NABOKV-L post 0014091, Fri, 17 Nov 2006 16:24:33 -0500

More help for otherworldly logic (DN responds on VN and
>VN is sadly out-of-tune with _real_ mathematics in his The Art of
>Literature & Commonsense (Lectures on Literature, Harvest Harcourt 1982
>esp p 374). He confuses mathematics with the tiny, mundane
>subset used by bean-counting accountants (although. of course, VN was
>ever alert on such banalities when negotiating his royalty
>He cites "Two and two makes four" as a failure of the "artificial
>logical world" and its "commonsense" calculating machines. A old quip
>that's used to separate the mathematicians from the abacus-pushers is
>+ 2 = 5 for sufficiently large values of 2!" In fact, the value of 2 +
>depends on the particular system/notation in use (e.g., '+' as
>vector-addition, or '=' as modulo N

>Stan Kelly-Bootle

Can we be sure that VN, who was extremely careful
not to overstep the boundaries of his own expertise, was "sadly out of
tune with _real_mathematics" if [this is how] we see [the truth] today:
"The laws of nature do not determine uniquely the one world that
actually exists."(Hermann Weyl)? As for the crack about royalty
percentages, that, actually, was my mother's bailiwick until a
professional accountant took over.

Dmitri Nabokov

Search the archive:
Contact the Editors:,
Visit Zembla:
View Nabokv-L policies: