The Story of a Clever Young Man

Since I watched Wittgenstein by Derek Jarman and fell in love with the story told by J. M. Keynes (John Quentin) to Ludwig Wittgenstein in his death bed, I’ve been thinking of ways to visualize it.

“Let me tell you a little story.

There was once a young man who dreamed of reducing the world to pure logic. Because he was a very clever young man, he actually managed to do it. And when he’d finished his work, he stood back and admired it. It was beautiful. A world purged of imperfection and indeterminacy. Countless acres of gleaming ice stretching to the horizon.

So the clever young man looked around the world he had created, and decided to explore it. He took one step forward and fell flat on his back. You see, he had forgotten about friction. The ice was smooth and level and stainless, but you couldn’t walk there. So the clever young man sat down and wept bitter tears. But as he grew into a wise old man, he came to understand that roughness and ambiguity aren’t imperfections. They’re what make the world turn. He wanted to run and dance. And the words and things scattered upon this ground were all battered and tarnished and ambiguous, and the wise old man saw that that was the way things were.

But something in him was still homesick for the ice, where everything was radiant and absolute and relentless. Though he had come to like the idea of the rough ground, he couldn’t bring himself to live there. So now he was marooned between earth and ice, at home in neither.

And this was the cause of all his grief.”

This, in my view, is possibly the most beautiful story that can be told of the heroic thinkers who reach ingenious theoretical reductions of the world although they have to lead their lives in the practical “imperfection and indeterminacy”. Call it “the reductionist condition”.

This is a visual interpretation of it by me.

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