See Plato 's Meno  dialogue.
See also a different diamond — a symbol devised by C. I. Lewis for use in
modal logic — in the post Wittgenstein's Diamond (July 10, 2011).

Monday, July 17, 2017

Athens Meets Jerusalem . . .

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

At the Googleplex .

For those whose only interest in higher mathematics
is as a path to the occult

Plato's Diamond and the Hebrew letter Aleph —


and some related (if only graphically) mathematics —

Click the above image for some related purely mathematical  remarks.

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Early Personal Computer

Filed under: Uncategorized — m759 @ 10:01 AM

(The title is from yesterday morning's Graphical Interfaces.)

Plato's diamond in Jowett's version of the Meno dialogue

Monday, May 15, 2017

Appropriation at MoMA

Filed under: Uncategorized — m759 @ 1:14 PM

For example, Plato's diamond as an object to be transformed —

Plato's diamond in Jowett's version of the Meno dialogue

Versions of the transformed object —

See also The 4×4 Relativity Problem in this journal.

Monday, February 27, 2017

Logic for Jews

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: — m759 @ 9:07 PM


Adam Gopnik in The New Yorker  today reacts to the startling
outcomes of three recent contests: the presidential election,
the Super Bowl, and the Oscar for Best Picture —

"The implicit dread logic is plain."

Related material —

Transformers in this journal and

“Lord Arglay had a suspicion that the Stone would be
purely logical.  Yes, he thought, but what, in that sense,
were the rules of its pure logic?”

Many Dimensions  (1931), by Charles Williams

See also

The above figure is from Ian Stewart's 1996 revision of a 1941 classic, 
What Is Mathematics? , by Richard Courant and Herbert Robbins.

One wonders how the confused slave boy of Plato's Meno  would react
to Stewart's remark that

"The number of copies required to double an
 object's size depends on its dimension."

Saturday, October 1, 2016

Rippling Rhythms

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , — m759 @ 9:00 PM

The previous post presented Plato's Meno diagram as
an illustration of (superimposed) yin and yang.

For those who prefer a more fluid approach to yin and yang —

From a June 15, 2016, Caltech news release on gravitational waves —


The "chirp" tones of the two LIGO detections are available for download. Formats are suitable as ringtones for either iPhone or Android devices. (Instructions for installing custom ringtones)

September 2015 Detection

December 2015 Detection

Related commentary from July 2015 and earlier —

See posts tagged Haiku.

A different perspective —

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Chomsky and Lévi-Strauss in China

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: — m759 @ 7:31 AM

Or:  Philosophy for Jews

From a New Yorker  weblog post dated Dec. 6, 2012 —

"Happy Birthday, Noam Chomsky" by Gary Marcus—

"… two titans facing off, with Chomsky, as ever,
defining the contest"

"Chomsky sees himself, correctly, as continuing
a conversation that goes back to Plato, especially
the Meno dialogue, in which a slave boy is
revealed by Socrates to know truths about
geometry that he hadn’t realized he knew."

Socrates and the slave boy discussed a rather elementary "truth
about geometry" — A diamond inscribed in a square has area 2
(and side the square root of 2) if the square itself has area 4
(and side 2).

Consider that not-particularly-deep structure from the Meno dialogue
in the light of the following…

The following analysis of the Meno diagram from yesterday's
post "The Embedding" contradicts the Lévi-Strauss dictum on
the impossibility of going beyond a simple binary opposition.
(The Chinese word taiji  denotes the fundamental concept in
Chinese philosophy that such a going-beyond is both useful
and possible.)

The matrix at left below represents the feminine yin  principle
and the diamond at right represents the masculine yang .

      From a post of Sept. 22,
  "Binary Opposition Illustrated" —

A symbol of the unity of yin and yang —

Related material:

A much more sophisticated approach to the "deep structure" of the
Meno diagram —

The larger cases —

The diamond theorem

Sunday, June 19, 2016

Making Gatsby Great Again

Filed under: Uncategorized — m759 @ 2:24 PM

Image-- From the Diamond in Plato's Meno to Modern Finite Geometry

See also the previous post.

Tuesday, April 26, 2016


Filed under: Uncategorized — m759 @ 8:31 PM

"… I would drop the keystone into my arch …."

— Charles Sanders Peirce, "On Phenomenology"

" 'But which is the stone that supports the bridge?' Kublai Khan asks."

— Italo Calvino, Invisible Cities, as quoted by B. Elan Dresher.

(B. Elan Dresher. Nordlyd  41.2 (2014): 165-181,
special issue on Features edited by Martin Krämer,
Sandra Ronai and Peter Svenonius. University of Tromsø –
The Arctic University of Norway.

Peter Svenonius and Martin Krämer, introduction to the
Nordlyd  double issue on Features —

"Interacting with these questions about the 'geometric' 
relations among features is the algebraic structure
of the features."

For another such interaction, see the previous post.

This  post may be viewed as a commentary on a remark in Wikipedia

"All of these ideas speak to the crux of Plato's Problem…."

See also The Diamond Theorem at Tromsø and Mere Geometry.

Thursday, May 7, 2015

Paradigm for Pedagogues

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: — m759 @ 7:14 PM

Illustrations from a post of Feb. 17, 2011:

Plato’s paradigm in the Meno —


Changed paradigm in the diamond theorem (2×2 case) —


Sunday, November 9, 2014


Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , — m759 @ 11:00 AM

The Ideas

“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.”
— Joan Didion

See Didion and the I Ching  and posts tagged Plato in China .

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Where the Joints Are

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , — m759 @ 10:00 AM

An image related to the recent posts Sense and Sensibility:

A quote from yesterday's post The Eight:

A possible source for the above phrase about phenomena "carved at their joints":

See also the carving at the joints of Plato's diamond from the Meno :

Image-- Plato's diamond and a modern version from finite geometry

Related material: Phaedrus on Kant as a diamond cutter
in Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance .

Wednesday, August 27, 2014


Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , — m759 @ 11:00 AM

"To every man upon this earth,
Death cometh soon or late.
And how can man die better
Than facing fearful odds,
For the ashes of his fathers,
and the temples of his gods…?"

— Macaulay, quoted in the April 2013 film "Oblivion"

"Leave a space." — Tom Stoppard, "Jumpers"

Related material: The August 16, 2014, sudden death in Scotland
of an architect of the above Cardross seminary, and a Log24 post,
Plato's Logos, from the date of the above photo: June 26, 2010.

See also…

IMAGE- T. Lux Feininger on 'Gestaltung'

Here “eidolon” should instead be “eidos .”

An example of eidos — Plato's diamond (from the Meno ) —


Monday, March 3, 2014

Blackboard Jungle Revisited

Filed under: Uncategorized — m759 @ 10:00 AM

IMAGE- Blackboard from 'Blackboard Jungle'

Blackboard Jungle , 1955

"We are going to keep doing this
until we get it right." — June 15, 2007

"Her wallet's filled with pictures,
she gets 'em one by one" — Chuck Berry

See too a more advanced geometry lesson
that also uses the diagram pictured above.

Sunday, March 2, 2014


Filed under: Uncategorized — m759 @ 11:00 AM

Raiders of the Lost  (Continued)

“Socrates: They say that the soul of man is immortal….”

From August 16, 2012

In the geometry of Plato illustrated below,
“the figure of eight [square] feet” is not ,  at this point
in the dialogue, the diamond in Jowett’s picture.

An 1892 figure by Jowett illustrating Plato’s Meno

A more correct version, from hermes-press.com —

Socrates: He only guesses that because the square is double, the line is double.Meno: True.

Socrates: Observe him while he recalls the steps in regular order. (To the Boy.) Tell me, boy, do you assert that a double space comes from a double line? Remember that I am not speaking of an oblong, but of a figure equal every way, and twice the size of this-that is to say of eight feet; and I want to know whether you still say that a double square comes from double line?

[Boy] Yes.

Socrates: But does not this line (AB) become doubled if we add another such line here (BJ is added)?

[Boy] Certainly.

Socrates: And four such lines [AJ, JK, KL, LA] will make a space containing eight feet?

[Boy] Yes.

Socrates: Let us draw such a figure: (adding DL, LK, and JK). Would you not say that this is the figure of eight feet?

[Boy] Yes.

Socrates: And are there not these four squares in the figure, each of which is equal to the figure of four feet? (Socrates draws in CM and CN)

[Boy] True.

Socrates: And is not that four times four?

[Boy] Certainly.

Socrates: And four times is not double?

[Boy] No, indeed.

Socrates: But how much?

[Boy] Four times as much.

Socrates: Therefore the double line, boy, has given a space, not twice, but four times as much.

[Boy] True.

Socrates: Four times four are sixteen— are they not?

[Boy] Yes.

As noted in the 2012 post, the diagram of greater interest is
Jowett’s incorrect  version rather than the more correct version
shown above. This is because the 1892 version inadvertently
illustrates a tesseract:

A 4×4 square version, by Coxeter in 1950, of  a tesseract

This square version we may call the Galois  tesseract.

Sunday, July 28, 2013


Filed under: Uncategorized — m759 @ 11:00 AM

(Simplicity continued)

"Understanding a metaphor is like understanding a geometrical
truth. Features of various geometrical figures or of various contexts
are pulled into revealing alignment with one another by  the
demonstration or the metaphor.

What is 'revealed' is not that the alignment is possible; rather,
that the alignment is possible reveals the presence of already-
existing shapes or correspondences that lay unnoticed. To 'see' a
proof or 'get' a metaphor is to experience the significance of the
correspondence for what the thing, concept, or figure is ."

— Jan Zwicky, Wisdom & Metaphor , page 36 (left)

Zwicky illustrates this with Plato's diamond figure
​from the Meno  on the facing page— her page 36 (right).

A more sophisticated geometrical figure—

Galois-geometry key to
Desargues' theorem:

   D   E   F
 S'  P Q R
 S  P' Q' R'
 O  P1 Q1 R1

For an explanation, see 
Classical Geometry in Light of Galois Geometry.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Vril Chick

Filed under: Uncategorized — m759 @ 4:30 AM

Profile picture of "Jo Lyxe" (Josefine Lyche) at Vimeo

Profile picture for "Jo Lyxe" (Josefine Lyche) at Vimeo

Compare to an image of Vril muse Maria Orsitsch.

From the catalog of a current art exhibition
(25 May – 31 August, 2013) in Norway,

Josefine Lyche
Born in 1973 in Bergen, Norway.
Lives and works in Oslo and Berlin.

Keywords (to help place my artwork in the
proper context): Aliens, affine geometry, affine
planes, affine spaces, automorphisms, binary
codes, block designs, classical groups, codes,
coding theory, collineations, combinatorial,
combinatorics, conjugacy classes, the Conwell
correspondence, correlations, Cullinane,
R. T. Curtis, design theory, the diamond theorem,
diamond theory, duads, duality, error correcting
codes, esoteric, exceptional groups,
extraterrestrials, finite fields, finite geometry, finite
groups, finite rings, Galois fields, generalized
quadrangles, generators, geometry, GF(2),
GF(4), the (24,12) Golay code, group actions,
group theory, Hadamard matrices, hypercube,
hyperplanes, hyperspace, incidence structures,
invariance, Karnaugh maps, Kirkman’s schoolgirls
problem, Latin squares, Leech lattice, linear
groups, linear spaces, linear transformations,
Magick, Mathieu groups, matrix theory, Meno,
Miracle Octad Generator, MOG, multiply transitive
groups, occultism, octahedron, the octahedral
group, Orsic, orthogonal arrays, outer automorphisms,
parallelisms, partial geometries,
permutation groups, PG(3,2), Plato, Platonic
solids, polarities, Polya-Burnside theorem, projective
geometry, projective planes, projective
spaces, projectivities, Pythagoras, reincarnation,
Reed-Muller codes, the relativity problem,
reverse engineering, sacred geometry, Singer
cycle, skew lines, Socrates, sporadic simple
groups, Steiner systems, Sylvester, symmetric,
symmetry, symplectic, synthemes, synthematic,
Theosophical Society tesseract, Tessla, transvections,
Venn diagrams, Vril society, Walsh
functions, Witt designs.

(See also the original catalog page.)

Clearly most of this (the non-highlighted parts) was taken
from my webpage Diamond Theory. I suppose I should be
flattered, but I am not thrilled to be associated with the
(apparently fictional) Vril Society.

For some background, see (for instance) 
Conspiracy Theories and Secret Societies for Dummies .

Thursday, January 31, 2013

Scholarship in 1961…

Filed under: Uncategorized — m759 @ 12:00 PM

Before Derrida's writings on Plato and on inscription

A remark by the late William Harris:

"Scholarship has many dark ages, and they do not all fall
in the safe confines of remote antiquity."

For more about Harris, see the previous post.

Discussing an approach to solving a geometrical problem 
from section 86e of the Meno , Harris wrote that

"… this is a very important element of method and purpose,
one which must be taken with great seriousness and respect.
In fact it is as good an example of the master describing for us
his method as Plato ever gives us. Tricked by the appearance
of brevity and unwilling to follow through Plato's thought on
the road to Euclid, we have garbled or passed over a unique
piece of philosophical information."

Harris, though not a geometer, was an admirable man.
His remark on the Meno  method is itself worthy of respect.

In memory of Harris, Plato, and pre-Derrida scholarship, here
are some pages from 1961 on the problem Harris discussed.

A pair of figures from the 1961 pages indicates how one view of the
section 86e problem (at right below) resembles the better-known 
demonstration earlier in the Meno  of how to construct
a square of area 2 —

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

The Problem Problem

Filed under: Uncategorized — m759 @ 11:01 PM

Continued from Jan. 22, 2013:

IMAGE- Triangle, circle, square

Given these choices for a solution ,
what is a suitable problem ?

The problem sketched on Jan. 22 was a joke.

A more serious triangle-circle-square problem:  

Introductory commentary from the same source—

See also a description of this problem by the late William Harris,
Harvard '48, Professsor Emeritus of Classics at Middlebury College,
who died on February 22, 2009*—

"… this is a very important element of method and purpose,
one which must be taken with great seriousness and respect.
In fact it is as good an example of the master describing for us
his method as Plato ever gives us. Tricked by the appearance
of brevity and unwilling to follow through Plato's thought on
the road to Euclid, we have garbled or passed over a unique
piece of philosophical information."

The problem itself, from the Perseus site:

[87a] whether a certain area is capable of being inscribed as a triangular space in a given circle: they reply—“I cannot yet tell whether it has that capability; but I think, if I may put it so, that I have a certain helpful hypothesis for the problem, and it is as follows: If this area is such that when you apply it to the given line of the circle you find it falls short by a space similar to that which you have just applied, then I take it you have one consequence, and if it is impossible for it to fall so, then some other. Accordingly I wish to put a hypothesis, before I state our conclusion as regards inscribing this figure [87b] in the circle by saying whether it is impossible or not.” In the same way with regard to our question about virtue, since we do not know either what it is or what kind of thing it may be, we had best make use of a hypothesis in considering whether it can be taught or not, as thus: what kind of thing must virtue be in the class of mental properties, so as to be teachable or not? In the first place, if it is something dissimilar or similar to knowledge, is it taught or not—or, as we were saying just now, remembered? Let us have no disputing about the choice of a name: [87c] is it taught? Or is not this fact plain to everyone—that the one and only thing taught to men is knowledge?

