This Thanksgiving I invited everyone I wanted for my dream dinner party to my house. I was cooking. Included in the invitations were Jane Austen, Oscar Wilde, Shakespeare, Friedrich Nietzsche and Isaac Newton. Each brought a unique view point to the discussion at the table whilst we ate.
With a mouthful of baked turkey, Austen and Wilde entered into a heated debate on the merits of marriage in society. “For the continuation of a peoples, we must have marriage,” said Wilde, “though it is more a continuation without disgrace than it is a continuation at all.”
“I find marriage a very crude imposition,” argued Austen. “It is all in favor of the man.”
“How else could it be?” laughed Wilde merrily.
“The woman has much to bring to the marriage state, but she is kept but a sheep bearing something that is considered inferior unless it is a first born male. Still, she gets no validation for her part. Nine months spent in discomfort and for what? To be a common mule?” returned Austen, in a fit of ill humor.
“If it took any form of intelligence to be that mule, I would gladly give her the benefit,” reasoned Wilde, “but it does not. It is the work of nature and biology. She does nothing that any woman could not do.”
“Does that make it any less?” said Austen. “That it is a factor of any woman only makes us the superior creature in biology.”
“The womb has naught to do with the mind. It is the mind which is the superior,” argued Wilde.
“So say you, because you have no womb. I have both womb and mind with which to compete,” laughed Austen, her humor returning.
Meanwhile, Nietzsche argued, from across the dinner table, that an apple falling did not validate any notion of gravity, entering into a lengthy discussion with Newton on his life’s work. “What is gravity after all?” said he.
“Gravity is a pull of the Earth, do not you see?” argued Newton. “Anything must fall to the ground, as it has weight.”
“Neither weight nor an Earthly pull will force an apple through a table, should it be resting on one. Thus, either gravity does not exist, or else its pull is weak at best,” said Nietzsche.
“You have ignored the Mathematics of the thing,” Newton laughs at him.
“If you cannot prove it without Math, then what is it really?” returns Nietzsche.
“A mathematical proof means everything. It makes the thing without a doubt. Ask any Mathematician,” Newton explained.
“My work is a work of complete ideas and philosophy. If your Philosophy relies on Math, is there never a mistake there?” asked Nietzsche.
“Not such that I have seen. You see your problem of the table is affected by my use of the different masses to affect gravity. I control for the problems with constants,” said Newton.
“Control for it all you want, it does not make it right if even one example derails the lot,” said Nietzsche. “As a Philosopher, it is my duty to think of these anomalies and pose them as questions or even as negatives of a theory. What a thing! to disprove the theory of gravity as it is believed by so many!”
“Disprove it all you want; it is not the less valid for having possible disproof’s. Your theories without any Math must be sorely lacking in accuracy,” returned Newton.
“At least my work is not the product of an anecdote,” argued Nietzsche angrily.
“I prefer that it was an observation. And in any case, is not anecdotes the very root of Philosophical observation and explanation? Think Descartes attempting to prove the mind and the person! In contrast, while my idea may have originated with an anecdote it has been proven via an inverse square law, something you would not understand and it is not my lot to explain it to you,” said Newton in a huff of indignation. “Give me an intellectual equal and he will understand it. Perhaps if Descartes had applied Math over verbal logic, he may have got somewhere.”
In the meantime, very little had been eaten, so absorbed was everyone in the discussions ongoing. Shakespeare raised his glass, without making any toast and drank heavily from it, the wine slopping down his chin and staining the table cloth red.
Nietzsche grunted at this last retort of Newton’s – he was just as intelligent albeit of a different route. “It is not my belief that Math is anymore intelligent than words that they may explain a notion or idea. Anyway, it is impossible to prove every number – how do you know if you are wrong?”
“Well that is why we use algebra, replacing numbers with letters,” Newton answers, his voice incredulous.
“So, you prefer a linguistic approach to Mathematical procedures,” Nietzsche answers jubilantly, showing his lacking abilities therein.
“It is still Math, in one of its most perfect forms,” Newton explains, as though speaking to a child of very little understanding. He holds his knife in hand, gripping it in a moment of aggression. “It is only clear by what you say, that you are no Mathematician.”
“Nor have I ever pretended to be!” Nietzsche shouts across the table, the wine getting to him, and the conversation affecting his humor. “It is obvious to me that without the Math, your theory of gravity would not stand on its own merit. As I have said, there is no logic to your idea once you take out the mathematical equation. It can be disproved easily on so many counts of logic. The problem of something like a table acting beneath the object. The ability of a plane to defy the gravitational pull. If gravity does exist, it must be very weak indeed. Why do not you try to disprove gravity instead? It would be infinitely more interesting.”
“More interesting! That is why Philosophers are not Mathematicians! The wool is too thick,” Newton laughed.
Shakespeare merely listened on the side lines, picking at his teeth with an overgrown finger nail. He mentally composes the scene in iambic pentameter by which to create a comedy, his greatest yet. As the conversation progresses, his comedy turns to tragedy.
I eat and listen also, too shy to contribute to any discussion but listening to everyone and happy to be there.