My prediction: Keith Richards’ Life will be a classic of its kind. Totally smokin’.

Published in: on November 14, 2010 at 8:30 pm  Leave a Comment  

They burned the books, but the language survives

I will spend a good portion of  the day working on my Latin exercises.  One day, before I die, I’ll be reading Tacitus in the original.

Published in: on September 16, 2010 at 10:43 am  Leave a Comment  

Bertrand’s Ghost

I’ll admit it.  Bertrand Russell’s Autobiography is one of my favorite books.  He was a hero of mine back in my youth, but even now, when I have no heroes, that book still enchants me.

Let us take one of Russell’s finest achievements.  Along with Whitehead, he showed in their Principia Mathematica how to deduce mathematics from axioms of logic.  The chapter in his Autobiography where he discusses that fascinates me still.

Because of Russell I was much under the sway of logicism when I was young, not only as a philosophy of mathematics, but as a philosophy of life, extending Russell’s thought to realms he never dreamed of and would have abhorred.  Now that I am older and know the meaning of life, at least for we humans, lies in metaphor, I stand corrected–even in my philosophy of mathematics.  (Big Wink)

Yet it was Russell who put me on the path to the study of mathematical logic, a path I do not regret, for at one time I mastered Godel’s On Formally Undecidable Propositions of Principia Mathematica and Related Systems on my own.  It remains one of my proudest achievements.

In 1950, Bertrand received the Nobel Prize for Literature.  I thought it odd for most of my life, but now it seems so right especially after his Autobiography, which was written in the mid-Sixties.  Even his Introduction to Mathematical Philosophy is a minor literary classic.  (He wrote it while in jail during World War I for opposing the war.)  Saying that makes me think he is my hero again, and I don’t hold much truck with heroes except for folks like him and U. S. Grant and such.

I own the hardback volumes and a paperback copy of Autobiography.  (Another Big Wink)

Published in: on November 30, 2009 at 1:25 pm  Comments (3)  


I’ve just finished reading several chapters of Gibbon about the short reign of Julian. Julian attempted to restore the pagan religions in the Roman empire after the reign of Constantine and his sons had favored Christianity. He also led an ill fated expedition against the Persions. He was wounded in battle and died while retreating from his adventure.

The episode puts me in mind of the disastrous Athenian expedition against Sicily recommended by Alcibiades and related by Thucydides. Valor and intelligence do not supply the want of wisdom.

Why I read and think of the rise and fall of ancient empires while my personal life is mired in a stultifying tumult I do not know. I guess I will write it off to the effects of the Dog Days. Then hope the voice of reason will eventually drown the multitude of voices arising from emotion, passion, and desire.

Published in: on August 23, 2008 at 12:05 pm  Leave a Comment  

Decline and Fall

I bought the Penguin Classics abridgment of Gibbon’s The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire this morning. I have read the whole of it, but don’t feel up to rereading the whole again. A fair selection of the wit, wisdom, and elegant prose style of Gibbon ought to suffice for some enjoyable summer reading.

Reading prose should resonate like fine music. Whatever the content of a text, it is nothing if it does not enter a collage and create a pastiche with other fine works. Most readers take the the enjoyment of their reading to the grave with them unless they be writers or lecturers. Reading should first and foremost be its own reward because of this. Part of the rewards of reading are the connections the mind forms with thoughts born from other books, even though the connections are seldom articulated.

So, I read Gibbon again. I would rank his work as definitely one of my favorites. I have already spent many pleasant hours with it during my life. A few more hours entices me, even though what I think and how I feel will silently die with me.

Published in: on August 6, 2008 at 11:49 am  Leave a Comment