I agree to that.

Then if virtue is a kind of knowledge, clearly it must be taught?


So you see we have made short work of this question—if virtue belongs to one class of things it is teachable, and if to another, it is not.

To be sure.

For further details, consult (for instance) a 1955 paper at JSTOR.

* See a post from that date in this journal.
   See also a remark by Harris:

  "Scholarship has many dark ages, and they do not all fall
    in the safe confines of remote antiquity."

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Defining the Contest…

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , , — m759 @ 5:48 AM

Chomsky vs. Santa

From a New Yorker  weblog yesterday—

"Happy Birthday, Noam Chomsky." by Gary Marcus—

"… two titans facing off, with Chomsky, as ever,
defining the contest"

"Chomsky sees himself, correctly, as continuing
a conversation that goes back to Plato, especially
the Meno dialogue, in which a slave boy is
revealed by Socrates to know truths about
geometry that he hadn’t realized he knew."

See Meno Diamond in this journal. For instance, from 
the Feast of Saint Nicholas (Dec. 6th) this year—

The Meno Embedding


For related truths about geometry, see the diamond theorem.

For a related contest of language theory vs. geometry,
see pattern theory (Sept. 11, 16, and 17, 2012).

See esp. the Sept. 11 post,  on a Royal Society paper from July 2012
claiming that

"With the results presented here, we have taken the first steps
in decoding the uniquely human  fascination with visual patterns,
what Gombrich* termed our ‘sense of order.’ "

The sorts of patterns discussed in the 2012 paper —

IMAGE- Diamond Theory patterns found in a 2012 Royal Society paper

"First steps"?  The mathematics underlying such patterns
was presented 35 years earlier, in Diamond Theory.

* See Gombrich-Douat in this journal.

Sunday, December 2, 2012


Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: — m759 @ 4:30 PM

From the Los Angeles Times  yesterday

"Chess player Elena Akhmilovskaya Donaldson sits
in deep concentration at the U.S. chess championship
in Seattle in 2002. (Greg Gilbert / Seattle Times / 
January 5, 2002)"

Linda Shaw, Seattle Times :

"Elena Akhmilovskaya Donaldson, who was once the world's
second-ranked women's chess player and eloped in 1988
with the captain of the U.S. chess team when they were both
playing at a tournament in Greece, has died. She was 55.

Donaldson, who earned the title of international women's
grandmaster, died Nov. 18 in her adopted hometown of Seattle…."

more »

From the Log24 post "Sermon" on the date of Donaldson's death,
Sunday, Nov. 18, 2012—

"You must allow us to play every conceivable combination of chess."
— Marie-Louise von Franz in Number and Time

An October 2011 post titled  Realism in Plato's Cave displays
the following image:

Cover illustration: Durer's 'Knight, Death, and the Devil'

Cover illustration: Knight, Death, and the Devil,
by Albrecht Dürer

George Steiner and myself  in Closing the Circle, a Log24 post
of Sept. 4, 2009: 

“Allegoric associations of death with chess are perennial….”

"Yes, they are."

For related remarks on knight moves and the devil, see
today's previous two posts, Knight's Labyrinth and The Rite.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Art Wars (continued)

Filed under: Uncategorized — m759 @ 8:00 PM

Today's previous post, "For Odin's Day," discussed 
a mathematical object, the tesseract, from a strictly
narrative point of view.

In honor of George Balanchine, Odin might yield the
floor this evening to Apollo.

From a piece in today's online New York Times  titled
"How a God Finds Art (the Abridged Version)"—

"… the newness at the heart of this story,
in which art is happening for the first time…."

Some related art

IMAGE- Figure from Plato's Meno in version by Benjamin Jowett, Master of Balliol College, Oxford

and, more recently

This more recent figure is from Ian Stewart's 1996 revision 
of a 1941 classic, What Is Mathematics? , by Richard Courant
and Herbert Robbins.

Apollo might discuss with Socrates how the confused slave boy
of Plato's Meno  would react to Stewart's remark that

"The number of copies required to double an
 object's size depends on its dimension."

Apollo might also note an application of Socrates' Meno  diagram
to the tesseract of this afternoon's Odin post


Thursday, August 16, 2012

Raiders of the Lost Tesseract

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: — m759 @ 8:00 PM

(Continued from August 13. See also Coxeter Graveyard.)

Coxeter exhuming Geometry

Here the tombstone says
"GEOMETRY… 600 BC — 1900 AD… R.I.P."

In the geometry of Plato illustrated below,
"the figure of eight [square] feet" is not , at this point
in the dialogue, the diamond in Jowett's picture.

An 1892 figure by Jowett illustrating Plato's Meno

Jowett's picture is nonetheless of interest for
its resemblance to a figure drawn some decades later
by the Toronto geometer H. S. M. Coxeter.

A similar 1950 figure by Coxeter illustrating a tesseract

For a less scholarly, but equally confusing, view of the number 8,
see The Eight , a novel by Katherine Neville.

The Ninth Year

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: — m759 @ 2:01 PM

A passage from the Benjamin Jowett translation of Plato's Meno

" 'For in the ninth year* Persephone sends the souls of those from whom she has received the penalty of ancient crime back again from beneath into the light of the sun above, and these are they who become noble kings and mighty men and great in wisdom and are called saintly heroes in after ages  .' The soul, then, as being immortal, and having been born again many times, and having seen all things that exist, whether in this world or in the world below, has knowledge of them all; and it is no wonder that she should be able to call to remembrance all that she ever knew about virtue, and about everything; for as all nature is akin, and the soul has learned all things; there is no difficulty in her eliciting or as men say learning, out of a single recollection all the rest, if a man is strenuous and does not faint; for all enquiry and all learning is but recollection."

* See this journal nine years ago, in August 2003.
 Jowett's note— "Pindar, Frag. 98 (Boeckh)"

Wikipedia authors like Protious, an alleged resident of Egypt and 
creator of The Socrates Swastika , may enjoy a less scholarly account:

From Babylon A. D.  (a 2008 film)— Toorop with Egyptian Sacred Scarab tattoo—           

— and Toorop with Aurora (who may be regarded as "the soul" in the Meno  passage above)—

Toorop's neck tattoo in the second image above is from a fictional book
described in the writings of H. P. Lovecraft.

As swastika-like sacred symbols go, I prefer St. Bridget's Cross.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Hacking 1984

Filed under: Uncategorized — m759 @ 10:00 PM

Ian Hacking in 1984

"… theories about mathematics have had a big place in Western philosophy. All kinds of outlandish doctrines have tried to explain the nature of mathematical knowledge. Socrates set the ball rolling by using a proof in geometry to argue for the transmigration of souls. As reported by Plato in Meno , the boy who invents a proof of a theorem did not experiment on the physical world, but used only his mind in response to Socratic questions. Hence he must have had inborn knowledge of the proof and he must have got this knowledge in a previous incarnation.

Mathematics has never since been a subject for such philosophical levity."

See also this afternoon's post.

Space Odyssey

Filed under: Uncategorized — m759 @ 1:00 PM

(An episode of Art Wars )

"Visual forms, he thought, were solutions to
specific problems that come from specific needs."

— Michael Kimmelman in The New York Times
    obituary of E. H. Gombrich (November 7th, 2001)

"… deep cultural fears within the art world— 
fears that art is elitist,
or some kind of confidence game,
or not a serious endeavor (a fear that has
dogged art since at least the time of Plato)."

Philip Kennicott, quoted here on July 22, 2012

See also today's date in 2003.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Bowling in Diagon Alley

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: — m759 @ 8:28 AM

IMAGE- Josefine Lyche bowling, from her Facebook page

Josefine Lyche bowling (Facebook, June 12, 2012)

"Where Does Math Come From?"

A professor of philosophy in 1984 on Socrates's geometric proof in Plato's Meno  dialogue—

"These recondite issues matter because theories about mathematics have had a big place in Western philosophy. All kinds of outlandish doctrines have tried to explain the nature of mathematical knowledge. Socrates set the ball rolling…."

— Ian Hacking in The New York Review of Books , Feb. 16, 1984

The same professor introducing a new edition of Kuhn's Structure of Scientific Revolutions

"Paradigms Regained" (Los Angeles Review of Books , April 18, 2012)—

"That is the structure of scientific revolutions: normal science with a paradigm and a dedication to solving puzzles; followed by serious anomalies, which lead to a crisis; and finally resolution of the crisis by a new paradigm. Another famous word does not occur in the section titles: incommensurability. This is the idea that, in the course of a revolution and paradigm shift, the new ideas and assertions cannot be strictly compared to the old ones."

The Meno  proof involves inscribing diagonals  in squares. It is therefore related, albeit indirectly, to the classic Greek discovery that the diagonals of a square are incommensurable  with its sides. Hence the following discussion of incommensurability seems relevant.

IMAGE- Von Fritz in 1945 on incommensurability and the tetractys (10 as a triangular number)

See also von Fritz and incommensurability in The New York Times  (March 8, 2011).

For mathematical remarks related to the 10-dot triangular array of von Fritz, diagonals, and bowling, see this  journal on Nov. 8, 2011— "Stoned."

Friday, March 23, 2012

Embedding the Stone

Filed under: Uncategorized — m759 @ 8:00 AM

"Imbedding the God character in a holy book's very detailed narrative
and building an entire culture around this narrative
seems by itself to confer a kind of existence on Him."

John Allen Paulos in the philosophy column "The Stone,"
     New York Times  online, Oct. 24, 2010

A related post from Log24 later that year—

Sunday, November 28, 2010

The Embedding

 — m759 @ 6:00 AM

The New York Times Magazine  this morning on a seminar on film theory at Columbia University—

"When the seminar reconvened after the break, Schamus said, 'Let’s dive into the Meno,' a dialogue in which Plato and Socrates consider virtue. 'The heart of it is the mathematical proof.' He rose from his seat and went to the whiteboard, where he drew figures and scribbled numbers as he worked through the geometry. 'You can only get the proof visually,' he concluded, stepping back and gazing at it. Plato may be skeptical about the category of the visual, he said, but 'you are confronted with a visual proof that gets you back to the idea embedded in visuality.'"

The Meno Embedding


See also Plato's Code and
 Plato Thanks the Academy.

"Next come the crown of thorns and Jesus' agonized crawl across the stage,
bearing the weight of his own crucifix. And at last, after making
yet another entrance, Mr. Nolan strikes the pose immortalized
in centuries of art, clad in a demure loincloth, arms held out to his sides,
one leg artfully bent in front of the other, head hanging down
in tortured exhaustion. Gently spotlighted, he rises from the stage
as if by magic, while a giant cross, pulsing with hot gold lights,
descends from above to meet him. Mr. Lloyd Webber's churning guitar rock
hits a climactic note, and the audience erupts in excited applause."

— Charles Isherwood, review of "Jesus Christ Superstar" in today's  New York Times

Other remarks on embedding —

Part I

Review of a new book on linguistics, embedding, and a South American tribe—

"Imagine a linguist from Mars lands on Earth to survey the planet's languages…."
Chronicle of Higher Education , March 20, 2012

Part II

The Embedding , by Ian Watson (Review of a 1973 novel from Shakespeare's birthday, 2006)

Thursday, October 20, 2011

The Thing Itself

Filed under: Uncategorized — m759 @ 11:29 AM

Suggested by an Oct. 18 piece in the Book Bench section
of the online New Yorker  magazine—



Related material suggested by the "Shouts and Murmurs" piece
in The New Yorker , issue dated Oct. 24, 2011—

"a series of e-mails from a preschool teacher planning to celebrate
the Day of the Dead instead of Halloween…"

A search for Coxeter + Graveyard in this journal yields…

Coxeter exhuming Geometry

Here the tombstone says "GEOMETRY… 600 BC — 1900 AD… R.I.P."

A related search for Plato + Tombstone yields an image from July 6, 2007…

The image “http://www.log24.com/log/pix06A/061019-Tombstones.jpg” cannot be displayed, because it contains errors.

Here Plato's poems to Aster suggested
the "Star and Diamond" tombstone.

The eight-rayed star is an ancient symbol of Venus
and the diamond is from Plato's Meno .

The star and diamond are combined in a figure from
12 AM on September 6th, 2011—

The Diamond Star


See Configurations and Squares.

That webpage explains how Coxeter
united the diamond and the star.

Those who prefer narrative to mathematics may consult
a definition of the Spanish word lucero  from March 28, 2003.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011


Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: — m759 @ 11:07 AM

A comment yesterday on the New York Times  philosophy column “The Stone” quoted Karl Barth—

Man is the creature of the boundary between heaven and earth.”

See also Plato’s theory of ideas (or “forms”) and the I Ching

The eight trigrams are images not so much of objects as of states of change. This view is associated with the concept expressed in the teachings of Lao-tse, as also in those of Confucius, that every event in the visible world is the effect of an “image,” that is, of an idea in the unseen world. Accordingly, everything that happens on earth is only a reproduction, as it were, of an event in a world beyond our sense perception; as regards its occurrence in time, it is later than the suprasensible event. The holy men and sages, who are in contact with those higher spheres, have access to these ideas through direct intuition and are therefore able to intervene decisively in events in the world. Thus man is linked with heaven, the suprasensible world of ideas, and with earth, the material world of visible things, to form with these a trinity of the primal powers.

— Richard Wilhelm, Introduction to the I Ching

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Midnight in Oslo

Filed under: Uncategorized — m759 @ 6:00 PM

For Norway's Niels Henrik Abel (1802-1829)
on his birthday, August Fifth

(6 PM Aug. 4, Eastern Time, is 12 AM Aug. 5 in Oslo.)


Plato's Diamond

The above version by Peter Pesic is from Chapter I of his book Abel's Proof , titled "The Scandal of the Irrational." Plato's diamond also occurs in a much later mathematical story that might be called "The Scandal of the Noncontinuous." The story—


"These passages suggest that the Form is a character or set of characters common to a number of things, i.e. the feature in reality which corresponds to a general word. But Plato also uses language which suggests not only that the forms exist separately (χωριστά ) from all the particulars, but also that each form is a peculiarly accurate or good particular of its own kind, i.e. the standard particular of the kind in question or the model (παράδειγμα ) [i.e. paradigm ] to which other particulars approximate….

… Both in the Republic  and in the Sophist  there is a strong suggestion that correct thinking is following out the connexions between Forms. The model is mathematical thinking, e.g. the proof given in the Meno  that the square on the diagonal is double the original square in area."

