book review

Jones, Truth, a Webcomic

Very late update: the Diana Wynne Jones essay I wanted to share is long and abstruse and editing it to be even plausibly a blog post got very frustrating. Instead, I will give you a tldr:

In the first three poems, Jones charts out something like Western history’s ways of thinking about truth (absolutist & abstract –> concrete [aka empirical/inductive?] –> both concrete & abstract and relativist? ) and in the fourth poem synthesizes all three without quite explaining how that works — the synthesis allows magic to take place, though (literally — this song, we learn, can move mountains.)

The stories in which these poems are enmeshed, “The True State of Affairs” and Cart and Cwidder themselves all play with ideas about truth in fascinating ways. DWJ in her essays also expresses wild ideas about truth (she writes the human brain can make two contradictory things true at once and be aware of strict logic all the time). It’s hard to draw a single philosophical conclusion from these works but the complexity and depth of explicitly laid out thought in them are thrilling to me.

There was also a fun bit in which I defended, based on Jones’s own life and work — for instance, her insistence in The Year of the Griffin that students should learn theory of magic and not just practice — the idea that laypeople like Jones and her critics should very much feel empowered to explore philosophical ideas even if they don’t have the training to do a (techically) good job. They will at the very least find ideas that work for them, in their own lives and thinking.

Next, I would like to share a friend’s witty dialogues and webcomics about…I don’t know how to describe it, even, but the complexities of communication, only with a mathematician’s appreciation for whimsy and meta, illustrated by yours truly — there are only six, but we enjoyed making them a great deal and may come back to them eventually. They live at Here is one I had particular fun illustrating:

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