Subject: Re: one small function
From: Erik Naggum <>
Date: Sun, 10 Feb 2002 05:50:43 GMT
Newsgroups: comp.lang.lisp
Message-ID: <>

* Alain Picard <>
| In both cases, that countless morons didn't get it isn't really the
| author's fault.

  I think a responsible author should build in _correctors_ to easily
  predictable and false beliefs that might arise in their readers if these
  beliefs are unintended side-effects.  (After all, there is a second
  edition out, now.)  Most of my excellent math books are rife with
  correctors and clues that keep the reader off the false paths to
  understanding, and I really admire these authors (John M. Apostol,
  Richard Courant, Fritz John).  If you read Richard Feynman's papers and
  lectures on physics, you will find that he lets you see several open
  paths ahead from a given experiement or theory or argument, then
  experctly closes each of the wrong ones in a way that lets you grasp
  exactly how things work, but not from his words, from your understanding
  of the world around you, leading forward to several new open paths, etc.
  Most of the computer science books I have read are of the "this is the
  truth because I say so" style, which I think betrays the problems of the
  entire field: There is a "bottom" to computer science since it is all
  made-up stuff.  (Mathematics may also be largely made up, but it has no
  bottom, and there is no bottom to the natural sciences, medicine, etc.)
  If you can get to the bottom of it, it is too shallow.

| These arguments would apply even more strongly to religious texts, IMO.
| (When was the last time you saw a "christian" giving away all their
| worldly possessions and devoting themselves to their fellow man!?)

  Yesterday.  Because of my fight with our evil tax authorities, I get to
  hear a lot of stories about how people have more or less willingly given
  up their all their worldly possessions for the benefit of their fellow
  men, at least if you believe that that is what taxation is for.  :)

| Although I guess books like these _could_ come with a disclaimer:
| "Warning!  Adult material inside!  Read only if you can be critical and
| form your own judgments!"

  Responsible authors sort of bake that into their tone and language.  For
  instance, Guy L. Steele jr did it with a lot of very clever humor in both
  editions of Common Lisp the Language -- you had to get the point he made
  to really enjoy it, and people who failed to get it, at least seem to
  realize they failed to get it.  If the reader can walk away with "I think
  I get it" when he does not, the book is no good.  If the reader can
  accurately determine whether he gets it or not, the book is great.  If
  the reader thinks "I don't get it" even when he does, it is the worst
  kind of book.  (I think Immanuel Kant is the worst author in the history
  of mankind for this particular reason.)

  In a fight against something, the fight has value, victory has none.
  In a fight for something, the fight is a loss, victory merely relief.