– William and Martha Kneale, The Development of Logic , Oxford University Press paperback, 1985

Plato's paradigm in the Meno


Changed paradigm in the diamond theorem (2×2 case) —


Aspects of the paradigm change—

Monochrome figures to
   colored figures

Areas to

Continuous transformations to
   non-continuous transformations

Euclidean geometry to
   finite geometry

Euclidean quantities to
   finite fields

The 24 patterns resulting from the paradigm change—


Each pattern has some ordinary or color-interchange symmetry.

This is the 2×2 case of a more general result. The patterns become more interesting in the 4×4 case. For their relationship to finite geometry and finite fields, see the diamond theorem.

Related material: Plato's Diamond by Oslo artist Josefine Lyche.

Plato’s Ghost  evokes Yeats’s lament that any claim to worldly perfection inevitably is proven wrong by the philosopher’s ghost….”

— Princeton University Press on Plato’s Ghost: The Modernist Transformation of Mathematics  (by Jeremy Gray, September 2008)

"Remember me to her."

— Closing words of the Algis Budrys novel Rogue Moon .

Background— Some posts in this journal related to Abel or to random thoughts from his birthday.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Unity and Multiplicity

Filed under: Uncategorized — 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

Thursday, February 17, 2011


Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: — m759 @ 4:16 PM

"These passages suggest that the Form is a character or set of characters
common to a number of things, i.e. the feature in reality which corresponds
to a general word. But Plato also uses language which suggests not only
that the forms exist separately (χωριστά ) from all the particulars, but also
that each form is a peculiarly accurate or good particular of its own kind,
i.e. the standard particular of the kind in question or the model (παράδειγμα )
[i.e. paradigm ] to which other particulars approximate….

… Both in the Republic  and in the Sophist  there is a strong suggestion
that correct thinking is following out the connexions between Forms.
The model is mathematical thinking, e.g. the proof given in the Meno
that the square on the diagonal is double the original square in area."

— William and Martha Kneale, The Development of Logic,
Oxford University Press paperback, 1985

Plato's paradigm in the Meno


Changed paradigm in the diamond theorem (2×2 case) —


Aspects of the paradigm change* —

Monochrome figures to
colored figures

Areas to

Continuous transformations to
non-continuous transformations

Euclidean geometry to
finite geometry

Euclidean quantities to
finite fields

Some pedagogues may find handling all of these
conceptual changes simultaneously somewhat difficult.

* "Paradigm shift " is a phrase that, as John Baez has rightly pointed out,
should be used with caution. The related phrase here was suggested by Plato's
term παράδειγμα  above, along with the commentators' specific reference to
the Meno  figure that serves as a model. (For "model" in a different sense,
see Burkard Polster.) But note that Baez's own beloved category theory
has been called a paradigm shift.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

The Embedding

Filed under: Uncategorized — m759 @ 6:00 AM

The New York Times Magazine  this morning on a seminar on film theory at Columbia University—

"When the seminar reconvened after the break, Schamus said, 'Let’s dive into the Meno,' a dialogue in which Plato and Socrates consider virtue. 'The heart of it is the mathematical proof.' He rose from his seat and went to the whiteboard, where he drew figures and scribbled numbers as he worked through the geometry. 'You can only get the proof visually,' he concluded, stepping back and gazing at it. Plato may be skeptical about the category of the visual, he said, but 'you are confronted with a visual proof that gets you back to the idea embedded in visuality.'"

The Meno Embedding


See also Plato's Code and
 Plato Thanks the Academy.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

St. Ursula’s Day

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: — m759 @ 4:07 PM

Mathematics and Narrative continued

A search for Ursula in this journal yields a story…

“The main character is a slave woman who discovers new patterns in the mosaics.”

Other such stories: Plato’s Meno  and Changing Woman

Changing Woman:

“Kaleidoscope turning…

Juliette Binoche in 'Blue'  The 24 2x2 Cullinane Kaleidoscope animated images

Shifting pattern within
unalterable structure…”

— Roger Zelazny, Eye of Cat  

Philosophical postscript—

“That Lévi-Strauss should have been able to transmute the romantic passion of Tristes Tropiques  into the hypermodern intellectualism of La Pensée Sauvage  is surely a startling achievement. But there remain the questions one cannot help but ask. Is this transmutation science or alchemy? Is the ‘very simple transformation’ which produced a general theory out of a personal disappointment real or a sleight of hand? Is it a genuine demolition of the walls which seem to separate mind from mind by showing that the walls are surface structures only, or is it an elaborately disguised evasion necessitated by a failure to breach them when they were directly encountered? Is Lévi-Strauss writing, as he seems to be claiming in the confident pages of La Pensée Sauvage,  a prolegomenon to all future anthropology? Or is he, like some uprooted neolithic intelligence cast away on a reservation, shuffling the debris of old traditions in a vain attempt to revivify a primitive faith whose moral beauty is still apparent but from which both relevance and credibility have long since departed?”

— Clifford Geertz, conclusion of “The Cerebral Savage: On the Work of Claude Lévi-Strauss

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Search for the Basic Picture

Filed under: Uncategorized — m759 @ 5:01 PM

(Click to enlarge.)


The above is the result of a (fruitless) image search today for a current version of Giovanni Sambin's "Basic Picture: A Structure for Topology."

That search was suggested by the title of today's New York Times  op-ed essay "Found in Translation" and an occurrence of that phrase in this journal on January 5, 2007.

Further information on one of the images above—


A search in this journal on the publication date of Giaquinto's Visual Thinking in Mathematics  yields the following—

Thursday July 5, 2007

m759 @ 7:11 PM

In defense of Plato’s realism

(vs. sophists’ nominalism– see recent entries.)

Plato cited geometry, notably in the Meno , in defense of his realism.
Consideration of the Meno 's diamond figure leads to the following:

The Eightfold Cube and its Inner Structure

For the Meno 's diamond figure in Giaquinto, see a review—


— Review by Jeremy Avigad (preprint)

Finite geometry supplies a rather different context for Plato's  "basic picture."

In that context, the Klein four-group often cited by art theorist Rosalind Krauss appears as a group of translations in the mathematical sense. (See Kernel of Eternity and Sacerdotal Jargon at Harvard.)

The Times  op-ed essay today notes that linguistic  translation "… is not merely a job assigned to a translator expert in a foreign language, but a long, complex and even profound series of transformations that involve the writer and reader as well."

The list of four-group transformations in the mathematical  sense is neither long nor complex, but is apparently profound enough to enjoy the close attention of thinkers like Krauss.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

The Corpse Express

Filed under: Uncategorized — m759 @ 2:02 AM

See Malcolm Lowry's "A corpse will be transported by express!" in this journal.

From June 23

"When Plato regards geometry as the prerequisite to
philosophical knowledge, it is because geometry alone
renders accessible the realm of things eternal;
tou gar aei ontos he geometrike gnosis estin."

— Ernst Cassirer, Philosophy and Phenomenological Research,
   Volume V, Number 1, September, 1944.


June 23, Midsummer Eve, was the date of death for Colonel Michael Cobb.

Cobb, who died aged 93, was "a regular Army officer who in retirement produced
the definitive historical atlas of the railways of Great Britain." — Telegraph.co.uk, July 19

As for geometry, railways, and things eternal, see parallel lines converging
in Tequila Mockingbird and Bedlam Songs.

Station of the Rock Island Line

The Rock Island Line’s namesake depot 
in Rock Island, Illinois

See also Wallace Stevens on "the giant of nothingness"
in "A Primitive Like an Orb" and in Midsummer Eve's Dream

At the center on the horizon, concentrum, grave
And prodigious person, patron of origins.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Group Theory and Philosophy

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: — m759 @ 5:01 PM

Excerpts from "The Concept of Group and the Theory of Perception,"
by Ernst Cassirer, Philosophy and Phenomenological Research,
Volume V, Number 1, September, 1944.
(Published in French in the Journal de Psychologie, 1938, pp. 368-414.)

The group-theoretical interpretation of the fundaments of geometry is,
from the standpoint of pure logic, of great importance, since it enables us to
state the problem of the "universality" of mathematical concepts in simple
and precise form and thus to disentangle it from the difficulties and ambigui-
ties with which it is beset in its usual formulation. Since the times of the
great controversies about the status of universals in the Middle Ages, logic
and psychology have always been troubled with these ambiguities….

Our foregoing reflections on the concept of group  permit us to define more
precisely what is involved in, and meant by, that "rule" which renders both
geometrical and perceptual concepts universal. The rule may, in simple
and exact terms, be defined as that group of transformations  with regard to
which the variation of the particular image is considered. We have seen
above that this conception operates as the constitutive principle in the con-
struction of the universe of mathematical concepts….

                                                              …Within Euclidean geometry,
a "triangle" is conceived of as a pure geometrical "essence," and this
essence is regarded as invariant with respect to that "principal group" of
spatial transformations to which Euclidean geometry refers, viz., displace-
ments, transformations by similarity. But it must always be possible to
exhibit any particular figure, chosen from this infinite class, as a concrete
and intuitively representable object. Greek mathematics could not
dispense with this requirement which is rooted in a fundamental principle
of Greek philosophy, the principle of the correlatedness of "logos" and
"eidos." It is, however, characteristic of the modern development of
mathematics, that this bond between "logos" and "eidos," which was indis-
soluble for Greek thought, has been loosened more and more, to be, in the
end, completely broken….

                                                            …This process has come to its logical
conclusion and systematic completion in the development of modern group-
theory. Geometrical figures  are no longer regarded as fundamental, as
date of perception or immediate intuition. The "nature" or "essence" of a
figure is defined in terms of the operations  which may be said to
generate the figure.
The operations in question are, in turn, subject to
certain group conditions….

                                                                                                    …What we
find in both cases are invariances with respect to variations undergone by
the primitive elements out of which a form is constructed. The peculiar
kind of "identity" that is attributed to apparently altogether heterogen-
eous figures in virtue of their being transformable into one another by means
of certain operations defining a group, is thus seen to exist also in the
domain of perception. This identity permits us not only to single out ele-
ments but also to grasp "structures" in perception. To the mathematical
concept of "transformability" there corresponds, in the domain of per-
ception, the concept of "transposability." The theory  of the latter con-
cept has been worked out step by step and its development has gone through
various stages….
                                                                                 …By the acceptance of
"form" as a primitive concept, psychological theory has freed it from the
character of contingency  which it possessed for its first founders. The inter-
pretation of perception as a mere mosaic of sensations, a "bundle" of simple
sense-impressions has proved untenable…. 

                             …In the domain of mathematics this state of affairs mani-
fests itself in the impossibility of searching for invariant properties of a
figure except with reference to a group. As long as there existed but one
form of geometry, i.e., as long as Euclidean geometry was considered as the
geometry kat' exochen  this fact was somehow concealed. It was possible
to assume implicitly  the principal group of spatial transformations that lies
at the basis of Euclidean geometry. With the advent of non-Euclidean
geometries, however, it became indispensable to have a complete and sys-
tematic survey of the different "geometries," i.e., the different theories of
invariancy that result from the choice of certain groups of transformation.
This is the task which F. Klein set to himself and which he brought to a
certain logical fulfillment in his Vergleichende Untersuchungen ueber neuere
geometrische Forschungen

                                                          …Without discrimination between the
accidental and the substantial, the transitory and the permanent, there
would be no constitution of an objective reality.

This process, unceasingly operative in perception and, so to speak, ex-
pressing the inner dynamics of the latter, seems to have come to final per-
fection, when we go beyond perception to enter into the domain of pure
thought. For the logical advantage and peculiar privilege of the pure con –
cept seems to consist in the replacement of fluctuating perception by some-
thing precise and exactly determined. The pure concept does not lose
itself in the flux of appearances; it tends from "becoming" toward "being,"
from dynamics toward statics. In this achievement philosophers have
ever seen the genuine meaning and value of geometry. When Plato re-
gards geometry as the prerequisite to philosophical knowledge, it is because
geometry alone renders accessible the realm of things eternal; tou gar aei
ontos he geometrike gnosis estin
. Can there be degrees or levels of objec-
tive knowledge in this realm of eternal being, or does not rather knowledge
attain here an absolute maximum? Ancient geometry cannot but answer
in the affirmative to this question. For ancient geometry, in the classical
form it received from Euclid, there was such a maximum, a non plus ultra.
But modern group theory thinking has brought about a remarkable change
In this matter. Group theory is far from challenging the truth of Euclidean
metrical geometry, but it does challenge its claim to definitiveness. Each
geometry is considered as a theory of invariants of a certain group; the
groups themselves may be classified in the order of increasing generality.
The "principal group" of transformations which underlies Euclidean geome-
try permits us to establish a number of properties that are invariant with
respect to the transformations in question. But when we pass from this
"principal group" to another, by including, for example, affinitive and pro-
jective transformations, all that we had established thus far and which,
from the point of view of Euclidean geometry, looked like a definitive result
and a consolidated achievement, becomes fluctuating again. With every
extension of the principal group, some of the properties that we had taken
for invariant are lost. We come to other properties that may be hierar-
chically arranged. Many differences that are considered as essential
within ordinary metrical geometry, may now prove "accidental." With
reference to the new group-principle they appear as "unessential" modifica-

                 … From the point of view of modern geometrical systematization,
geometrical judgments, however "true" in themselves, are nevertheless not
all of them equally "essential" and necessary. Modern geometry
endeavors to attain progressively to more and more fundamental strata of
spatial determination. The depth of these strata depends upon the com-
prehensiveness of the concept of group; it is proportional to the strictness of
the conditions that must be satisfied by the invariance that is a universal
postulate with respect to geometrical entities. Thus the objective truth
and structure of space cannot be apprehended at a single glance, but have to
be progressively  discovered and established. If geometrical thought is to
achieve this discovery, the conceptual means that it employs must become
more and more universal….

Monday, June 7, 2010

Inspirational Combinatorics

Filed under: Uncategorized — m759 @ 9:00 AM

According to the Mathematical Association of America this morning, one purpose of the upcoming June/July issue of the Notices of the American Mathematical Society  is

"…to stress the inspirational role of combinatorics…."

Here is another contribution along those lines—

Eidetic Variation

from page 244 of
From Combinatorics to Philosophy: The Legacy of  G.-C. Rota,
hardcover, published by Springer on August 4, 2009

(Edited by Ernesto Damiani, Ottavio D'Antona, Vincenzo Marra, and Fabrizio Palombi)

"Rota's Philosophical Insights," by Massimo Mugnai—

"… In other words, 'objectivism' is the attitude [that tries] to render a particular aspect absolute and dominant over the others; it is a kind of narrow-mindedness attempting to reduce to only one the multiple layers which constitute what we call 'reality.' According to Rota, this narrow-mindedness limits in an essential way even of [sic ] the most basic facts of our cognitive activity, as, for example, the understanding of a simple declarative sentence: 'So objectivism is the error we [make when we] persist in believing that we can understand what a declarative sentence means without a possible thematization of this declarative sentence in one of [an] endless variety of possible contexts' (Rota, 1991*, p. 155). Rota here implicitly refers to what, amongst phenomenologists is known as eidetic variation, i.e. the change of perspective, imposed by experience or performed voluntarily, from which to look at things, facts or sentences of the world. A typical example, proposed by Heidegger, in Sein und Zeit  (1927) and repeated many times by Rota, is that of the hammer."

