Alec Nevala-Lee

Thoughts on art, creativity, and the writing life.

Archive for June 25th, 2017

Making it difficult

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It is not easy for the lay mind to realize the importance of symbolism in discussing the foundations of mathematics, and the explanation may perhaps seem strangely paradoxical. The fact is that symbolism is useful because it makes things difficult…What we wish to know is, what can be deduced from what. Now, in the beginnings, everything is self-evident; and it is very hard to see whether one self-evident proposition follows from another or not. Obviousness is always the enemy to correctness. Hence we invent some new and difficult symbolism, in which nothing seems obvious. Then we set up certain rules for operating on the symbols, and the whole thing becomes mechanical.

Bertrand Russell, “Mathematics and Metaphysicians”

Written by nevalalee

June 25, 2017 at 7:30 am

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