BOOK REVIEW | "LOGICOMIX: AN EPIC SEARCH FOR THE TRUTH" BY APOSTOLOS DOXIADIS & CHRISTOS PAPADIMITRIOU
photo & text by nacrowe
the ambitious graphic novel LOGICOMIX: AN EPIC SEARCH FOR TRUTH (BLOOMSBURY, 2009) by APOSTOLOS DOXIADIS and CHRISTOS PAPADIMITRIOU attempts to do nothing less than present the evolution of LOGIC from the perspective of towering 20th century BRITISH philosopher/logician BERTRAND RUSSELL and his many cohorts and forebearers from the likes of ALFRED WHITEHEAD, GEORG CANTOR, DAVID HILBERT, LUDWIG WITTGENSTEIN, KURT GODEL, GEORGE BOOLE and GOTTLOB FREGE among others. in essence, since the time of EUCLID, generations of mathematicians have been search for the essence of LOGIC, otherwise known as FOUNDATIONS OF MATHEMATICS, in which no proof is assumed and everything is proven. from this base all else is proven.
ultimately such a objective turn out to be a bit of a white whale that drove many a logician to madness, divorce, infidelity and ruinous despair. in a sense the whole enterprise was a failure since no final proof was ever determined. even the inexact, impressionistic filter of LANGUAGE was called into question. ultimately this important work laid the bedrock for all that has followed, especially with regard to the advent of computing under ALAN TURING, which was based on said principles.
the graphic novel itself takes acknowledged liberties with the life of RUSSELL, which serves as the central narrative, which includes invented meetings, conversations and events that never happened. such is fine by me since the complex concepts are what take center stage here. what i do appreciate are the stakes at play with logic, which is presented at a lecture RUSSELL "gave" at an AMERICAN university with a crowd looking for intellectual justification for their reasons for sitting out the second world war in EUROPE (assumably pre-PEARL HARBOR). RUSSELL recounts his life story but ultimately puts the locus of control over LOGIC to each person since ultimately there is no empirically derived correct opinion.
that responsibility is within each of use to deduce as we see fit in accordance with our values, concerns and obligations. in this sense LOGICOMIX is an intellectual call to arms for its readers to consider the MORAL POWER they hold as individuals and not farm such out to leaders and experts. even there are lots of charlatans out there, such comes with the territory of INTELLECTUAL FREEDOM.
cant say the same for internet culture. god id love to know what some of these thinkers would have made of TWITTER.
LOGICOMIX is an ambitious and compelling graphic novel well worth repeat revisiting. the format seems ideal for transmitting such complex and seemingly obtuse concepts to a general audience. it is quite the achievement.