* Rota, G.-C. (1991), The End of Objectivity: The Legacy of Phenomenology. Lectures at MIT, Cambridge, MA, MIT Mathematics Department

The example of the hammer appears also on yesterday's online New York Times  front page—


Related material:

From The Blackwell Dictionary of Western Philosophy

Eidetic variation — an alternative expression for eidetic reduction

Eidetic reduction

Husserl's term for an intuitive act toward an essence or universal, in contrast to an empirical intuition or perception. He also called this act an essential intuition, eidetic intuition, or eidetic variation. In Greek, eideo  means “to see” and what is seen is an eidos  (Platonic Form), that is, the common characteristic of a number of entities or regularities in experience. For Plato, eidos  means what is seen by the eye of the soul and is identical with essence. Husserl also called this act “ideation,” for ideo  is synonymous with eideo  and also means “to see” in Greek. Correspondingly, idea  is identical to eidos.

An example of eidosPlato's diamond (from the Meno )—


For examples of variation of this eidos, see the diamond theorem.
See also Blockheads (8/22/08).

Related poetic remarks— The Trials of Device.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Monday November 10, 2008

Filed under: Uncategorized — m759 @ 10:31 AM

Frame Tales

From June 30

("Will this be on the test?")

Frame Tale One:

Summer Reading

The King and the Corpse: Tales of the Soul's Conquest of Evil

Tales of the Soul's
Conquest of Evil

Frame Tale Two:

Barry Sharples
on his version of the
  Kaleidoscope Puzzle


"A possible origin of this puzzle is found in a dialogue
 between Socrates and Meno written by the Greek philosopher,
 Plato, where a square is drawn inside
a square such that
the blue square is twice the area  of the yellow square.

Plato's Diamond

Colouring the triangles produces a starting pattern
which is a one-diamond figure made up of four tiles
and there are 24 different possible arrangements."

Twenty-four Variations on a Theme of Plato

The King and the Corpse  —

"The king asked, in compensation for his toils during this strangest
of all the nights he had ever known, that the twenty-four riddle tales
told him by the specter, together with the story of the night itself,
should be made known over the whole earth
and remain eternally famous among men."

Frame Tale Three:

Finnegans Wake

"The quad gospellers may own the targum
but any of the Zingari shoolerim may pick a peck
of kindlings yet from the sack of auld hensyne."

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Wednesday October 8, 2008

Filed under: Uncategorized — m759 @ 12:00 PM

Serious Numbers

A Yom Kippur

"When times are mysterious
Serious numbers
Will always be heard."
— Paul Simon,
"When Numbers Get Serious"

"There is a pleasantly discursive treatment of Pontius Pilate's unanswered question 'What is truth?'"

— H. S. M. Coxeter, introduction to Richard J. Trudeau's remarks on the "story theory" of truth as opposed to the "diamond theory" of truth in The Non-Euclidean Revolution

Trudeau's 1987 book uses the phrase "diamond theory" to denote the philosophical theory, common since Plato and Euclid, that there exist truths (which Trudeau calls "diamonds") that are certain and eternal– for instance, the truth in Euclidean geometry that the sum of a triangle's angles is 180 degrees. As the excerpt below shows, Trudeau prefers what he calls the "story theory" of truth–

"There are no diamonds. People make up stories about what they experience. Stories that catch on are called 'true.'"

(By the way, the phrase "diamond theory" was used earlier, in 1976, as the title of a monograph on geometry of which Coxeter was aware.)

Richard J. Trudeau on the 'Story Theory' of truth

Excerpt from
The Non-Euclidean Revolution

What does this have to do with numbers?

Pilate's skeptical tone suggests he may have shared a certain confusion about geometric truth with thinkers like Trudeau and the slave boy in Plato's Meno. Truth in a different part of mathematics– elementary arithmetic– is perhaps more easily understood, although even there, the existence of what might be called "non-Euclidean number theory"– i.e., arithmetic over finite fields, in which 1+1 can equal zero– might prove baffling to thinkers like Trudeau.

Trudeau's book exhibits, though it does not discuss, a less confusing use of numbers– to mark the location of pages. For some philosophical background on this version of numerical truth that may be of interest to devotees of the Semitic religions on this evening's High Holiday, see Zen and Language Games.

For uses of numbers that are more confusing, see– for instance– the new website The Daily Beast and the old website Story Theory and the Number of the Beast.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Saturday June 28, 2008

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: — m759 @ 12:00 PM
The God Factor

NY Lottery June 23, 2008: Mid-day 322, Evening 000

The following poem of Emily Dickinson is quoted here in memory of John Watson Foster Dulles, a scholar of Brazilian history who died at 95 on June 23.  He was the eldest son of Secretary of State John Foster Dulles, a nephew of Director of Central Intelligence Allen Dulles, brother of Roman Catholic Cardinal Avery Dulles, and a grandson of Presbyterian minister Allen Macy Dulles, author of The True Church.

I asked no other thing,   
No other was denied.   
I offered Being for it;   
The mighty merchant smiled.   
Brazil? He twirled a button,           
Without a glance my way:   
"But, madam, is there nothing else   
That we can show to-day?"

"He twirled a button…."

Plato's diamond figure from the 'Meno'

The above figure
of Plato
(see 3/22)
was suggested by
Lacan's diamond
Lacan's lozenge - said by some to symbolize Derrida's 'differance'
(losange or poinçon)
as a symbol —
according to Frida Saal
of Derrida's
which is, in turn,
"that which enables and
results from Being itself"
—  according to
Professor John Lye

I prefer Plato and Dulles
to Lacan and Lye.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Sunday April 27, 2008

Filed under: Uncategorized — m759 @ 8:28 AM
Happy Birthday
to the late
Gian-Carlo Rota,
mathematician and
scholar of philosophy

Rota* on his favorite philosopher:

“I believe Husserl to be the greatest philosopher of all times….

Intellectual honesty is the striking quality of Husserl’s writings. He wrote what he honestly believed to be true, neither more nor less. However, honesty is not clarity; as a matter of fact, honesty and clarity are at opposite ends. Husserl proudly refused to stoop to the demands of showmanship that are indispensable in effective communication.”

B.C. by Hart, April 27, 2008:  Discovery of the Wheel and of the Diamond

Related material:
The Diamond Theorem


* Gian-Carlo Rota, “Ten Remarks on Husserl and Phenomenology,” in O.K. Wiegand et al. (eds.), Phenomenology on Kant, German Idealism, Hermeneutics and Logic, pp. 89-97, Kluwer Academic Publishers, 2000

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Wednesday July 25, 2007

Filed under: Uncategorized — m759 @ 9:00 AM
The Comedy of
George Tabori

George Tabori

From AP “Obituaries in the News”–
Filed with The New York Times
at 11:16 p.m. ET July 24, 2007–

George Tabori

“BERLIN (AP) — Hungarian-born playwright and director George Tabori, a legend in Germany’s postwar theater world whose avant-garde works confronted anti-Semitism, died Monday [July 23, 2007]. He was 93.

Tabori, who as recently as three years ago dreamed of returning to stage to play the title role in Shakespeare’s ‘King Lear,’ died in his apartment near the theater, the Berliner Ensemble said Tuesday, noting that friends and family had accompanied him through his final days. No cause of death was given.

Born into a Jewish family in Budapest on May 24, 1914, Tabori fled in 1936 to London, where he started working for the British Broadcasting Corp., and became a British citizen. His father, and other members of his family, were killed at Auschwitz.

Tabori moved to Hollywood in the 1950s, where he worked as a scriptwriter, most notably co-writing the script for Alfred Hitchcock’s 1953 film, ‘I Confess.’

He moved to Germany in the 1970s and launched a theater career that spanned from acting to directing to writing. He used sharp wit and humor in his plays to examine the relationship between Germany and the Jews, as well as attack anti-Semitism.

Among his best-known works are ‘Mein Kampf,’ set in the Viennese hostel where Adolf Hitler lived from 1910-1913, and the ‘Goldberg Variations,’ both dark farces that poke fun at the Nazis.”

From Year of Jewish Culture:

“The year 2006 marks the 100th anniversary of the establishment of the Jewish Museum in Prague.”

From the related page Programme (October-December):

Divadlo v Dlouhé
George Tabori: GOLDBERGOVSKÉ VARIACE / THE GOLDBERG VARIATIONS, 19 October, 7 p.m. A comedy on creation and martyrdom.”

Variations on
Birth and Death

From Log24 on the date of
the Prague production of the
Tabori “Goldberg Variations,”
an illustration in honor of
Sir Thomas Browne, who
was born, and died,
on that date:

Laves tiling

The above is from
Variable Resolution 4–k Meshes:
Concepts and Applications
by Luiz Velho and Jonas Gomes.

See also Symmetry Framed
and The Garden of Cyrus.

Variations on
the Afterlife

 From Log24
on the date of
Tabori’s death:


(Plato, Meno)

Plato's Diamond colored

and Variations:

Diamond Theory cover, 1976

Click on “variations” above
for some material on
the “Goldberg Variations”
of Johann Sebastian Bach.


Monday, July 23, 2007

Monday July 23, 2007

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: — m759 @ 7:59 AM
Today’s Birthday:
Daniel Radcliffe
(“Harry Potter”)

Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone DVD


(Plato, Meno)

Plato's Diamond colored

and Variations:

Diamond Theory cover, 1976
Click on picture for details.

“A diamond jubilance
beyond the fire,
That gives its power
to the wild-ringed eye”

— Wallace Stevens,
“The Owl in the Sarcophagus”

Thursday, July 5, 2007

Thursday July 5, 2007

Filed under: Uncategorized — m759 @ 7:11 PM

In Defense of
Plato’s Realism

(vs. sophists’ nominalism–
see recent entries.)

Plato cited geometry,
notably in the Meno,
in defense of his realism.
Consideration of the
Menos diamond figure
leads to the following:

The Eightfold Cube and its Inner Structure

Click on image for details.

As noted in an entry,
Plato, Pegasus, and
the Evening Star,

linked to
at the end of today’s
previous entry,
the “universals”
of Platonic realism
are exemplified by
the hexagrams of
the I Ching,
which in turn are
based on the seven
trigrams above and
on the eighth trigram,
of all yin lines,
not shown above:

Trigram of K'un, the Receptive

The Receptive


Update of Nov. 30, 2013:

From  a little-known website in Kuala Lumpur:
(Click to enlarge.)

The remarks on Platonic realism are from Wikipedia.
The eightfold cube is apparently from this post.

Saturday, March 10, 2007

Saturday March 10, 2007

Filed under: Uncategorized — m759 @ 9:00 AM

The Logic of Dreams

From A Beautiful Mind–

“How could you,” began Mackey, “how could you, a mathematician, a man devoted to reason and logical proof…how could you believe that extraterrestrials are sending you messages? How could you believe that you are being recruited by aliens from outer space to save the world? How could you…?”

Nash looked up at last and fixed Mackey with an unblinking stare as cool and dispassionate as that of any bird or snake. “Because,” Nash said slowly in his soft, reasonable southern drawl, as if talking to himself, “the ideas I had about supernatural beings came to me the same way that my mathematical ideas did. So I took them seriously.”


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The image “http://www.log24.com/log/pix07/070309-PAlottery.jpg” cannot be displayed, because it contains errors.

These numbers may, in the mad way so well portrayed by Sylvia Nasar in the above book, be regarded as telling a story… a story that should, of course, not be taken too seriously.

Friday’s New York numbers (midday 214, evening 711) suggest the dates 2/14 and 7/11.  Clicking on these dates will lead the reader to Log24 entries featuring, among others, T. S. Eliot and Stephen King– two authors not unacquainted with the bizarre logic of dreams.

A link in the 7/11 entry leads to a remark of Noel Gray on Plato’s Meno and “graphic austerity as the tool to bring to the surface, literally and figuratively, the inherent presence of geometry in the mind of the slave.”

Also Friday: an example of graphic austerity– indeed, Gray graphic austerity– in Log24:

Chessboard (Detail)

This illustration refers to chess rather than to geometry, and to the mind of an addict rather than to that of a slave, but chess and geometry, like addiction and slavery, are not unrelated.

Friday’s Pennsylvania numbers, midday 429 and evening 038, suggest that the story includes, appropriately enough in view of the above Beautiful Mind excerpt, Mackey himself.  The midday number suggests the date 4/29, which at Log24 leads to an entry in memory of Mackey.

(Related material: the Harvard Gazette of April 6, 2006, “Mathematician George W. Mackey, 90: Obituary“–  “A memorial service will be held at Harvard’s Memorial Church on April 29 at 2 p.m.“)

Friday’s Pennsylvania evening number 038 tells two other parts of the story involving Mackey…

As Mackey himself might hope, the number may be regarded as a reference to the 38 impressive pages of Varadarajan’s “Mackey Memorial Lecture” (pdf).

More in the spirit of Nash, 38 may also be taken as a reference to Harvard’s old postal address, Cambridge 38, and to the year, 1938, that Mackey entered graduate study at Harvard, having completed his undergraduate studies at what is now Rice University.

Returning to the concept of graphic austerity, we may further simplify the already abstract chessboard figure above to obtain an illustration that has been called both “the field of reason” and “the Garden of Apollo” by an architect, John Outram, discussing his work at Mackey’s undergraduate alma mater:

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Let us hope that Mackey,
a devotee of reason,
is now enjoying the company
of Apollo rather than that of
Tom O’Bedlam:

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For John Nash on his birthday:

I know more than Apollo,
For oft when he lies sleeping
I see the stars at mortal wars
In the wounded welkin weeping.

Tom O’Bedlam’s Song

Tuesday, January 9, 2007

Tuesday January 9, 2007

Filed under: Uncategorized — m759 @ 9:00 PM
Logos and Logic
(private, cut from prev. entry)

The diamond is used in modal logic to symbolize possibility.

  The 3×3 grid may also be used
to illustrate “possibility.”  It leads,
as noted at finitegeometry.org, to
the famed “24-cell,” which may be
pictured either as the diamond
figure from Plato’s Meno

The image “http://www.log24.com/theory/images/poly-24cell-sm.jpg” cannot be displayed, because it contains errors.

Click for details.

  — or as a figure
with 24 vertices:

The image “http://www.log24.com/theory/images/poly-24cell-02sm.jpg” cannot be displayed, because it contains errors.

Click for details.

The “diamond” version of the
24-cell seems unrelated to the
second version that shows all
vertices and edges, yet the
second version is implicit,
or hidden, in the first.
Hence “possibility.”

Neither version of the 24-cell
seems related in any obvious
way to the 3×3 grid, yet both
versions are implicit,
or hidden, in the grid.
Hence “possibility.”

Saturday, September 23, 2006

Saturday September 23, 2006

Filed under: Uncategorized — m759 @ 9:00 AM

“A corpse will be
transported by express!”

