Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Is God French or English?

Nancy Cartwright in "How the Laws of Physics Lie" (p. 19):

Pierre Duhem distinguished two kinds of thinkers: the deep but narrow minds of the French, and the broad but shallow minds of the English. The French mind sees things in an elegant, unified way. It takes Newton's three laws of motion and turns them into the beautiful, abstract mathematics of Lagrangian mechanics. The English mind, says Duhem, is an exact contrast. It engineers bits of gears, and pulleys, and keeps the strings from tangling up. It holds a thousand different details all at once, without imposing much abstract order or organization. The difference between the realist and me is almost theological. The realist thinks that the creator of the universe worked like a French mathematician. But I think that God has the untidy mind of the English.

Myself, I suppose I started out with a somewhat "French" approach and am slowly integrating a more "English" perspective.

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