Author Archives: David Pierce

Mathematician & logician; amateur of philosophy; relation of journalists; alumnus of St John’s College (USA); living in Ankara & Istanbul since 2000

On The Human Condition of Hannah Arendt 4

Index to this series


With our fourth reading, we enter the “three central chapters” of The Human Condition, for Arendt’s systematic “discussion of labor, work, and action.” We shall be here through the ninth reading. Some questions raised now will no doubt be answered later.

Ramiz Ağa Çeşmesi (fountain) & Şenlik Dede Camii (mosque)
Beşiktaş, 2022.02.28

A general concern of mine is the abstractness of the discussion. What has it to do with us? Can I say that I know what labor is, because I bake bread and mop the kitchen floor, or because I once worked on a farm, or because I used to know how to fix whatever might go wrong on my bicycle? Can Arendt say such things, and does it matter? She has a moving passage towards the end of the present reading:

There is no lasting hap­piness outside the prescribed cycle of painful exhaustion and pleas­urable regeneration, and whatever throws this cycle out of balance … ruins the elemental happiness that comes from being alive.

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On The Human Condition of Hannah Arendt 3

Index to this series

CHAPTER II The Public and the Private Realm [2]


The first three sections of the chapter were the previous reading.

Road scene: Two lanes, narrow sidewalk, then garage doors and walls; but beyond, a green hillside

The descent to Ortaköy
February 12, 2022

Key words

Public, private, intimate, real, relevant, wisdom, goodness, love.

I am not sure what use such a list is, but there it is. “Relevant” is used a number of times, and I do not really know why.



Arendt published The Origins of Totalitarianism in 1951. Just from what we have read in The Human Condition though, what can she tell us about the autocrat?

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On The Human Condition of Hannah Arendt 2

Index to this series

CHAPTER II The Public and the Private Realm [1]


There are four more sections in the chapter, and these constitute the next reading: 7 the public realm: the common; 8 the private realm: property; 9 the social and the private; 10 the location of human activities.

Graffiti: “Now or never” and “Oku” (that is, “Read”) on a wall by a street with a parked car; skyscrapers in the distance

Beşiktaş, February 15, 2022
Oku = “Read” (second-person singular imperative)

History and law

A significant passage in this reading lies on page 42 (¶ 6.9):

… the significance of a historical period shows itself only in the few events that illuminate it. The application of the law of large num­bers and long periods to politics or history signifies nothing less than the wilful obliteration of their very subject matter.

My post “Law and History” took up something like this argument. Continue reading

On The Human Condition of Hannah Arendt 1

Here begins a series based on the 1958 book by Hannah Arendt (1906–75) called The Human Condition. The publisher classifies it as philosophy and political science. I sense a kind of similarity with a book that I have devoted many blog posts to: The New Leviathan (1942) of R. G. Collingwood (1889–1943).

Collingwood wrote about European civilization as a war threatened to end it. Arendt managed to escape that war, and she went on to write about civilization in her own way in The Human Condition. Today, February 24, 2022, a new war for territory in Europe begins.

Red-themed cover of The Human Condition against dull green cloth

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Gödel, Grammar, and Mathematics


This attempt at exposition of Gödel’s Incompleteness Theorem was inspired or provoked by somebody else’s attempt at the same thing, in a blog post that a friend directed me to (by means of a Twitter message on November 17, 2020). I wanted in response to set the theorem in the context of mathematics rather than computer science.

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The Society of Mathematics 2

This post is a response by Alexandre Borovik to my previous post. The following words then are Sasha’s:

Dear David,

I joined the AMR. In my view, its areas of activities are sufficiently clearly defined [on its homepage]:

The AMR has several initiatives under development. These include:

  • AMR colloquia, lectures and workshops, exploring new ways to present research
  • Updates and reviews of new research
  • Reviews of classic influential papers
  • Discussions of open problems
  • Video expositions of mathematical research
  • AMR journals and publications leveraging new technological opportunities
  • Interviews of mathematicians
  • Developing new ideas for the flourishing of the international mathematical research community

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The Society of Mathematics

Mannequin in front of summation formula

This post concerns the Association for Mathematical Research, or AMR. A number of people are upset by its existence. I am not exactly one of them, but am suspicious, mainly because I do not know why a new organization would be needed, when we already have

The Twitter account of the AMR is dated to April, 2021. The website of the AMR supplies a list of founding members, but no account of when, how, or why they became founders. The site has a brief mission statement:


Are those other organizations not doing a good job? Continue reading

Plato and Christianity

Index to this series

This post uses work of Hannah Arendt, Augustine, R. G. Collingwood, Tom Holland, Somerset Maugham, and Ved Mehta.

Elevated highway, way above city streets

Ortaköy, December 27, 2021

In the first post of this series, I gave some reasons to read the Republic, and one of them was the problem of how our political leaders were not always the best. Plato had not solved that problem, since we still had it; but that meant nobody else had solved it either. Plato had at least taught us that people with great worldly power could nonetheless be more miserable than their subjects. In the Republic, Plato has Socrates teach that lesson

  • to Thrasymachus, in the latter part of Book I;
  • to Glaucon, who concludes at the end of Book IV that if having an unhealthy body is bad, having a vicious soul is worse;
  • in Book IX, with the account of the tyrant;
  • with the Myth of Er in Book X.

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On Reading Plato’s Republic

Index to this series

In adolescence, when I started visiting art museums in Washington for my own pleasure, I would visit also the museum shops, hoping to be able to take home a souvenir. Eventually, my own memories were enough to take home.

That is what I remember observing about myself, perhaps around the time when my body stopped growing taller. That time may be used to demarcate adulthood, although in kindergarten, it had made no sense to me that our bodies could ever stop growing.

Cycad with seeds
Cycads outside Selenium Twins
in the valley above Ihlamur Kasırları
on the way to Beşiktaş
December 27, 2021

I have not been to a museum since the advent of Covid-19, but I often want a souvenir when I am reading now. The souvenir may be in the form of pencil marks in a book, or pen marks in a magazine, or various interventions in an electronic file. To be able to make such interventions, I save webpages, usually with a browser’s print function or with Print Friendly.

I may also respond to what I read by writing blog posts. This is why I now have eighteen of those on Plato’s Republic: one for each of the fourteen parts in which the dialogue was divided for an online discussion, and four more for when I had an abundance of ideas.

Where has all of that left me?

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On Plato’s Republic, 14

Index to this series

In the tenth and final book of Plato’s Republic (Stephanus 595–621), with the help of Glaucon, Socrates does three things:

  1. Confirm and strengthen the ban on imitative poetry carried out in Book III.
  2. Prove the immortality of the soul.
  3. Tell the Myth of Er about how best to make use of that immortality.

Bernard Picart
Glaucus Turned into a Sea-God, 1731
“Just as those who catch sight of the sea Glaucus would no longer easily see his original nature because some of the old parts of his body have been broken off and the others have been ground down and thoroughly maimed by the waves at the same time as other things have grown on him – shells, seaweed, and rocks – so that he resembles any beast rather than what he was by nature, so, too, we see the soul in such a condition because of countless evils” – Republic 611d

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