Under the Volcano,
by Malcolm Lowry (1947)



“It has a ghastly familiarity,
like a half-forgotten dream.”

 — Poppy (Gene Tierney) in
The Shanghai Gesture.”



The Star
of Venus


Joan Didion, The White Album:

“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.

Or at least we do for a while. I am talking here about a time when I began to doubt the premises of all the stories I had ever told myself, a common condition but one I found troubling.”

From Patrick Vert,
The Narrative of Acceleration:

“There are plenty of anecdotes to highlight the personal, phenomenological experience of railway passage…

… a unique study on phantasmagoria and the history of imagination. The word originates [in] light-projection, the so-called ghost-shows of the early 19th century….

… thought becomes a phantasmagorical process, a spectral, representative location for the personal imagination that had been marginalized by scientific rationalism….

This phantasmagoria became more mediated over time…. Perception became increasingly visually oriented…. As this occurred, a narrative formed to encapsulate the phenomenology of it all….”

For such a narrative, see
the Log24.net entries of

From a Christian fairy tale:

Aslan’s last words come at the end of The Last Battle: ‘There was a real railway accident […] Your father and mother and all of you are–as you used to call it in the Shadow-Lands–dead. The term is over: the holidays have begun. The dream is ended: this is the morning.’….

Aslan is given the last word in these quiet but emphatic lines. He is the ultimate arbiter of reality: “‘There was a real railway accident.'” Plato, in addition to the Christian tradition, lies behind the closing chapters of The Last Battle. The references here to the Shadowlands and to the dream refer back to an earlier explanation by Digory, now the Lord Digory:

“[…] that was not the real Narnia. That had a beginning and an end. It was only a shadow or a copy of the real Narnia, which has always been here and always will be here: just as our world, England and all, is only a shadow or copy of something in Aslan’s real world. [….] Of course it is different; as different as a real thing is from a shadow or as waking life is from a dream. […] It’s all in Plato, all in Plato: bless me, what do they teach them at these schools!”

Joy Alexander, Aslan’s Speech

“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.)”

Whether any of the above will be of use in comforting the families of those killed in yesterday morning’s train wreck in Germany is not clear.  Pope Benedict XVI, like C. S. Lewis, seems to think Greek philosophy may be of some use to those dealing with train wrecks:

“Modifying the first verse of the Book of Genesis, the first verse of the whole Bible, John began the prologue of his Gospel with the words: ‘In the beginning was the logos.‘ This is the very word used by the emperor: God acts, syn logo, with logos. Logos means both reason and word– a reason which is creative and capable of self-communication, precisely as reason. John thus spoke the final word on the biblical concept of God, and in this word all the often toilsome and tortuous threads of biblical faith find their culmination and synthesis. In the beginning was the logos, and the logos is God, says the Evangelist.”

Remarks of the Pope at the University of Regensburg on Sept. 12, 2006

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Wednesday September 13, 2006

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: — m759 @ 2:56 AM

Octobers for Fest

In memory of Joachim Fest, a noted biographer of Hitler who died on 9/11 at age 79–

A link from 5/27, 2005 (a date mentioned in Monday's Log24 9/11 entry):

"the four corners of the horizon."

A search on this inelegant phrase from Sartre's Being and Nothingness leads, surprisingly, to remarks by the Catholic philosopher Jacques Maritain said to have been published in the month of October in the fateful year 1941.

According to Telegraph.co.uk today, Fest was "the most celebrated historian and the most distinguished journalist of the post-war generation in Germany."

The Telegraph says he 

"aroused the envy of professorial rivals, none of whom could match the incisive elegance of his writing. Equally important was his flair for controversy. He was determined to prevent the wrong lessons being drawn from the past by the Left-wing establishment that had dominated German intellectual life since the 1960s.

Conservative in politics and Catholic by upbringing, Fest stood out among his contemporaries for his rejection of the influence of the Marxist sociologists of the Frankfurt school on the historiography of the Third Reich. Fest saw the Nazi phenomenon not as a product of capitalism, but as a moral catastrophe, made possible by the abdication of responsibility on the part of educated Germans."

For a view of Christian politics closer to that of the Frankfurt school, see a review by Charles Isherwood in the 9/11 New York Times of a play, "The Man Himself."

Related material:

A Log24 entry
from October 29, 2002:


Our Judeo-Christian Heritage:

Two Sides of the Same Coin


On this date in 1897,
Goebbels was born.
Related reading:

The Calvin College
Propaganda Archive

Prince Ombra.


Joseph Goebbels

 and Echoes
(August 11, 2006).

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Tuesday July 11, 2006

Filed under: Uncategorized — m759 @ 9:11 PM

Not Crazy Enough?

Some children of the sixties may feel that today’s previous two entries, on Syd Barrett, the Crazy Diamond, are not crazy enough.  Let them consult the times of those entries– 2:11 and 8:15– and interpret those times, crazily, as dates: 2/11 and 8/15.

This brings us to Stephen King territory– apparently the natural habitat of Syd Barrett.

See Log24 on a 2/11, Along Came a Dreamcatcher, and Log24 on an 8/15, The Line.

From 8/15, a remark of Plato:

“There appears to be a sort of war of Giants and Gods going on…”

(Compare with the remarks by Abraham Cowley for Tom Stoppard’s recent birthday.)

From 2/11, two links: Halloween Meditations  and We Are the Key.

From Dreamcatcher (the film and the book):

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The image “http://www.log24.com/log/pix06/060324-Dreamcatcher.gif” cannot be displayed, because it contains errors.

For Syd Barrett as Duddits,

The image “http://www.log24.com/log/pix06A/060711-Duddits.jpg” cannot be displayed, because it contains errors.

see Terry Kirby on Syd Barrett
(edited– as in Stephen King
and the New Testament
for narrative effect):

“He appeared as the Floyd performed the song ‘Shine On You Crazy Diamond.’ It contains the words: ‘Remember when you were young, you shone like the sun. Shine on you crazy diamond. Now there’s a look in your eyes, like black holes in the sky.’

At first, they didn’t recognise the man, whose head and eyebrows were shaved….

But this was the ‘crazy diamond’ himself: Syd Barrett, the subject of the song….

When Roger Waters saw his old friend, he broke down….

Rick Wright, the keyboards player, later told an interviewer:

… ‘Roger [Waters] was in tears, I think I was; we were both in tears. It was very shocking… seven years of no contact and then to walk in while we’re actually doing that particular track. I don’t know – coincidence, karma, fate, who knows? But it was very, very, very powerful.'”

Remarks suitable for Duddits’s opponent, Mister Gray, may be found in the 1994 Ph.D. thesis of Noel Gray.

“I refer here to Plato’s utilisation in the Meno of graphic austerity as the tool to bring to the surface, literally and figuratively, the inherent presence of geometry in the mind of the slave.”

Plato’s Diamond

Shine on, gentle Duddits.

Sunday, June 4, 2006

Sunday June 4, 2006

Filed under: Uncategorized — m759 @ 1:00 PM
and Words
for Baccalaureate
Day at Princeton

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From Hermann Weyl’s
Princeton University
Press, page 140

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Adapted from the
cover of Alan Watts’s
The Spirit of Zen

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Romani flag, courtesy of

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Related material:

“The Scholar Gypsy”
in The Oxford Book
of English Prose
, 1923,
edited by
Sir Arthur Quiller-Couch

This is available online:

From The Vanity of Dogmatizing,
by Joseph Glanvill
(London, printed by E.C. for
Henry Eversden at the Grey-Hound
in St.Pauls-Church-Yard,  1661)

Pages 195-201:

That one man should be able to bind the thoughts of another, and determine them to their particular objects; will be reckon’d in the first rank of Impossibles: Yet by the power of advanc’d Imagination it may very probably be effected; and story abounds with Instances. I’le trouble the Reader but with one; and the hands from which I had it, make me secure of the truth on’t. There was very lately a Lad in the University of Oxford, who being of very pregnant and ready parts, and yet wanting the encouragement of preferment; was by his poverty forc’d to leave his studies there, and to cast himself upon the wide world for a livelyhood. Now, his necessities growing dayly on him, and wanting the help of friends to relieve him; he was at last forced to joyn himself to a company of Vagabond Gypsies, whom occasionally he met with, and to follow their Trade for a maintenance. Among these extravagant people, and by the insinuating subtilty of his carriage, he quickly got so much of their love, and esteem; as that they discover’d to him their Mystery: in the practice of which, by the pregnancy of his wit and parts he soon grew so good a proficient, as to be able to out-do his Instructors. After he had been a pretty while exercis’d in the Trade; there chanc’d to ride by a couple of Scholars who had formerly bin of his acquaintance. The Scholars had quickly spyed out their old friend, among the Gypsies; and their amazement to see him among such society, had well-nigh discover’d him: but by a sign he prevented their owning him before that Crew: and taking one of them aside privately, desired him with his friend to go to an Inn, not far distant thence, promising there to come to them. They accordingly went thither, and he follows: after their first salutations, his friends enquire how he came to lead so odd a life as that was, and to joyn himself with such a cheating beggarly company. The Scholar-Gypsy having given them an account of the necessity, which drove him to that kind of life; told them, that the people he went with were not such Impostours as they were taken for, but that they had a traditional kind of learning among them, and could do wonders by the power of Imagination, and that himself had learnt much of their Art, and improved in further than themselves could. And to evince the truth of what he told them, he said, he’d remove into another room, leaving them to discourse together; and upon his return tell them the sum of what they had talked of: which accordingly he perform’d, giving them a full acount of what had pass’d between them in his absence. The Scholars being amaz’d at so unexpected a discovery, ernestly desir’d him to unriddle the mystery. In which he gave them satisfaction, by telling them, that what he did was by the power of Imagination, his Phancy binding theirs; and that himself had dictated to them the discourse, they held together, while he was from them: That there were warrantable wayes of heightening the Imagination to that pitch, as to bind anothers; and that when he had compass’d the whole secret, some parts of which he said he was yet ignorant of, he intended to give the world an account of what he had learned.

Now that this strange power of the Imagination is no Impossibility; the wonderful signatures in the Foetus caus’d by the Imagination of the Mother, is no contemptible Item. The sympathies of laughing & gaping together, are resolv’d into this Principle: and I see not why the phancy of one man may not determine the cogitation of another rightly qualified, as easily as his bodily motion. This influence seems to be no more unreasonable, then [sic] that of one string of a Lute upon another; when a stroak on it causeth a proportionable motion in the sympathizing confort, which is distant from it and not sensibly touched. Now if this notion be strictly verifiable; ’twill yeeld us a good account of how Angels inject thoughts into our minds, and know our cogitations: and here we may see the source of some kinds of fascination. If we are prejudic’d against the speculation, because we cannot conceive the manner of so strange an operation; we shall indeed receive no help from the common Philosophy: But yet the Hypothesis of a Mundane soul, lately reviv’d by that incomparable Platonist and Cartesian, Dr. H. More, will handsomely relieve us. Or if any would rather have a Mechanical account; I think it may probably be made out some such way as follow. Imagination is inward Sense. To Sense is required a motion of certain Filaments of the Brain; and consequently in Imagination there’s the like: they only differing in this, that the motion of the one proceeds immediately from external objects; but that of the other hath its immediate rise within us. Now then, when any part of the Brain is stringly agitated; that, which is next and most capable to receive the motive Impress, must in like manner be moved. Now we cannot conceive any thing more capable of motion, then the fluid matter, that’s interspers’d among all bodies, and contiguous to them. So then, the agitated parts of the Brain begetting a motion in the proxime Aether; it is propagated through the liquid medium, as we see the motion is which is caus’d by a stone thrown into the water. Now, when the thus moved matter meets with anything like that, from which it received its primary impress; it will proportionably move it, as it is in Musical strings tuned Unisons. And thus the motion being convey’d, from the Brain of one man to the Phancy of another; it is there receiv’d from the instrument of conveyance, the subtil matter; and the same kind of strings being moved, and much of whay after the same manner as in the first Imaginant; the Soul is awaken’d to the same apprehensions, as were they that caus’d them. I pretend not to any exactness or infallibility in this account, fore-seeing many scruples that must be removed to make it perfect: ‘Tis only a hint of the possibility of mechanically solving the Phaenomenon; though very likely it may require many other circumstances completely to make it out. But ’tis not my business here to follow it: I leave it therefore to receive accomplishment from maturer Inventions.

Friday, March 31, 2006

Friday March 31, 2006

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , — m759 @ 12:00 PM

Women's History Month continues…
Ontology Alignment

"He had with him a small red book of Mao's poems, and as he talked he squared it on the table, aligned it with the table edge first vertically and then horizontally.  To understand who Michael Laski is you must have a feeling for that kind of compulsion."

— Joan Didion in the
Saturday Evening Post,
Nov. 18, 1967 (reprinted in
Slouching Towards Bethlehem)

"Or were you," I said.
He said nothing.
"Raised a Catholic," I said.
He aligned a square crystal paperweight with the edge of his desk blotter.

— Joan Didion in
The Last Thing He Wanted,
Knopf, 1996

"It was Plato who best expressed– who veritably embodied– the tension between the narrative arts and mathematics….

Plato clearly loved them both, both mathematics and poetry.  But he approved of mathematics, and heartily, if conflictedly, disapproved of poetry.  Engraved above the entrance to his Academy, the first European university, was the admonition: Oudeis ageometretos eiseto.  Let none ignorant of geometry enter.  This is an expression of high approval indeed, and the symbolism could not have been more perfect, since mathematics was, for Plato, the very gateway for all future knowledge.  Mathematics ushers one into the realm of abstraction and universality, grasped only through pure reason.  Mathematics is the threshold we cross to pass into the ideal, the truly real."

— Rebecca Goldstein,
Mathematics and
the Character of Tragedy

Monday, January 23, 2006

Monday January 23, 2006

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: — m759 @ 6:00 PM

In Defense of Hilbert
(On His Birthday)

Michael Harris (Log24, July 25 and 26, 2003) in a recent essay, Why Mathematics? You Might Ask (pdf), to appear in the forthcoming Princeton Companion to Mathematics:

“Mathematicians can… claim to be the first postmodernists: compare an art critic’s definition of postmodernism– ‘meaning is suspended in favor of a game involving free-floating signs’– with Hilbert’s definition of mathematics as ‘a game played according to certain simple rules with meaningless marks on paper.'”

Harris adds in a footnote:

“… the Hilbert quotation is easy to find but is probably apocryphal, which doesn’t make it any less significant.”

If the quotation is probably apocryphal, Harris should not have called it “Hilbert’s definition.”

For a much more scholarly approach to the concepts behind the alleged quotation, see Richard Zach, Hilbert’s Program Then and Now (pdf):

[Weyl, 1925] described Hilbert’s project as replacing meaningful mathematics by a meaningless game of formulas. He noted that Hilbert wanted to ‘secure not truth, but the consistency of analysis’ and suggested a criticism that echoes an earlier one by Frege: Why should we take consistency of a formal system of mathematics as a reason to believe in the truth of the pre-formal mathematics it codifies? Is Hilbert’s meaningless inventory of formulas not just ‘the bloodless ghost of analysis’?”

