Thursday, October 20, 2011

A whole and its parts

     Aristotle may have been the first to assert that a whole is more than the sum of its parts.  Mathematics textbooks are likely to say otherwise, postulating that a whole is equal to the sum of its parts

     Emily Dickinson also comments on the matter.

                (1341)         by Emily Dickinson

     Unto the Whole -- how add?
     Has "All" a further realm --
     Or Utmost an Ulterior?
     Oh, Subsidy of Balm! 

        From Poems by Emily Dickinson, Volume 3 (Hayes Barton Press, 1955).

     I am unsure whether it has been my study of mathematics or a childhood full of fables and their morals -- A stitch in time saves nine, Haste makes waste, Little by little gets to the goal . . . -- that's given me the habit of testing every truth with an opposite.  Perhaps haste makes wealth or the whole is less than the sum of its parts.  As  poet I have had this latter experience:  a quartet of finely crafted lines fail to hold together into a stanza, or fourteen lines in perfect rhythm and rhyme have not summed to the the song of a sonnet.

     And so it goes.

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