Islands of Knowledge
Ocean of Ignorance

Recent developments in math and physics lend some credence to the perennial speculations on the unity of knowledge.  Let us examine its possible import.

On other occasions I have remarked on the irony that the unreasonable success of science could undermine is own materialist assumptions.  If science is too successful it fosters the idealist notion of mind over matter.  Of course, it is very difficult to determine what is unreasonable in this regard.

The possible unity of knowledge would pose a remarkable challenge to ontology and epistemology.  From whence comes this unity and how are we able to grasp it?  How could both the world and we be so rational?  This puts a severe strain on the materialist notions of an accidental evolution in a meaningless world.

Where the trend toward unity probably faces its greatest challenge is in the psychological arena.  We find there a seeming duality between reason and emotion, or between the abstract and the sensual.  The bridging of this gap or gaps would acquire a greater urgency if we were to see further unification on the part of our mathematical and scientific abstractions.

The prospect of unity should be encouraged by the power of aesthetic intuition that is amply demonstrated on the part of mathematicians.  The recent successes in that arena have been motivated largely by conjecture.  Some of these conjectures were supported by calculation, such as with Fermat, but this is much less the case with Taniyama or with Langlands’ larger program which provided the guidance to Wiles’ final assault on Fermat.

What are we to make of our aesthetic intuition?  What do Mozart and Taniyama have in common?  We do see that passion can run deep, right into the depths of the atom and the cosmos as Einstein discovered.  The only passion left out of this picture is the x-event.  But can we believe for a nanosecond that that omission is due to anything other than our ocean of ignorance?  This omission will be remedied.  That is my conjecture.

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rev. 10/8/98