Some of Zach’s references:

[Ramsey, 1926] Frank P. Ramsey. Mathematical logic. The Mathematical Gazette, 13:185-94, 1926. Reprinted in [Ramsey, 1990, 225-244].

[Ramsey, 1990] Frank P. Ramsey. Philosophical Papers, D. H. Mellor, editor. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 1990

From Frank Plumpton Ramsey’s Philosophical Papers, as cited above, page 231:

“… I must say something of the system of Hilbert and his followers…. regarding higher mathematics as the manipulation of meaningless symbols according to fixed rules….
Mathematics proper is thus regarded as a sort of game, played with meaningless marks on paper rather like noughts and crosses; but besides this there will be another subject called metamathematics, which is not meaningless, but consists of real assertions about mathematics, telling us that this or that formula can or cannot be obtained from the axioms according to the rules of deduction….
Now, whatever else a mathematician is doing, he is certainly making marks on paper, and so this point of view consists of nothing but the truth; but it is hard to suppose it the whole truth.”

[Weyl, 1925] Hermann Weyl. Die heutige Erkenntnislage in der Mathematik. Symposion, 1:1-23, 1925. Reprinted in: [Weyl, 1968, 511-42]. English translation in: [Mancosu, 1998a, 123-42]….

[Weyl, 1968] Hermann Weyl. Gesammelte Abhandlungen, volume 1, K. Chandrasekharan, editor. Springer Verlag, Berlin, 1968.

[Mancosu, 1998a] Paolo Mancosu, editor. From Brouwer to Hilbert. The Debate on the Foundations of Mathematics in the 1920s. Oxford University Press, Oxford, 1998.

From Hermann Weyl, “Section V: Hilbert’s Symbolic Mathematics,” in Weyl’s “The Current Epistemogical Situation in Mathematics,” pp. 123-142 in Mancosu, op. cit.:

“What Hilbert wants to secure is not the truth, but the consistency of the old analysis.  This would, at least, explain that historic phenomenon of the unanimity amongst all the workers in the vineyard of analysis.
To furnish the consistency proof, he has first of all to formalize mathematics.  In the same way in which the contentual meaning of concepts such as “point, plane, between,” etc. in real space was unimportant in geometrical axiomatics in which all interest was focused on the logical connection of the geometrical concepts and statements, one must eliminate here even more thoroughly any meaning, even the purely logical one.  The statements become meaningless figures built up from signs.  Mathematics is no longer knowledge but a game of formulae, ruled by certain conventions, which is very well comparable to the game of chess.  Corresponding to the chess pieces we have a limited stock of signs in mathematics, and an arbitrary configuration of the pieces on the board corresponds to the composition of a formula out of the signs.  One or a few formulae are taken to be axioms; their counterpart is the prescribed configuration of the pieces at the beginning of a game of chess.  And in the same way in which here a configuration occurring in a game is transformed into the next one by making a move that must satisfy the rules of the game, there, formal rules of inference hold according to which new formulae can be gained, or ‘deduced,’ from formulae.  By a game-conforming [spielgerecht] configuration in chess I understand a configuration that is the result of a match played from the initial position according to the rules of the game.  The analogue in mathematics is the provable (or, better, the proven) formula, which follows from the axioms on grounds of the inference rules.  Certain formulae of intuitively specified character are branded as contradictions; in chess we understand by contradictions, say, every configuration which there are 10 queens of the same color.  Formulae of a different structure tempt players of mathematics, in the way checkmate configurations tempt chess players, to try to obtain them through clever combination of moves as the end formula of a correctly played proof game.  Up to this point everything is a game; nothing is knowledge; yet, to use Hilbert’s terminology, in ‘metamathematics,’ this game now becomes the object of knowledge.  What is meant to be recognized is that a contradiction can never occur as an end formula of a proof.  Analogously it is no longer a game, but knowledge, if one shows that in chess, 10 queens of one color cannot occur in a game-conforming configuration.  One can see this in the following way: The rules are teaching us that a move can never increase the sum of the number of queens and pawns of one color.  In the beginning this sum = 9, and thus– here we carry out an intuitively finite [anschaulich-finit] inference through complete induction– it cannot be more than this value in any configuration of a game.  It is only to gain this one piece of knowledge that Hilbert requires contentual and meaningful thought; his proof of consistency proceeds quite analogously to the one just carried out for chess, although it is, obviously, much more complicated.
It follows from our account that mathematics and logic must be formalized together.  Mathematical logic, much scorned by philosophers, plays an indispensable role in this context.”

Constance Reid says it was not Hilbert himself, but his critics, who described Hilbert’s formalism as reducing mathematics to “a meaningless game,” and quotes the Platonist Hardy as saying that Hilbert was ultimately concerned not with meaningless marks on paper, but with ideas:

“Hilbert’s program… received its share of criticism.  Some mathematicians objected that in his formalism he had reduced their science to ‘a meaningless game played with meaningless marks on paper.’  But to those familiar with Hilbert’s work this criticism did not seem valid.
‘… is it really credible that this is a fair account of Hilbert’s view,’ Hardy demanded, ‘the view of the man who has probably added to the structure of significant mathematics a richer and more beautiful aggregate of theorems than any other mathematician of his time?  I can believe that Hilbert’s philosophy is as inadequate as you please, but not that an ambitious mathematical theory which he has elaborated is trivial or ridiculous.  It is impossible to suppose that Hilbert denies the significance and reality of mathematical concepts, and we have the best of reasons for refusing to believe it: “The axioms and demonstrable theorems,” he says himself, “which arise in our formalistic game, are the images of the ideas which form the subject-matter of ordinary mathematics.”‘”

— Constance Reid in Hilbert-Courant, Springer-Verlag, 1986 (The Hardy passage is from “Mathematical Proof,” Mind 38, 1-25, 1929, reprinted in Ewald, From Kant to Hilbert.)

Harris concludes his essay with a footnote giving an unsourced Weyl quotation he found on a web page of David Corfield:

“.. we find ourselves in [mathematics] at exactly that crossing point of constraint and freedom which is the very essence of man’s nature.”

One source for the Weyl quotation is the above-cited book edited by Mancosu, page 136.  The quotation in the English translation given there:

“Mathematics is not the rigid and petrifying schema, as the layman so much likes to view it; with it, we rather stand precisely at the point of intersection of restraint and freedom that makes up the essence of man itself.”

Corfield says of this quotation that he’d love to be told the original German.  He should consult the above references cited by Richard Zach.

For more on the intersection of restraint and freedom and the essence of man’s nature, see the Kierkegaard chapter cited in the previous entry.

Saturday, August 13, 2005

Saturday August 13, 2005

Filed under: Uncategorized — m759 @ 2:00 PM

Kaleidoscope, continued:

Austere Geometry

From Noel Gray, The Kaleidoscope: Shake, Rattle, and Roll:

“… what we will be considering is how the ongoing production of meaning can generate a tremor in the stability of the initial theoretical frame of this instrument; a frame informed by geometry’s long tradition of privileging the conceptual ground over and above its visual manifestation.  And to consider also how the possibility of a seemingly unproblematic correspondence between the ground and its extrapolation, between geometric theory and its applied images, is intimately dependent upon the control of the truth status ascribed to the image by the generative theory.  This status in traditional geometry has been consistently understood as that of the graphic ancilla– a maieutic force, in the Socratic sense of that term– an ancilla to lawful principles; principles that have, traditionally speaking, their primary expression in the purity of geometric idealities.*  It follows that the possibility of installing a tremor in this tradition by understanding the kaleidoscope’s images as announcing more than the mere subordination to geometry’s theory– yet an announcement that is still in a sense able to leave in place this self-same tradition– such a possibility must duly excite our attention and interest.

* I refer here to Plato’s utilisation in the Meno of graphic austerity as the tool to bring to the surface, literally and figuratively, the inherent presence of geometry in the mind of the slave.”

See also

Noel Gray, Ph.D. thesis, U. of Sydney, Dept. of Art History and Theory, 1994:

“The Image of Geometry: Persistence qua Austerity– Cacography and The Truth to Space.”

Friday, May 27, 2005

Friday May 27, 2005

Filed under: Uncategorized — m759 @ 12:25 PM
Drama of the Diagonal,
Part Deux

Wednesday’s entry The Turning discussed a work by Roger Cooke.  Cooke presents a

“fanciful story (based on Plato’s dialogue Meno).”

The History of Mathematics is the title of the Cooke book.

Associated Press thought for today:

“History is not, of course, a cookbook offering pretested recipes. It teaches by analogy, not by maxims. It can illuminate the consequences of actions in comparable situations, yet each generation must discover for itself what situations are in fact comparable.”
 — Henry Kissinger (whose birthday is today)

For Henry Kissinger on his birthday:
a link to Geometry for Jews.

This link suggests a search for material
on the art of Sol LeWitt, which leads to
an article by Barry Cipra,
The “Sol LeWitt” Puzzle:
A Problem in 16 Squares
a discussion of a 4×4 array
of square linear designs.
  Cipra says that

“If you like, there are three symmetry groups lurking within the LeWitt puzzle:  the rotation/reflection group of order 8, a toroidal group of order 16, and an ‘existential’* group of order 16.  The first group is the most obvious.  The third, once you see it, is also obvious.”

* Jean-Paul Sartre,
  Being and Nothingness,
  Philosophical Library, 1956
  [reference by Cipra]

For another famous group lurking near, if not within, a 4×4 array, click on Kissinger’s birthday link above.

Kissinger’s remark (above) on analogy suggests the following analogy to the previous entry’s (Drama of the Diagonal) figure:

  The image “http://www.log24.com/log/pix05/021126-diagonH2.jpg” cannot be displayed, because it contains errors.

Logos Alogos II:

This figure in turn, together with Cipra’s reference to Sartre, suggests the following excerpts (via Amazon.com)–

From Sartre’s Being and Nothingness, translated by Hazel E. Barnes, 1993 Washington Square Press reprint edition:

1. on Page 51:
“He makes himself known to himself from the other side of the world and he looks from the horizon toward himself to recover his inner being.  Man is ‘a being of distances.'”
2. on Page 154:
“… impossible, for the for-itself attained by the realization of the Possible will make itself be as for-itself–that is, with another horizon of possibilities.  Hence the constant disappointment which accompanies repletion, the famous: ‘Is it only this?’….”
3. on Page 155:
“… end of the desires.  But the possible repletion appears as a non-positional correlate of the non-thetic self-consciousness on the horizon of the  glass-in-the-midst-of-the-world.”
4. on Page 158:
“…  it is in time that my possibilities appear on the horizon of the world which they make mine.  If, then, human reality is itself apprehended as temporal….”
5. on Page 180:
“… else time is an illusion and chronology disguises a strictly logical order of  deducibility.  If the future is pre-outlined on the horizon of the world, this can be only by a being which is its own future; that is, which is to come….”
6. on Page 186:
“…  It appears on the horizon to announce to me what I am from the standpoint of what I shall be.”
7. on Page 332:
“… the boat or the yacht to be overtaken, and the entire world (spectators, performance, etc.) which is profiled on the horizon.  It is on the common ground of this co-existence that the abrupt revelation of my ‘being-unto-death’….”
8. on Page 359:
“… eyes as objects which manifest the look.  The Other can not even be the object aimed at emptily at the horizon of my being for the Other.”
9. on Page 392:
“… defending and against which he was leaning as against a wail, suddenly opens fan-wise and becomes the foreground, the welcoming horizon toward which he is fleeing for refuge.”
10.  on Page 502:
“… desires her in so far as this sleep appears on the ground of consciousness. Consciousness therefore remains always at the horizon of the desired body; it makes the meaning and the unity of the body.”
11.  on Page 506:
“… itself body in order to appropriate the Other’s body apprehended as an organic totality in situation with consciousness on the horizon— what then is the meaning of desire?”
12.  on Page 661:
“I was already outlining an interpretation of his reply; I transported myself already to the four corners of the horizon, ready to return from there to Pierre in order to understand him.”
13.  on Page 754:
“Thus to the extent that I appear to myself as creating objects by the sole relation of appropriation, these objects are myself.  The pen and the pipe, the clothing, the desk, the house– are myself.  The totality of my possessions reflects the totality of my being.  I am what I have.  It is I myself which I touch in this cup, in this trinket.  This mountain which I climb is myself to the extent that I conquer it; and when I am at its summit, which I have ‘achieved’ at the cost of this same effort, when I attain this magnificent view of the valley and the surrounding peaks, then I am the view; the panorama is myself dilated to the horizon, for it exists only through me, only for me.”

Illustration of the
last horizon remark:

The image “http://www.log24.com/log/pix05/050527-CipraLogo.gif” cannot be displayed, because it contains errors.

The image “http://www.log24.com/log/pix05/050527-CIPRAview.jpg” cannot be displayed, because it contains errors.
From CIPRA – Slovenia,
the Institute for the
Protection of the Alps

For more on the horizon, being, and nothingness, see

Thursday, May 26, 2005

Thursday May 26, 2005

Filed under: Uncategorized — m759 @ 4:23 PM
Drama of the Diagonal
“The beautiful in mathematics
resides in contradiction.
Incommensurability, logoi alogoi, was
the first splendor in mathematics.”
— Simone Weil, Oeuvres Choisies,
éd. Quarto
, Gallimard, 1999, p. 100

Logos Alogos
by S. H. Cullinane

“To a mathematician, mathematical entities have their own existence, they habitate spaces created by their intention.  They do things, things happen to them, they relate to one another.  We can imagine on their behalf all sorts of stories, providing they don’t contradict what we know of them.  The drama of the diagonal, of the square…

— Dennis Guedj, abstract of “The Drama of Mathematics,” a talk to be given this July at the Mykonos conference on mathematics and narrative.

For the drama of the diagonal of the square, see

Thursday May 26, 2005

Filed under: Uncategorized — m759 @ 4:00 AM
The Changing

The previous entry dealt with a transformation
of the diamond figure from Plato’s Meno
into a visual proof of the Pythagorean theorem:

The image “http://www.log24.com/theory/images/DiamondTurning.jpg” cannot be displayed, because it contains errors.

Here is a transformation of Plato’s diamond
into the “gyronny” pattern of heraldry:

The image “http://www.log24.com/theory/images/Gyronny.gif” cannot be displayed, because it contains errors.
Viking Heraldry

The image “http://www.log24.com/theory/images/DiamondChanging2.jpg” cannot be displayed, because it contains errors.

For the mathematics dealing with
this sort of transformation, see
The Diamond 16 Puzzle and Diamond Theory.

Wednesday, May 25, 2005

Wednesday May 25, 2005

Filed under: Uncategorized — m759 @ 2:22 PM

The Turning

Readers who have an Amazon.com account may view book pages relevant to the previous entry.  See page 77 of The Way We Think, by Fauconnier and Turner (Amazon search term = Meno).  This page discusses both the Pythagorean theorem and Plato's diamond figure in the Meno, but fails to "blend" these two topics.  See also page 53 of The History of Mathematics, by Roger Cooke (first edition), where these two topics are in fact blended (Amazon search term = Pythagorean).  The illustration below is drawn from the Cooke book.

