Absurdism, Books

On The Idiot

1.

Dostoevsky wrote this letter to his niece Sophia Ivanova on 13th January 1868 while he was writing The Idiot:

The main idea of the novel is to present a beautiful man…There is only one positively beautiful person in the world, Christ, and the phenomenon of this limitless beautiful person is an infinite miracle itself. The whole Gospel according to St. John is about that…I’d only mention that of all the beautiful individuals in…literature, one stands out as the most perfect, Don Quixote. But he is beautiful because he is ridiculous. Wherever compassion toward ridiculed and ingenious beauty is presented, the reader’s sympathy is aroused. The mystery of comedy lies in this excitation of compassion.”

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Absurdism, Books

Windmills of the mind, Part 2

Don Quixote’s madness stems from his literal reading of books of chivalric romance and his deluded belief that he actually is a knight errant. He rides out into the realist world of Cervantes’ novel with a lofty dedication, inflicting his good intentions on others, and time and again is buffeted by stubborn reality. Quixote is generous, brave, courteous, resilient, knowledgeable, eloquent, and a complete idiot. I wrote about Part 1 of the novel last month. He rides out again, in Part 2, with his trusty squire Sancho Panza, having been revived after a month’s rest and the consumption of six hundred eggs.

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Absurdism, Books

Robotic morality tales

Last year Professor Stephen Hawking said that “the development of full artificial intelligence could spell the end of the human race.” The A.I. community has responded to this impending apocalypse by proposing this week that robots be given stories to read. This will allow, according to associate professor Mark Riedl of the Georgia Institute of Technology, robots to learn to take a first step towards moral reasoning, or “value alignment” as his scientific paper bafflingly calls it.“We believe story comprehension in robots can eliminate psychotic-appearing behaviour and reinforce choices that won’t harm humans” he said. Continue reading

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