Someone warned me blogging can be addictive, a thought that surprised me at first. There is surely a strong tendency for the thing to fizzle out and die, especially if hardly anyone is reading it. But this shows signs of becoming a digest of whatever caught my eye in the LRB or the New York Review. Against that current, I was fascinated by Ian McEwan’s piece in the Guardian a few days ago on the place of originality in science and literature. Both stand on the shoulders of giants, or to use another metaphor, both are essentially collective dialogues. Yet the joyous sense of creation, even if it is as a conduit for the Muses or the Zeitgeist, that frenzied birth of splendid coherence, is almost divine. McEwan’s examples are taken especially from physics, and he gives an indirect sense of the beauty of several great discoveries that only really make sense with an awful lot more background. That difficulty of understanding he attributes to our origin on a roughly Euclidean savannah in Africa, which would reduce Kant’s Copernican revolution to a just-so story from evolutionary psychology.


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