How we look to religion professors

From this eminently enjoyable interview with U Chicago professor JZ Smith:

But it would be terrible if we did everything in the unambiguous world of mathematics. Here’s a speech designed not to have any of these problems, to be international, to have no ambiguity of any of that. I mean, it has its uses, but what an awful way to go around all day. I can’t imagine. It would be a very odd conversation. I’m sure we wouldn’t laugh once. They’re very funny people, mathematicians, but always when they stop being mathematicians they’re funny. I guess they have to be, having spent all day talking like that.

6 thoughts on “How we look to religion professors

  1. Johan says:

    What’s funny is that I’ve lately found that I completely agree with that quote. Standing around the water cooler I’ve tried to explain this to my colleagues and grad students, but all I get is blank stares. Weird!

    Of course, my conclusion is not that it _is_ terrible, rather that it _should_ be terrible as humans are not made for that kind of thing, whence that it is amazing that we/I enjoy doing and talking mathematics so much. Or something… OK, I’ll go and have some more coffee now.

  2. Never mind what Johan or anyone else says. You make math hilarious. Your talk at the JMM was one part math per part stand-up.

  3. As someone who knew a lot of logicians, decision theorists, and theoretical computer scientists before knowing a lot of mathematicians, I am always struck by how ‘wet’ (like, opposite of dry?) the discourse of mathematicians is compared to the discourse of *those* disciplines.

  4. JSE says:

    A) in what way are logicians and theoretical computer scientists not mathematicians? and
    B) tell us more about what “wet” means — you mean, like, shot through with analogy, allusion, motivation, and anecdote?

  5. “Shot through with analogy, allusion, motivation, and anecdote” is exactly the phrasing I failed to come up with.

    About ‘B)’, I think it’s common to assert that math-department mathematics has a different
    ‘flavor’ from logic and theoretical computer science, no? (And, I guess, that this difference in flavor is stronger than the one within subfield of math-department mathematics.)

  6. (I’m saying this as someone with a good head for theoretical computer science and logic and zero talent for math-department math, by the way.)

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