Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Waxing Philosophical

What irony! The word sincere is Latin meaning “without wax;” for wax was often used to hide flaws (much as we use it as polish even to this day) and thus was an aid in deception. To wax philosophical, to polish your love of wisdom, is a sophist’s tactic. This has been the eternal debate: the “unvarnished truth” of logic, as the Platonists desired, versus the “polished wisdom” of the artistic Sophists.

Many saw the sophists as charlatans, and the original Greek infers deception, hence the derogatory term “sophistry.”

Perhaps art is a form of delusion. It is the transformation of the commonplace into something more profound. This can be accused of being magical or demonic. “It is just pulped paper with pigment smeared over it! It is not real!” Yet others look at it and say, “That is Titian’s portrait of a man.”

Portrait of a Man, thought to be Ariosto; image from the Wikimedia Commons

The battle between “polished” and “unvarnished truth” is like the war of art and science. The holistic communications theorist would accept that there are both forms, which are appropriate at the proper time. The communications engineer would split the difference between the two and round to significant digits.

Onwards to adventure!

-Peter Corless.

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