On Art, Sex and Mathematics I

In one short sentence Lorenz Oken, a 19th-century scientist, brings together two extremes, writing in his 1809 “Textbook of Natural Philosophy”:

“The eternal is the nothingness of nature.” (ยง 44)

The structure of this sentence resembles tenets of Taoist philosophy, which was developed 2,400 years earlier in China. The Chinese “Book of Songs” makes a connection between fullness and dullness, simplicity and embellishment, for example as follows:

The Tao of the precious is dull, and yet it does not sate us; it is simple and yet embellished; flat and yet not without harmony.”

How can we explain this similar line of thought on the part of the German scientist, the first director of Zurich University, and Taoist teaching? This is a question that interests the “Journal for Art, Sex and Mathematics”, because it touches on the relationships between temporally and spatially different forms of expression and knowledge. Mathematics and gender are central themes of Taoist philosophy, just as they are in the “Textbook of Natural Philosophy”.

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