Jun 22, 2017

>[..] Since slaves did all the manual labor, the rich folks had plenty of time to contemplate their navels, and to ponder about the meaning of life. Hence Western Philosophy, with its many pseudo-questions was developed in the hands of Plato, Aristotle, and their buddies, and ‘Modern’ pure mathematics was inaugurated in the hands of the gang of Euclid et. al.

Some call it "contemplating their navels", some other call it curiosity. I'm reminded of this other essay [1] that was discussed on HN a week ago:

>[..] throughout the whole history of science most of the really great discoveries which had ultimately proved to be beneficial to mankind had been made by men and women who were driven not by the desire to be useful but merely the desire to satisfy their curiosity.

Regarding the rest of the Zeilberger's essay ... while it is intuitively obvious that there something odd going with the assumptions in problems like the Zeno's paradox (that's why we call them paradoxes), it is certainly not intuitively obvious what that something exactly is, because it took us a good amount of principled application of curiosity (and quite while of time) to see why and how. What you'd call a mind that does not yearn to know the details but instead yells and lavishly prefers to drop "that's stupid" in boldface and with an exclamation point? I'm not sure, but "uninteresting" comes to mind.

In general, it's easy to see that ancient Greeks were mistaken on some issue or their ideas on some other ones were downright silly now that we have spent over two millenia improving on them and developing the ideas and tools such as "experimental science".

[1] Abraham Flexner, "Usefulness of Useless Knowledge", Harpers 179, 1939, https://library.ias.edu/files/UsefulnessHarpers.pdf HN discussion: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=14558775

Mar 06, 2017

Looking forward to reading this, but as I don't see a link in the comments here or the body of the article, you really should read the essay by Flexner that's referenced in the headline. It's stored at the IAS here:


And it's being reprinted with commentary here (the occasion for the essay linked):