Pythagoras

I’ve had many great spiritual / intellectual / personal moments in my life: one of the greatest came while watching Jacob Bronowski’s Ascent of Man: Bronowski presented Pythagoras proof for the square of the hypotenuse, and, for the first time in my life, I got it. (If you’ve ever gotten it, then no doubt you remember the moment too; if you don’t, then you still haven’t gotten it: and won’t understand what I say below either.)

(I love the story I quoted around FLEX, 1970 ff: “I went through it (the quantum theory) once and looked up only to find the class full of blank faces-they had obviously not understood. I went through it a second time, and they still did not understand it. And so I went through it a third time, and that time I understood it.”

anecdote in The Process of Education)

So: Pythagoras is one of the stupendous geniuses: so brilliant it’s almost unimaginable. But: here’s something else that one should perhaps also be aware of about Pythagoras: if it’s true, check me, I’ll check too:

Pythagoras was knows as a great mathematician among his contemporaries. He opened a school. The school was chock-a-block with geniuses. One of them was aggressive, a competitor. Pythagoras repressed him, got rid of him. The upstart burned the school down: and that’s how Pythagoras died!
So: if the story is true, if I’ve got the characters at all right, then Pythagoras, however brilliant he was, was also a repressor of ideas: an enemy of reason.

I am not a mathematician. Stories about Faulkner, Hemmingway … I know how to check in my own library; stories about mathematicians, though they too may be in my own library, I can’t check as readily. Prolonged, choreographed, poverty has kept my library out of my hands much of my adult life, my library is rat-beshat, roach-eaten, mildewed … shoved in a shed, not ordered … I have no elbow room to re-order it. Still: I’ll look in what books of mine I can reach, and I’ll Google too.

About pk

Seems to me that some modicum of honesty is requisite to intelligence. If we look in the mirror and see not kleptocrats but Christians, we’re still in the same old trouble.
This entry was posted in DeCentral, pk Teaching, thinking tools. Bookmark the permalink.

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