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mcurrent
Posted: Monday, September 3, 2018 9:25:18 AM

Rank: Advanced Member

Joined: 7/6/2013
Posts: 252
Neurons: 7,273
Hi.
The text in my An Imaginary Tale book is:

All of these courses were interesting to me, and in each one I quickly came to appreciate the power I was gaining in my ability to solve difficult problems. But it wasn't until my first course in complex function theory, in autumn of 1960, that I experienced a totally new emotion - the pure pleasure of learning mathematics that was, in and of itself,"pretty".
Everything in that course snapped together crispy, cleanly, and with no spaces between the pieces, just like a well-made if complex puzzle.


I have 4 questions:
1) Did author experience "a totally new emotion" during or after his first course in complex function theory?
2) What do "in" and "of" mean in bold?
3) Why did author place word pretty in quotation marks?
4) Which work does "if" in bold do?

Thanks.
thar
Posted: Monday, September 3, 2018 9:57:39 AM

Rank: Advanced Member

Joined: 7/8/2010
Posts: 22,658
Neurons: 91,971
mcurrent wrote:
Hi.
The text in my An Imaginary Tale book is:

All of these courses were interesting to me, and in each one I quickly came to appreciate the power I was gaining in my ability to solve difficult problems. But it wasn't until my first course in complex function theory, in autumn of 1960, that I experienced a totally new emotion - the pure pleasure of learning mathematics that was, in and of itself,"pretty".
Everything in that course snapped together crispy, cleanly, and with no spaces between the pieces, just like a well-made if complex puzzle.

I have 4 questions:
1) Did author experience "a totally new emotion" during or after his first course in complex function theory?

it "wasn't until my first course" - so you assume it is at some point during the course, as he meets the new ideas. Not after the course, because then nothing is changing. It is the course that had that effect on him - that is why he is mentioning it.

2) What do "in" and "of" mean in bold?

If a phrase makes no sense to you, chances are it is an idiom. Look it up as an idiom. - in and of itself. I am pretty sure you will find a good description of what it means.

3) Why did author place word pretty in quotation marks?

What is your understanding of pretty? A girl, a picture? Does the pleasure of learning maths normally warrant that description? Not to most people, who do not see the beauty in maths. So is the word being used in its normal form, or is he using it to express a new idea?

4) Which work does "if" in bold do?
You have two adjectives describing the puzzle
it was well-made if complex
These are slightly contradictory adjectives - one makes it sound easy, the other factor is working to make it difficult. 'If' contrasts the two, with one working against the other. It was well-made, even though it was complex.
Quote:

if
although:

They're great kids, even if they can be demanding.
literary It was a hot, if windy day.


Thanks.
Romany
Posted: Monday, September 3, 2018 10:13:17 AM
Rank: Advanced Member

Joined: 6/14/2009
Posts: 17,560
Neurons: 56,753
Location: Brighton, England, United Kingdom


1. Each sentence we write has a purpose. What is the purpose of the sentence you're asking about here? Not in relation to the sentences before it or after it: on it's own?

It is writen very clearly that it was not until [a certain thing happened] that the writer experienced a new and pleasant emotion [the pure pleasure of learning that maths. was pretty.] So: what was it that happened? The answer tells you when it happened.

2. "In and of itself" is a common phrase in English. Unfortunately, about 90% of the time it's used it doesn't really mean anything. It just means "by itself".

e.g. "The student didn't like History in and of itself, but he liked to watch movies set in the past." i.e. the student didn't really like history itself: he liked watching movies.

3. If your teacher asked you to give 3 adjectives which described maths what would you say? Words like difficult, interesting, hard, necessary, boring, would probably come to mind. Would you say "pretty"? Do you think the teacher would understand what you meant?
It's in inverted commas to show this is an unusual usage. So you have to think about it for a second to think how he could have used that word. What do you think he meant?

4. This kind of usage of "if" is employed when we want to say something positive about something; while admitting that there is also a negative side to it.

"He was a handsome, if bad-tempered, man." Yes, he looked nice, but his personality wasn't nice. So was he a completely "nice" man?

"It was a wonderful, if rainy day." You had a wonderful time, even though the weather was lousy. Was it a completely wonderful day?

"It was a really satifying, if difficult day." The task left one feeling satisfied. But was it a completely good task?

Can you work out what the sentence means using these examples?
thar
Posted: Monday, September 3, 2018 10:21:43 AM

Rank: Advanced Member

Joined: 7/8/2010
Posts: 22,658
Neurons: 91,971
Ha, you are doing the Socratic thing I normally try to do, but I have been told off for giving questions rather than answers, so I am being more explanatory than usual, today. I should have waited - then your post would be the one guiding towards the answers, rather than me giving them. Or at least some of them.
Applause
NKM
Posted: Monday, September 3, 2018 11:35:19 AM

Rank: Advanced Member

Joined: 2/14/2015
Posts: 5,266
Neurons: 315,308
Location: Corinth, New York, United States
Not much to add, but to say that "in and of itself" essentially means "just because of what it is".

Synonym: "per se".

mcurrent
Posted: Monday, September 3, 2018 10:13:07 PM

Rank: Advanced Member

Joined: 7/6/2013
Posts: 252
Neurons: 7,273
Thank all of you so much for yours explanation.

Yes, Romany, I can understand your examples.
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