The image “http://www.log24.com/log/pix05/050525-Figs.jpg” cannot be displayed, because it contains errors.

Cooke demonstrates how the Pythagorean theorem might have been derived by "blending" Plato's diamond (left) with the idea of moving the diamond's corners (right).

The previous entry dealt with a conference on mathematics and narrative.  Above is an example I like of mathematics…. Here is an example I like of narrative:

Kate felt quite dizzy. She didn't know exactly what it was
that had just happened, but she felt pretty damn  certain  that
it  was  the  sort of experience that her mother would not have
approved of on a first date.
     "Is this all part of what we have to do to go to  Asgard?"
she said. "Or are you just fooling around?"
     "We will go to Asgard...now," he said.
     At that moment he raised his hand as if to pluck an apple,
but instead of plucking he made a tiny, sharp turning movement.
The effect  was as if he had twisted the entire world through a
billionth part of a billionth  part  of  a  degree.  Everything
shifted,  was  for  a  moment  minutely  out of focus, and then
snapped back again as a suddenly different world.

— Douglas Adams, The Long Dark Tea-Time of the Soul

And here is a blend of the concepts "Asgard" and "conference":

    During the Interuniverse Society conference,
    a bridge was opened to Valhalla…."

     In Norse myth, the rainbow bridge
     that connected Earth to Asgard,
     home of the gods.  It was extended
     to Tellus Tertius during the
     Interuniverse Society conference"

— From A Heinlein Concordance

The image “http://www.log24.com/log/pix05/050525-Rainbow.jpg” cannot be displayed, because it contains errors.

— Front page picture from a
local morning newspaper published
today, Wednesday, May 25, 2005

As George Balanchine once asked,
"How much story do you want?"

Tuesday, March 22, 2005

Tuesday March 22, 2005

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , — m759 @ 4:01 PM

Make a Différance

From Frida Saal's
Lacan The image “http://www.log24.com/log/pix05/050322-Diamond.gif” cannot be displayed, because it contains errors. Derrida:

"Our proposal includes the lozenge (diamond) in between the names, because in the relationship / non-relationship that is established among them, a tension is created that implies simultaneously a union and a disjunction, in the perspective of a theoretical encounter that is at the same time necessary and impossible. That is the meaning of the lozenge that joins and separates the two proper names. For that reason their respective works become totally non-superposable and at the same time they were built with an awareness, or at least a partial awareness, of each other. What prevails between both of them is the différance, the Derridean signifier that will become one of the main issues in this presentation."


From a Contemporary Literary Theory website:

"Différance is that which all signs have, what constitutes them as signs, as signs are not that to which they refer: i) they differ, and hence open a space from that which they represent, and ii) they defer, and hence open up a temporal chain, or, participate in temporality. As well, following de Sassure's famous argument, signs 'mean' by differing from other signs. The coined word 'différance' refers to at once the differing and the deferring of signs. Taken to the ontological level†, the differing and deferring of signs from what they mean, means that every sign repeats the creation of space and time; and ultimately, that différance is the ultimate phenomenon in the universe, an operation that is not an operation, both active and passive, that which enables and results from Being itself."

From a text purchased on
Make a Difference Day, Oct. 23, 1999:

The image “http://www.log24.com/log/pix05/050322-Fig39.gif” cannot be displayed, because it contains errors.22. Without using the Pythagorean Theorem prove that the hypotenuse of  an isosceles right triangle will have the length The image “http://www.log24.com/log/pix05/050322-Sqtr2.gif” cannot be displayed, because it contains errors.  if the equal legs have the length 1.  Suggestion: Consider the similar triangles in Fig. 39.
23.  The ancient Greeks regarded the Pythagorean Theorem as involving areas, and they proved it by means of areas.  We cannot do so now because we have not yet considered the idea of area.  Assuming for the moment, however, the idea of the area of a square, use this idea instead of similar triangles and proportion in Ex. 22 above to show that x = The image “http://www.log24.com/log/pix05/050322-Sqtr2.gif” cannot be displayed, because it contains errors. .


— Page 98 of Basic Geometry, by George David Birkhoff, Professor of Mathematics at Harvard University, and Ralph Beatley, Associate Professor of Education at Harvard University (Scott, Foresman 1941)

Though it may be true, as the president of Harvard recently surmised, that women are inherently inferior to men at abstract thought — in particular, pure mathematics*  — they may in other respects be quite superior to men:

The image “http://www.log24.com/log/pix05/050322-Reba2.jpg” cannot be displayed, because it contains errors.

The above is from October 1999.
See also Naturalized Epistemology,
from Women's History Month, 2001.

* See the remarks of Frida Saal above and of Barbara Johnson on mathematics (The Shining of May 29, cited in Readings for St. Patrick's Day).

† For the diamond symbol at "the ontological level," see Modal Theology, Feb. 21, 2005.  See also Socrates on the immortality of the soul in Plato's Meno, source of the above Basic Geometry diamond.

Thursday, January 27, 2005

Thursday January 27, 2005

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: — m759 @ 2:29 AM
Crystal Night

From artbook.com:

Mies van der Rohe:
Mies in Berlin

The image “http://www.log24.com/log/pix05/050127-Mies.jpg” cannot be displayed, because it contains errors.

Winner of
The Society of Architectural Historians
2002 Philip Johnson Award
for Excellence

Exhibition Catalog

"Published to accompany
a groundbreaking 2001 exhibition at
The Museum of Modern Art, New York."


From Mies and the Mastodon,
by Martin Filler, The New Republic,
issue dated Aug. 6, 2001:

"It would have been wiser for the new MoMA catalog… to have addressed the issue of his politics…. By ignoring such a central subject… the show gives off a mild stench of cover-up…. Only the German-born Rosemarie Haag Bletter (full disclosure: she is my wife) alludes to the verboten topic in her [catalog] essay on Mies's flirtation with crystal imagery, drawing a sharp parallel between the architect's extensive use of Kristallglas (plate glass) and the ensuing devastation of Kristallnacht, which erupted just three months after he left for the States."

Also from Filler's essay:

"Mies's rigorously simplified structures, typified by grids of steel and glass and an absence of applied ornament, represented the Platonic ideal of modernism for many people."

For more on history, politics, and
Mies's disciple Philip Johnson,
who died Tuesday evening, see

"We Cannot Not Know History."

For more on aesthetics, see the
Log24.net entry of Tuesday noon,

Diamonds Are Forever.

For more on a Platonic ideal of sorts,
see the following figure in two versions:
Version A, from Plato's Meno and
Diamond Theory,

The image “http://www.log24.com/log/pix05/050127-MenoDiamond.gif” cannot be displayed, because it contains errors.

and Version B,

The image “http://www.log24.com/log/pix05/050125-Forever.gif” cannot be displayed, because it contains errors.

from the date of Johnson's death
at his "famous crystalline box."

Was less more?

Sunday, December 12, 2004

Sunday December 12, 2004

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: — m759 @ 7:59 PM

Ideas, Stories, Values:
Literati in Deep Confusion

Joan Didion, The White Album:

“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.

Or at least we do for a while. I am talking here about a time when I began to doubt the premises of all the stories I had ever told myself, a common condition but one I found troubling.”

Interview with Joseph Epstein:

“You can do in stories things that are above those in essays,” says Epstein.  “In essays and piecework, you are trying to make a point, whereas in stories you are not quite sure what the point is. T.S. Eliot once said of Henry James, ‘He had a mind so fine no idea could violate it,’ which, I think, is the ultimate compliment for an author. Stories are above ideas.”

Harvard President Lawrence H. Summers, Sept. 12, 2004:

“You are entering a remarkable community, the Harvard community. It is a community built on the idea of searching for truth… on the idea of respect for others….

… we practice the values we venerate. The values of seeking truth, the values of respecting others….”

Paul Redding on Hegel:

“… Hegel discusses ‘culture’ as the ‘world of self-alienated spirit.’ The idea seems to be that humans in society not only interact, but that they collectively create relatively enduring cultural products (stories, dramas, and so forth) within which they can recognise their own patterns of life reflected.”

The “phantasmagoria” of Didion seems related to the “phenomenology” of Hegel…

From Michael N. Forster,  Hegel’s Idea of a Phenomenology of Spirit:

“This whole system is conceived, on one level at least, as a defense or rational reworking of the Christian conception of God.  In particular, its three parts are an attempt to make sense of the Christian idea of a God who is three in one — the Logic depicting God as he is in himself, the Philosophy of Nature God the Son, and the Philosophy of Spirit God the Holy Spirit.”

and, indeed, to the phenomenology of narrative itself….

From Patrick Vert,
The Narrative of Acceleration:

“There are plenty of anecdotes to highlight the personal, phenomenological experience of railway passage…

… a unique study on phantasmagoria and the history of imagination. The word originates [in] light-projection, the so-called ghost-shows of the early 19th century….

… thought becomes a phantasmagorical process, a spectral, representative location for the personal imagination that had been marginalized by scientific rationalism….

Truly, ‘immediate experience is [or becomes] the phantasmagoria of the idler’ [Walter Benjamin, The Arcades Project.  Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1999.  Page 801.]….

Thought as phantasm is a consequence of the Cartesian split, and… a further consequence to this is the broad take-over of perceptual faculty…. What better example than that of the American railway?  As a case-study it offers explanation to the ‘phantasmagoria of the idler’….

This phantasmagoria became more mediated over time…. Perception became increasingly visually oriented…. As this occurred, a narrative formed to encapsulate the phenomenology of it all….”

For such a narrative, see
the Log24.net entries of

November 5, 2002, 2:56 AM,
November 5, 2002, 6:29 AM,
January 3, 2003, 11:59 PM,
August 17, 2004, 7:29 PM,
August 18, 2004, 2:18 AM,
August 18, 2004, 3:00 AM, and
November 24, 2004, 10:00 AM.

Friday, November 26, 2004

Friday November 26, 2004

Filed under: Uncategorized — m759 @ 1:11 PM

Dinner Theater?

“Philosophers ponder the idea of identity: what it is to give something a name on Monday and have it respond to that name on Friday….”
— Bernard Holland in the New York Times of Monday, May 20, 1996

From an entry of last Monday,
“Lynchburg Law” — 

The image “http://www.log24.com/log/pix04B/041122-Witchcraft.jpg” cannot be displayed, because it contains errors.

Critic Frank Rich in Wednesday’s Times on a recent televised promotion:

“… it was a manufactured scandal, as over-the-top as a dinner theater production of ‘The Crucible.’ “

From a Friday, Nov. 19, entry:

“the Platonist… is more interested in deriving an abstraction of the object into a universal….”

— Radu Surdulescu, Form, Structure, and Structurality

From El Universal online today:

“Meanwhile, [Mexico] continued to deal with the savagery of Tuesday night’s televised lynchings, with some saying the media had exploited the occurrence.

‘This is a new and worrisome phenomenon,’ security analyst José Reveles said in an interview… ‘It’s like the evil offspring of all the violent exploitation in the media.’  ‘It was Fuenteovejuna,’ he said, referring to the work by the Spanish golden age playwright Lope de Vega in which an entire town covers up the slaying of a corrupt official.”

Frank Rich has the last word:

“A ‘moral values’ crusade that stands between a TV show this popular and its audience will quickly learn the limits of its power in a country where entertainment is god.”

Tuesday, April 6, 2004

Tuesday April 6, 2004

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , — m759 @ 10:00 PM

Ideas and Art, Part III

The first idea was not our own.  Adam
In Eden was the father of Descartes…

— Wallace Stevens, from
Notes Toward a Supreme Fiction

“Quaedam ex his tanquam rerum imagines sunt, quibus solis proprie convenit ideae nomen: ut cùm hominem, vel Chimaeram, vel Coelum, vel Angelum, vel Deum cogito.”

Descartes, Meditationes III, 5

“Of my thoughts some are, as it were, images of things, and to these alone properly belongs the name idea; as when I think [represent to my mind] a man, a chimera, the sky, an angel or God.”

Descartes, Meditations III, 5

Begin, ephebe, by perceiving the idea
Of this invention, this invented world,
The inconceivable idea of the sun.

You must become an ignorant man again
And see the sun again with an ignorant eye
And see it clearly in the idea of it.

— Wallace Stevens, from
Notes Toward a Supreme Fiction

“… Quinimo in multis saepe magnum discrimen videor deprehendisse: ut, exempli causâ, duas diversas solis ideas apud me invenio, unam tanquam a sensibus haustam, & quae maxime inter illas quas adventitias existimo est recensenda, per quam mihi valde parvus apparet, aliam verò ex rationibus Astronomiae desumptam, hoc est ex notionibus quibusdam mihi innatis elicitam, vel quocumque alio modo a me factam, per quam aliquoties major quàm terra exhibetur; utraque profecto similis eidem soli extra me existenti esse non potest, & ratio persuadet illam ei maxime esse dissimilem, quae quàm proxime ab ipso videtur emanasse.”

Descartes, Meditationes III, 11

“… I have observed, in a number of instances, that there was a great difference between the object and its idea. Thus, for example, I find in my mind two wholly diverse ideas of the sun; the one, by which it appears to me extremely small draws its origin from the senses, and should be placed in the class of adventitious ideas; the other, by which it seems to be many times larger than the whole earth, is taken up on astronomical grounds, that is, elicited from certain notions born with me, or is framed by myself in some other manner. These two ideas cannot certainly both resemble the same sun; and reason teaches me that the one which seems to have immediately emanated from it is the most unlike.”

Descartes, Meditations III, 11

“Et quamvis forte una idea ex aliâ nasci possit, non tamen hîc datur progressus in infinitum, sed tandem ad aliquam primam debet deveniri, cujus causa sit in star archetypi, in quo omnis realitas formaliter contineatur, quae est in ideâ tantùm objective.”

Descartes, Meditationes III, 15

“And although an idea may give rise to another idea, this regress cannot, nevertheless, be infinite; we must in the end reach a first idea, the cause of which is, as it were, the archetype in which all the reality [or perfection] that is found objectively [or by representation] in these ideas is contained formally [and in act].”

Descartes, Meditations III, 15

Michael Bryson in an essay on Stevens’s “Notes Toward a Supreme Fiction,”

The Quest for the Fiction of the Absolute:

“Canto nine considers the movement of the poem between the particular and the general, the immanent and the transcendent: “The poem goes from the poet’s gibberish to / The gibberish of the vulgate and back again. / Does it move to and fro or is it of both / At once?” The poet, the creator-figure, the shadowy god-figure, is elided, evading us, “as in a senseless element.”  The poet seeks to find the transcendent in the immanent, the general in the particular, trying “by a peculiar speech to speak / The peculiar potency of the general.” In playing on the senses of “peculiar” as particular and strange or uncanny, these lines play on the mystical relation of one and many, of concrete and abstract.”

