W o K     :     Ways of Knowing

A Virtual Seminar


The body and mathematics. The body and poetry. Same body?

I talked about our attitude toward math, from science and technology, reflects trends in the larger society, trends which limit our human possibilities. I talked about how math maps onto the ability of the body to move in a basically Euclidian space using group operations such as reversibility—that is the muscles and guiding nervous system as a capability attributed to objects gives rise to object constancy (solidity), whereas poetry (drama, love, politics) maps onto the gut, the world of feelings and emotions. In actual human development these are being constantly integrated and differentiated. But the current world economy and its relation to power, war and money biases towards a world of things and math and the result is a hyped awareness of things and a decreased awareness of what is human (and aesthetic and ethical).

There is a full circle connecting the kind of science we have and the kind of society we have. `Truth' moved from being a word that described trust between people to reliability of measurement between things.

A full human life requires both the mathematical and the larger poetical, but a belief that math can do it all limits our ability to be scientists and poets, and is devastating for society.

Giving the seminar in Qwaq was truly fascinating. On the one hand there I am sitting relaxed in a rocking chair with a few notes, and there we are gathered on the screen as or avatars. The screen is great because unlike a phone conference I can see who is there. But the amazing thing was, without the visual feedback from body posture and the glee, glint, glare, or all gone look in the eyes, it is hard to time when to start the next sentence. I kept wanting to move, to point to people, to look at each one, but the avatars are a bit paraplegic. It is a different medium and it certainly is better than just a phone conversation because of the visual support that there is a group. I found myself speeding up to fill the gaps in visual/emotional feedback.

Douglass Carmichael

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