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Posts Tagged ‘Kurt Vonnegut’

"Homme assis" by Roger-Noël-François de La Fresnaye, c.1914

In a recent blog post provocatively titled “Kurt Vonnegut turns Cinderella into an Equation” Robert Krulwich (co-host of the excellent WNYC series Radiolab) uses a wonderful pair of cartoons to suggest that if humans are creatures who thrive on pattern, then scientists and mathematicians are compulsive pattern finders,  “pattern addicts” as it were.  Logicians and students of argument, I think, fairly belong in this category as well. Some of us talk about logical form and explain it in terms of complicated relationships between abstract symbols and letters. Or we classify arguments by scheme and develop equally schematic lists of questions with which to test their merits. The dialectically inclined among us give us patterns of argumentation between two or more arguers.  We create argument diagrams, relevance cubes, maps of controversies and many more things like them besides. We’re pattern people. There’s no doubt about it.

Interestingly, Krulwich closes his post by suggesting that even more than than scientists and mathematicians (and perhaps logicians and argumentation scholars too?) artists and storytellers may be even more pattern-aware. As exhibit the first he offers this short (and altogether too good not to reproduce) video of the legendary Kurt Vonnegut:

Let us begin with the obvious: we don’t need Vonnegut to tell us that stories have patterns too (though of course his way of telling us is very entertaining and we’re very lucky to have it). Clearly they’re there. The deeper issue has to do with the nature and significance of such patterns. How do we interpret them? How do we reason about them? How do we reason with them?

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