"The mind is a compact, multiply connected thought mass with internal connections of the most intimate kind. It grows continuously as new thought masses enter it, and this is the means by which it continues to develop."

Bernhard Riemann On Psychology and Metaphysics ca. 1860

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Saturday, November 08, 2014

Beethoven, Augustine, Leibniz and Harmonic Singularities

If anyone, given the leisure, decides to compare all forms of development to extract their common principle, nothing could come immediately emotionally closer than the final movement of Beethoven's Ninth Symphony. In it, Beethoven composes an encapsulated recapitulation of the previous three movements in a dramatic fugal dialog that provokes a breathtaking crisis and demonstrates its resolution in the human choir performing Schiller's Ode to Joy.

Augustine laid the groundwork for the Renaissance in his struggle to overcome the Manichean dogma that evil has a co-equal substance with goodness. Today's claim by the heirs of Bertrand Russell that one can reduce the human mind to the one's and zeros of computer code is in essence this very same Manichean doctrine  in a new suit of clothes. The oft heard refrain that God is to blame for allowing evil to flourish (for instance in Twain's Mysterious Stranger tale) is the type of mental crisis that the Ninth Symphony exemplifies. Such was the libertine complaint against Leibniz in the rather silly portrayal of him as Voltaire's Pangloss.

All of history going forward or backward can be subsumed by this great division among the rule and purpose of human activity. We are as on a perpetual precipice overlooking a maelstrom that must be resolved if we are to move forward. The choice is omnipresent and constitutes the only meaningful definition of scientific and artistic beauty that exists.





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