Wednesday, October 10, 2012


I've just finished Neal Stephenson's AnathemIt's a whopper -- and probably a good advert for reading on a Kindle rather than lugging around an enormous (900+ page book).  It's good.  An amazing act of speculative imagination.  Perhaps the story peters out a bit towards the end but like most good scifi the interest is to a large extent concerned with just living for a while in a different world.

Here he is discussing the novel and the genesis of the ideas behind it.

Anyhow, it is worth mentioning here because there is a lot of philosophy in it and a lot of ancient philosophy in particular.  There's certainly a lot of Plato there (and just why there might be philosophical ideas reminiscent of Platonism in this world turns out to be part of what the book is about.)  There's an appendix that does a good job, for example, of offering an alternative dialogue that makes the same point as the slave experiment in Plato's Meno.


RJR said...

Yay! I love Anathem, and I really liked the appendices with proofs in dialogue form. I love Neal Stephenson. Have you read Cryptonomicon? It's about cryptography, both WW2 and digital, and is great. Or The Diamond Age, which is about an artificial intelligence book for bringing up girls which falls into the hands of a street urchin, set in a post-nanotechnology era in which steampunk has got out of hand. Or best of all, his Baroque Trilogy, which is set in the real world, and makes you realise how amazing it must have been to be around when Isaac Newton was at work, and explains seventeenth-century commerce as seen by Whigs and Tories, and what was wrong with James II and that bastard Judge Jefferys, and suggests that the reason the Glorious Revolution didn't usher in a new age of humanity was its tolerance for the institution of slavery. I like Neal Stephenson's mind.

RJR said...

Furthermore you can read Cryptonomicon for free here. Russell and Whitehead's Principia Mathematica turns up on page 12.