Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Poetry Break: "Epitaph for a Logician"

Principia Mathematica
(Image from Wikipedia)

I realize that we recently took a poetry break, but this week is midterms, so bear with me.

I wrote the following poem back in the 1990s, if I recall, but I wasn't thinking of anybody in particular. Moreover, I honestly doubt that many logicians are anything like the one described in this poem. I was, rather, playing with the stereotype of the logician as one wholly committed to logic and to making everything rational -- and rigorously excluding whatever doesn't fit.

That image has probably been one projected by the logical positivism of the early to mid-twentieth century, for that intellectual movement, if I recall my intellectual history, stipulated that any statement neither formally reducible to basic axioms nor empirically reducible to sensory data was "nonsense." But that stipulation itself is thus nonsense, as was soon pointed out, and there were other problems concerning formal incompleteness and ineradicable paradox, as I believe was proven by Kurt Gödel, so the movement met with intellectual death, in all its existential (and extinctual) absurdity. As ultimately did anyone who followed that path . . . though all paths eventually wend their way down to that obscure place:
Epitaph for a Logician
He saw no sense for metaphor,
to humor, or in kindness;
yet, courage of his ken, this,
and logic, which prevails within
his prescient, keen, concluding kind --
these stirred his breast and master mind.
Even such a rigid logician has feelings for logic, I suppose, and feels satisfied pleasure in constructing a rigorous, lucid, beautiful proof. I assume that this will have applied to logical positivists as well.

But I wonder if any logician would want this epitaph. Probably not. Nobody would appreciate such an unkind final 'eulogy' . . .

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At 4:25 AM, Blogger dhr said...

You got glorious antecedents...

Francis came afterward, when I was dead,
For me; but one of the black Cherubim
Said to him: 'Take him not; do me no wrong;

He must come down among my servitors,
Because he gave the fraudulent advice
From which time forth I have been at his hair;

For who repents not cannot be absolved,
Nor can one both repent and will at once,
Because of the contradiction which consents not.'

O miserable me! how I did shudder
When he seized on me, saying: 'Peradventure
Thou didst not think that I was a logician!'

At 4:29 AM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

I'll steer clear of logicians from now on . . .

Jeffery Hodges

* * *

At 5:54 AM, Blogger dhr said...

Cyber-commenters are worse. Ar ar ar ar ar.

At 6:58 AM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

At least they have a punny sense of humor . . .

Jeffery Hodges

* * *


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