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« Visual Perception and Biology | Main | Elsewhere »

October 23, 2003

Quotes of the Day

Dear Friedrich --

I'm reading a wonderful paper by N.K. Humphrey entitled "The Illusion of Beauty," and thought I'd pass along a couple of lovely passages. The first is a quote Humphrey cites from the British philosopher A.N. Whitehead:

The essence of rhythm is the fusion of sameness and novelty; so that the whole never loses the essential unity of the pattern, while the parts exhibit the contrast arising from the novelty of their detail. A mere recurrence kills rhythm as does a mere confusion of differences. A crystal lacks rhythm from excessive pattern, while a fog is unrhythmic in that it exhibits a patternless confusion of detail.

And a passage from Humphrey himself:

If I give a hungry dog a solution of saccahrine it will lap it up; if I show a cock robin a bundle of feathers with a red patch on its underside the robin will attack it; and if I show a man an abstract painting or play him a piece of music he will, if he thinks it beautiful, stop to watch or listen. There is, I believe, a formal similarity in all these cases. In each we have an animal performing a useful and relevant piece of behaviour towards an inappropriate sensory stiumulus. But there is, I agree, a rather basic difference, namely that in the first two cases we have a good scientific explanation of what is going on, while in the third we're almost ignorant.

I notice that Humphrey has worked with both Richard Dawkins and Dian Fossey -- beat that. A number of his papers, which I'm just beginning to read through, can be seen here. The next one I'm going to dig into: "Cave Art, Autism, and the Evolution of the Human Mind." Bliss.

To think of the time and energy American lib-arts departments have wasted on their love-affair with politics and deconstruction when there are minds like Humphrey's out there to be enjoyed.



posted by Michael at October 23, 2003


To think of the time and energy American lib-arts departments have wasted on their love-affair with politics and deconstruction when there are minds like Humphrey's out there to be enjoyed.

True...except that at this point I find it scary to think what American lib-arts department members might do with evo-bio...everything but understand it, one suspects.

Or am I just having a bad day?

Posted by: Friedrich von Blowhard on October 24, 2003 2:35 PM

mmmmmm.....critical thinking going on....I'm almost drooling.... I am *so* bored without interesting classes, and with a mindless job - I'm glad your website help keeps me sane...

And, may I humbly ask what is it exactly that you're referring to with the phrase "evo-bio"?

And you're just having a bad day, trust me. There are good profs out there, I promise. I've had several.

Posted by: Courtney on October 25, 2003 9:27 PM

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