On Slippery Ice

Introduction

There was once a young man who dreamed of reducing the world to pure logic. Because he was a very clever young man, he actually managed to do it. When he had finished his work, he stood back and admired it. It was beautiful! A world purged of imperfection and indeterminacy. Countless acres of gleaming ice stretching to the horizon.  So the clever young man looked around the world he had created and decided to explore it. He took one step forward and fell flat on his back.

You see, he had forgotten about friction!  The ice was smooth and level and stainless, but you couldn’t walk there. So the clever young man sat down and wept bitter tears. But as he grew into a wise old man, he came to understand that roughness and ambiguity aren’t imperfections, they are what make the world turn. He wanted to run and dance. And the words and things scattered upon the ground were all battered and tarnished and ambiguous. The wise old man saw that that was the way things were. Something in him was still homesick for the ice, where everything was radiant and absolute and relentless. Though he had come to like the idea of the rough ground, he couldn’t bring himself to live there. So now he was marooned between earth and ice, at home at neither.” – From the Terry Eagleton script for the movie “Wittgenstein”.

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