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I admit that this is an idle question, but I wondered why it is that mathematics appears "beautiful cold and austere" to those who are particularly gifted at it. The full quite from wikipedia on this is, from Russell:

Mathematics, rightly viewed, possesses not only truth, but supreme beauty — a beauty cold and austere, like that of sculpture, without appeal to any part of our weaker nature, without the gorgeous trappings of painting or music, yet sublimely pure, and capable of a stern perfection such as only the greatest art can show. The true spirit of delight, the exaltation, the sense of being more than Man, which is the touchstone of the highest excellence, is to be found in mathematics as surely as poetry.

I can relate to ideas, from wikipedia, of "elegance", and "depth", which may be why I like chat about philosophy. And, applied mathematics can be pleasing, I agree.

But it's those terms "austere" and "cold" which I cannot relate to. Is that Betrand's philosophy, or does it apply to some aspect of maths -- that is only available to some few?

  • a bit "what is a star" but yea – user25714 Apr 7 '17 at 3:11
  • oh come on what's wrong with this question -- please? – user25714 Apr 7 '17 at 3:45
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    Someone who took several hundred pages to prove that 1 + 1 = 2 might possibly be drawn to the cold and austere. Russell's view says more about Russell than about math. At least that's a point of view that might be argued. What is different about math versus music is that you can only appreciate math to the degree that you've spent years learning to understand it; whereas music and art can be appreciated by anyone. But that doesn't make math's beauty cold and austere; only difficult to access. Once one accesses it, it can be warm and fuzzy. Fuzzy sets for example :-) – user4894 Apr 7 '17 at 4:01
  • @user4894 appreciate the comment, thanks – user25714 Apr 7 '17 at 4:29
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    Maybe relevant: The Phenomenology of Mathematical Beauty, in Gian-Carlo Rota & Fabrizio Palombi, Indiscrete thoughts, Birkhäuser (1997) – Mauro ALLEGRANZA Apr 7 '17 at 12:26

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