This week John and Alicia Nash died. The flow of news about the incident and reactions to it were filtered and mediated through the movie and book of Nash’s life. The handle is understandable as a key for anyone to connect to the news.
A few days later looking over the Internet for more reactions and comment, the trope had not really moved, or altered. Academic and economics writers gave potted introductions to Nash’s significance, with overt, or some implied reference to the epithet, ‘beautiful mind’.
Adjectives can be difficult creatures. The use of prepositions in other languages is more opaque, yet the application of an adjective can be deterministic.
Mathematics and logic need analytical insight, rigor and creative intuition. Precision, exactness, and other related words are attributes necessary to do the task. In logic valid arguments are occasionally described as beautiful, more as a superlative to express how competent and well-structured the result is.
Following from the films on Turing, and recently on Hawking, I read an article which asked if dramatists, and their industry, were faithful to the subjects and their work, or whether they had simplified a life’s work relative to an emotional story. I’d agree with that view, no more so than in the unreliable film of Nash, which could not explain the Nash equilibrium correctly.
For some reason repackaging the complex, difficult, angry, contentious, spiky, obsessive combative, aggressive and anti-whatever is a prerequisite to make scientists, mathematicians presentable. It’s not just physicists or mathematicians with quirks; composers such as Chopin, Porter, Beethoven and Wagner have all been sanitized, deracinated; turned into misunderstood unfortunate, individuals who are stereotypes of lonely genius, a nineteenth century platitude of creativity.
The book Simone de Beauvoir published to remember Sartre’s life is the title of this post. It is about the last decade of Sartre’s life. It is honest and clear and erases mediated perspectives of Sartre. In time, perhaps, a similar clarity will amend common representations of Nash.
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