Brian Cronin in Foundations of Philosophy:

“The insight is constituted precisely by ‘seeing’ the idea in the image, the intelligible in the sensible, the universal in the particular, the abstract in the concrete. We pivot back and forth between images and ideas as we search for the correct insight.”

— From Ch. 2, Identifying Direct Insights

Michael Bryson in an essay on Stevens’s “Notes Toward a Supreme Fiction“:

“The fourth canto returns to the theme of opposites. ‘Two things of opposite natures seem to depend / On one another . . . . / This is the origin of change.’  Change resulting from a meeting of opposities is at the root of Taoism: ‘Tao produced the One. / The One produced the two. / The two produced the three. / And the three produced the ten thousand things’ (Tao Te Ching 42) ….”

From an entry of March 7, 2004

From the web page

Introduction to the I Ching–
By Richard Wilhelm

“He who has perceived the meaning of change fixes his attention no longer on transitory individual things but on the immutable, eternal law at work in all change. This law is the tao of Lao-tse, the course of things, the principle of the one in the many. That it may become manifest, a decision, a postulate, is necessary. This fundamental postulate is the ‘great primal beginning’ of all that exists, t’ai chi — in its original meaning, the ‘ridgepole.’ Later Chinese philosophers devoted much thought to this idea of a primal beginning. A still earlier beginning, wu chi, was represented by the symbol of a circle. Under this conception, t’ai chi was represented by the circle divided into the light and the dark, yang and yin,


This symbol has also played a significant part in India and Europe. However, speculations of a gnostic-dualistic character are foreign to the original thought of the I Ching; what it posits is simply the ridgepole, the line. With this line, which in itself represents oneness, duality comes into the world, for the line at the same time posits an above and a below, a right and left, front and back-in a word, the world of the opposites.”

The t’ai chi symbol is also illustrated on the web page Cognitive Iconology, which says that

“W.J.T. Mitchell calls ‘iconology’
a study of the ‘logos’
(the words, ideas, discourse, or ‘science’)
of ‘icons’ (images, pictures, or likenesses).
It is thus a ‘rhetoric of images’
(Iconology: Image, Text, Ideology, p. 1).”

A variation on the t’ai chi symbol appears in a log24.net entry for March 5:

The Line,
by S. H. Cullinane

See too my web page Logos and Logic, which has the following:

“The beautiful in mathematics resides in contradiction. Incommensurability, logoi alogoi, was the first splendor in mathematics.”

— Simone Weil, Oeuvres Choisies, ed. Quarto, Gallimard, 1999, p. 100

 Logos Alogos,
by S. H. Cullinane 

In the conclusion of Section 3, Canto X, of “Notes,” Stevens says

“They will get it straight one day
at the Sorbonne.
We shall return at twilight
from the lecture
Pleased that
the irrational is rational….”

This is the logoi alogoi of Simone Weil.

In “Notes toward a Supreme Fiction,”
Wallace Stevens lists three criteria
for a work of the imagination:

It Must Be Abstract

The Line,
by S.H. Cullinane 

It Must Change

 The 24,
by S. H. Cullinane

It Must Give Pleasure

by S. H. Cullinane

Related material:

Logos and Logic.


Sunday, March 7, 2004

Sunday March 7, 2004

Filed under: Uncategorized — m759 @ 6:00 PM


From Wallace Stevens,
Notes Toward a Supreme Fiction“:

It is the celestial ennui of apartments
That sends us back to the first idea, the quick
Of this invention; and yet so poisonous

Are the ravishments of truth, so fatal to
The truth itself, the first idea becomes
The hermit in a poet’s metaphors,

Who comes and goes and comes and goes all day.
May there be an ennui of the first idea?
What else, prodigious scholar, should there be?….

From Guyan Robertson,
Groups Acting on Affine Buildings
and their Boundaries

From Plato’s Meno:

They will get it straight one day at the Sorbonne.
We shall return at twilight from the lecture         
Pleased that the irrational is rational….              

See Logos and Logic
and the previous entry.

Sunday, August 17, 2003

Sunday August 17, 2003

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: — m759 @ 6:21 PM

Diamond theory is the theory of affine groups over GF(2) acting on small square and cubic arrays. In the simplest case, the symmetric group of degree 4 acts on a two-colored diamond figure like that in Plato's Meno dialogue, yielding 24 distinct patterns, each of which has some ordinary or color-interchange symmetry .

This symmetry invariance can be generalized to (at least) a group of order approximately 1.3 trillion acting on a 4x4x4 array of cubes.

The theory has applications to finite geometry and to the construction of the large Witt design underlying the Mathieu group of degree 24.

Further Reading:

Monday, March 24, 2003

Monday March 24, 2003

Filed under: Uncategorized — m759 @ 12:52 PM

Orwell’s question, according to
an admirer of leftist Noam Chomsky:

“When so much of the BS is right out in the open,
why is it that we know so little about it?
Why don’t we see what’s right in front of our eyes?”

Deep Chomsky:
Lying, Truth-Telling,
and the Social Order

“First of all, I’d like to thank the Academy….”
— Quotation attributed to Plato

The New Yorker of March 31, 2003, discusses leftist academic Noam Chomsky.  The online edition provides a web page listing pro-Chomsky links.

Chomsky’s influence is based in part on the popularity of his half-baked theories on linguistics, starting in the 1950’s with “deep structure” and “transformational,” or “generative,” grammar.

Chomsky has abandoned many of his previous ideas and currently touts what he calls The Minimalist Program.

For some background on Chomsky’s recent linguistic notions, see the expository essay “Syntactic Theory,” by Elly van Gelderen of the Arizona State University English Department.  Van Gelderen lists her leftist political agenda on her “Other Interests” page.  Her department may serve as an example of how leftists have converted many English departments in American universities to propaganda factories.

Some attacks on Chomsky’s scholarship:

The Emperor’s New Linguistics

The New Grammarians’ Funeral

Beyond Chomsky

Could Chomsky Be Wrong? 

Forty-four Reasons Why the Chomskians Are Mistaken

Call for Papers, Chomsky 2003

Chomsky’s (Mis)Understanding of Human Thinking

Anatomy of a Revolution… Chomsky in 1962

…Linguistic Theory: The Rationality of Noam Chomsky

A Bibliography

Some attacks on Chomsky’s propaganda:

LeftWatch.com Chomsky page

Destructive Generation excerpt

The Sick Mind of Noam Chomsky

Partners in Hate: Noam Chomsky and the Holocaust Deniers

Chomsky and Plato’s Diamond

Like another purveyor of leftist nonsense, Jacques Derrida, Chomsky is fond of citing Plato as a precedent.  In particular, what Chomsky calls “Plato’s problem” is discussed in Plato’s Meno.  For a look at the diamond figure that plays a central role in that dialogue, see Diamond Theory.  For an excellent overview of related material in Plato, see Theory of Forms.

Thursday, March 13, 2003

Thursday March 13, 2003

Filed under: Uncategorized — m759 @ 4:44 PM


From The New Yorker, issue of March 17, 2003, Clive James on Aldous Huxley:

The Perennial Philosophy, his 1945 book compounding all the positive thoughts of West and East into a tutti-frutti of moral uplift, was the equivalent, in its day, of It Takes a Village: there was nothing in it to object to, and that, of course, was the objection.”

For a cultural artifact that is less questionably perennial, see Huxley’s story “Young Archimedes.”

Plato, Pythagoras, and
the diamond figure

Plato’s Diamond in the Meno
Plato as a precursor of Gerard Manley Hopkins’s “immortal diamond.” An illustration shows the ur-diamond figure.

Plato’s Diamond Revisited
Ivars Peterson’s Nov. 27, 2000 column “Square of the Hypotenuse” which discusses the diamond figure as used by Pythagoras (perhaps) and Plato. Other references to the use of Plato’s diamond in the proof of the Pythagorean theorem:


“… and he proceeded to prove the theorem of Pythagoras — not in Euclid’s way, but by the simpler and more satisfying method which was, in all probability, employed by Pythagoras himself….
‘You see,’ he said, ‘it seemed to me so beautiful….’
I nodded. ‘Yes, it’s very beautiful,’ I said — ‘it’s very beautiful indeed.'”
— Aldous Huxley, “Young Archimedes,” in Collected Short Stories, Harper, 1957, pp. 246 – 247


Sir Thomas L. Heath, in his commentary on Euclid I.47, asks how Pythagoreans discovered the Pythagorean theorem and the irrationality of the diagonal of a unit square. His answer? Plato’s diamond.
(See Heath, Sir Thomas Little (1861-1940),
The thirteen books of Euclid’s Elements translated from the text of Heiberg with introduction and commentary. Three volumes. University Press, Cambridge, 1908. Second edition: University Press, Cambridge, 1925. Reprint: Dover Publications, New York, 1956.

Other sites on the alleged
“diamond” proof of Pythagoras

Colorful diagrams at Cut-the-Knot

Illustrated legend of the diamond proof

Babylonian version of the diamond proof

For further details of Huxley’s story, see

The Practice of Mathematics,

Part I, by Robert P. Langlands, from a lecture series at the Institute for Advanced Study, Princeton.

From the New Yorker Contributors page for St. Patrick’s Day, 2003:

Clive James (Books, p. 143) has a new collection, As of This Writing: The Essential Essays, 1968-2002, which will be published in June.”

See also my entry “The Boys from Uruguay” and the later entry “Lichtung!” on the Deutsche Schule Montevideo in Uruguay.

Thursday, October 31, 2002

Thursday October 31, 2002

Filed under: Geometry — m759 @ 11:07 PM


From The Unknowable (1999), by Gregory J. Chaitin, who has written extensively about his constant, which he calls Omega:

"What is Omega? It's just the diamond-hard distilled and crystallized essence of mathematical truth! It's what you get when you compress tremendously the coal of redundant mathematical truth…" 

Charles H. Bennett has written about Omega as a cabalistic number.

Here is another result with religious associations which, historically, has perhaps more claim to be called the "diamond-hard essence" of mathematical truth: The demonstration in Plato's Meno that a diamond inscribed in a square has half the area of the square (or that, vice-versa, the square has twice the area of the diamond).

From Ivars Peterson's discussion of Plato's diamond and the Pythagorean theorem:

"In his textbook The History of Mathematics, Roger Cooke of the University of Vermont describes how the Babylonians might have discovered the Pythagorean theorem more than 1,000 years before Pythagoras.

Basing his account on a passage in Plato's dialogue Meno, Cooke suggests that the discovery arose when someone, either for a practical purpose or perhaps just for fun, found it necessary to construct a square twice as large as a given square…."

From "Halving a Square," a presentation of Plato's diamond by Alexander Bogomolny, the moral of the story:

SOCRATES: And if the truth about reality is always in our soul, the soul must be immortal….

From "Renaissance Metaphysics and the History of Science," at The John Dee Society website:

Galileo on Plato's diamond:

"Cassirer, drawing attention to Galileo's frequent use of the Meno, particularly the incident of the slave's solving without instruction a problem in geometry by 'natural' reason stimulated by questioning, remarks, 'Galileo seems to accept all the consequences drawn by Plato from this fact…..'"

Roger Bacon on Plato's diamond:

"Fastening on the incident of the slave in the Meno, which he had found reproduced in Cicero, Bacon argued from it 'wherefore since this knowledge (of mathematics) is almost innate and as it were precedes discovery and learning or at least is less in need of them than other sciences, it will be first among sciences and will precede others disposing us towards them.'"

It is perhaps appropriate to close this entry, made on All Hallows' Eve, with a link to a page on Dr. John Dee himself.

Sunday, September 22, 2002

Sunday September 22, 2002

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , — m759 @ 8:02 PM

Force Field of Dreams

Metaphysics and chess in today’s New York Times Magazine:

  • From “Must-See Metaphysics,” by Emily Nussbaum:

    Joss Whedon, creator of a new TV series —

    “I’m a very hard-line, angry atheist” and
    “I want to invade people’s dreams.”

  • From “Check This,” by Wm. Ferguson:

    Garry Kasparov on chess —

    “When the computer sees forced lines,
    it plays like God.”

Putting these quotations together, one is tempted to imagine God having a little game of chess with Whedon, along the lines suggested by C. S. Lewis:

As Lewis tells it the time had come for his “Adversary [as he was wont to speak of the God he had so earnestly sought to avoid] to make His final moves.” (C. S. Lewis, Surprised by Joy, Harcourt, Brace, and World, Inc., 1955, p. 216) Lewis called them “moves” because his life seemed like a chess match in which his pieces were spread all over the board in the most disadvantageous positions. The board was set for a checkmate….

For those who would like to imagine such a game (God vs. Whedon), the following may be helpful.

George Steiner has observed that

The common bond between chess, music, and mathematics may, finally, be the absence of language.

This quotation is apparently from

Fields of Force:
Fischer and Spassky at Reykjavik
. by George Steiner, Viking hardcover, June 1974.

George Steiner as quoted in a review of his book Grammars of Creation:

“I put forward the intuition, provisional and qualified, that the ‘language-animal’ we have been since ancient Greece so designated us, is undergoing mutation.”

The phrase “language-animal” is telling.  A Google search reveals that it is by no means a common phrase, and that Steiner may have taken it from Heidegger.  From another review, by Roger Kimball:

In ”Grammars of Creation,” for example, he tells us that ”the classical and Judaic ideal of man as ‘language animal,’ as uniquely defined by the dignity of speech . . . came to an end in the antilanguage of the death camps.”

This use of the Holocaust not only gives the appearance of establishing one’s credentials as a person of great moral gravity; it also stymies criticism. Who wants to risk the charge of insensitivity by objecting that the Holocaust had nothing to do with the ”ideal of man as ‘language animal’ ”?

Steiner has about as clear an idea of the difference between “classical” and “Judaic” ideals of man as did Michael Dukakis. (See my notes of September 9, 2002.)

Clearly what music, mathematics, and chess have in common is that they are activities based on pure form, not on language. Steiner is correct to that extent. The Greeks had, of course, an extremely strong sense of form, and, indeed, the foremost philosopher of the West, Plato, based his teachings on the notion of Forms. Jews, on the other hand, have based their culture mainly on stories… that is, on language rather than on form. The phrase “language-animal” sounds much more Jewish than Greek. Steiner is himself rather adept at the manipulation of language (and of people by means of language), but, while admiring form-based disciplines, is not particularly adept at them.

I would argue that developing a strong sense of form — of the sort required to, as Lewis would have it, play chess with God — does not require any “mutation,” but merely learning two very powerful non-Jewish approaches to thought and life: the Forms of Plato and the “archetypes” of Jung as exemplified by the 64 hexagrams of the 3,000-year-old Chinese classic, the I Ching.

For a picture of how these 64 Forms, or Hexagrams, might function as a chessboard,

click here.

Other relevant links:

“As you read, watch for patterns. Pay special attention to imagery that is geometric…”


from Shakhmatnaia goriachka

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