18.127 Nash's hope

From: Humanist Discussion Group (by way of Willard McCarty willard.mccarty_at_kcl.ac.uk>
Date: Tue, 10 Aug 2004 11:38:33 +0100

               Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 18, No. 127.
       Centre for Computing in the Humanities, King's College London
                     Submit to: humanist_at_princeton.edu

         Date: Tue, 10 Aug 2004 11:29:45 +0100
         From: Willard McCarty <willard.mccarty_at_kcl.ac.uk>
         Subject: John F. Nash's hope

Anyone who has seen the popular movie, A Beautiful Mind, will know
something of the life and work of John Forbes Nash, Jr. Allow me to direct
you to the site devoted to the Nobel Prize he shared with two others,
http://www.nobel.se/economics/laureates/1994/. The text of the Prize
Seminar is well worth reading, but here I'd like to draw your attention in
particular to Nash's autobiography, to the final two paragraphs, which I
quote here:

>So at the present time I seem to be thinking rationally again in the style
>that is characteristic of scientists. However this is not entirely a
>matter of joy as if someone returned from physical disability to good
>physical health. One aspect of this is that rationality of thought imposes
>a limit on a person's concept of his relation to the cosmos. For example,
>a non-Zoroastrian could think of Zarathustra as simply a madman who led
>millions of naive followers to adopt a cult of ritual fire worship. But
>without his "madness" Zarathustra would necessarily have been only another
>of the millions or billions of human individuals who have lived and then
>been forgotten.
>Statistically, it would seem improbable that any mathematician or
>scientist, at the age of 66, would be able through continued research
>efforts, to add much to his or her previous achievements. However I am
>still making the effort and it is conceivable that with the gap period of
>about 25 years of partially deluded thinking providing a sort of vacation
>my situation may be atypical. Thus I have hopes of being able to achieve
>something of value through my current studies or with any new ideas that
>come in the future.

Those of us here, though we may not equal Nash's powers of rational thought
"in the style that is characteristic of scientists" and thankfully not his
immersion in that other style of thought, can share something of his hopes
for creative thought after long deviation. Those of us who are autodidacts
wish of course for proper curricula, but perhaps our wanderings have some
unique value.


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Received on Tue Aug 10 2004 - 06:57:48 EDT

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