Richard Tsuyuki wrote:
>This leads to a pet philosophical question of mine: is there objective
>value in art? Does it make any sense to say that Beethoven is "better"
>(in an encompassing sense) than Britney Spears, or that "Karamazov" is
>a "better" book than "The Firm"? Does Beethoven make me a better person,
>happier, more able to contribute to society, than Britney? I feel like
>telling people to see "Casablanca" and avoid "Titanic", but why? If
>they enjoy "Titanic" immensely, is there anything unfortunate in that?
>Or should I rather be embarrassed by a lack of attendance history at
>monster-truck rallies? Also, what about science and other fields of
>knowledge? Should one be embarrassed by lack of familiarity with quantum
>chromodynamics? With Hilbert space? How to transplant a kidney? Urdu?
>Zoroastrianism? The history of the World Series? Is there something
>that makes us feel that the arts contribute to humanity in a more generally
>applicable way than other fields?
Certainly there is probably a consensus regarding mathematics and physics
(the fields with which I am familiar); these fields have been so vast,
since the early 20th century at latest, that nobody could possibly be a
generalist and nobody should be ashamed at not being one.
The last generalists were probably people like Helmholtz and Kelvin in
the late 19th century, who contributed to a vast range of topics.
I remember a wonderful story about Paul Erd=C3=B6s, the great number
theoretician. He happened to be in a lecture room where an unsolved
problem in functional analysis - an utterly different field - was chalked
up on the blackboard. After asking someone what some of the symbols
meant (!!), in a couple of hours he had produced a proof, and it was not
a trivial problem. But that is exceptional, possibly unique, virtuosity