In Which I Am Doomed, Doomed I Tell You


I don’t figure this week’s big piece is going to be another massive composition based on what I happen to be reading. This is because I’m reading Mathematics Without Apologies: Portrait of a Problematic Vocation by Michael Harris. I had thought it was a mathematician’s memoir and thoughts about explaining mathematics to people who aren’t necessarily students. I realized by page fourteen that this is some completely different kind of book, because there it laid this on me:

Be assured that this is not a series of clippings from my autobiography. “When the studies of a philosopher, and especially of a mathematician, have been described, his discoveries recorded, and his writings considered, his history has been written. There is little else to say of such a man: his private life is generally uninteresting and unvaried.” 20 Too true! I can’t even begin to imagine what might make for an interesting private life. The “I” of this chapter’s title [ How I Acquired Charisma ] is not the hateful “I” of Blaise Pascal’s Pensées but rather the hypothetical “I” of a Weberian ideal type. “Type of what?” Maybe we’ll know by the end of this book.

That wasn’t even the end of this paragraph! And I haven’t dared look to the endnotes to see what the 20 is.

I realized this was going to be a more challenging read when a couple pages before that the book laid “apodictically” on me, but since my love is a professional philosopher I was warned about words like “apodictic” existing and meaning something. But this … this ….

I may not make it through the book alive, I’m sorry. That’s all.

Author: Joseph Nebus

I was born 198 years to the day after Johnny Appleseed. The differences between us do not end there. He/him.

7 thoughts on “In Which I Am Doomed, Doomed I Tell You”

  1. I learned a new word today, Joseph. Apodictic: clearly established or beyond dispute. I feel a little better seeing that my spellcheck didn’t know the word either 😉

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      1. -I actually made it through to the far end of the book! Now I don’t know what I read.-

        That might be a good thing, Michael Harris was the pop culture obsessed producer of Dick Loudon’s TV show on “Newhart”. Since ((Spoiler alert )) it was revealed that everything “Newhart” was actually a dream of the equally fictional Dr Robert Heartly..you have a very dangerous item there a book that is from a dream within a dream within a dream. If you finish that book Bob Newhart might cease to exist. Be careful.

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        1. Oh, goodness. That’s a pretty dire warning to receive. There are only a couple of books I’ve ever not finished and while I would hate to lose Bob Newhart — there are few people who did more to shape my comic sensibility for all that I don’t show it in my comic voice — adding a fourth book to the pile would be pretty embarrassing.

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