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Logicomix: An epic search for truth

Logicomix: An epic search for truth

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Logicomix: An epic search for truth

ratings:
4/5 (49 ratings)
Length:
315 pages
23 hours
Publisher:
Released:
Jul 28, 2015
ISBN:
9781632864802
Format:
Book

Description

This exceptional graphic novel recounts the spiritual odyssey of philosopher Bertrand Russell. In his agonized search for absolute truth, Russell crosses paths with legendary thinkers like Gottlob Frege, David Hilbert, and Kurt Gödel, and finds a passionate student in the great Ludwig Wittgenstein. But his most ambitious goal-to establish unshakable logical foundations of mathematics-continues to loom before him. Through love and hate, peace and war, Russell persists in the dogged mission that threatens to claim both his career and his personal happiness, finally driving him to the brink of insanity.

This story is at the same time a historical novel and an accessible explication of some of the biggest ideas of mathematics and modern philosophy. With rich characterizations and expressive, atmospheric artwork, the book spins the pursuit of these ideas into a highly satisfying tale.

Probing and ingeniously layered, the book throws light on Russell's inner struggles while setting them in the context of the timeless questions he spent his life trying to answer. At its heart, Logicomix is a story about the conflict between an ideal rationality and the unchanging, flawed fabric of reality.
Publisher:
Released:
Jul 28, 2015
ISBN:
9781632864802
Format:
Book

About the author

Apostolis Doxadis received a Bachelor's Degree in Mathematics from Columbia University and a Master's Degree in Applied Mathematics from the Ecole Pratique des Hautes Etudes in Paris. He has run a number of successful computer companies, as well as written and directed for both the screen and the stage. The second of his two feature films, Tetriem, won the prize of the International Center for Artistic Cinema at the 1988 Berlin International Film Festival. Mr. Doxiadis lives in Athens, Greece


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Reviews

What people think about Logicomix

4.0
49 ratings / 47 Reviews
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Reader reviews

  • (4/5)
    I enjoyed this book quite a bit. The art is fun, and I found the discussions about logic and its foibles interesting. I think I would have liked it better as a straight biography of Bertrand Russell; the drive to make a fictional story out of what is actually a pretty interesting subject confuses me. Why add layers of fiction to something good enough on its own? I admit that the idea of "historical fiction" just doesn't do it for me. Makes no sense. Tell a true story and call it historical, or tell a traditional story and call it fiction. I don't like blending the two.And, finally, the end of the book lost me. What was the point? Maybe I am too tired to put it all together. But, rather than wrapping things up in a meaningful, poignant way, I felt like the end just sort of petered out. Like they were just done and wanted to draw some cool pictures.But still, worth a couple days' read.
  • (4/5)
    Av nice introduction to the hunt for mathematical certainty during the first half of the 19th century with Bertrand Russell himself as the protagonist. The authors themselves claim that this book is NOT factual but merely inspired by real events and discussions. To me this quite OK when it is stated, but it also consists a danger, as the matters at hand are hard (for me at least) to grasp and simplifications can lead you to believe you understand something you actually don't. In any case this is an interesting overview which as far as I can tell certainly tries to be accurate.
  • (5/5)
    The idea behind Logicomix in and of itself is fairly unique and hard to imagine (which I suppose lends itself well to the novel's theme of reality sometimes being a rather big object of uncertainty that is difficult to represent through abstraction, and that this may or may not lead to, or arise from, mental complications such as neuroticism), being a pseudo biography of (mostly mathematical) philosopher Bertrand Russel and his attempts to build foundations for mathematics with other big figures in this field at the time, such as Wittgenstein and Kurt Godel, that is also a graphic novel. I say pseudo biography because the authors are clear to point out that they've taken some liberties with Russel's life to make it seem more like an actual novel or story rather than a non-fictional biography. This isn't to say it's a complete "what if" kind of novel, as the story does in fact follow Russel's life accurately for the most part, especially when it comes to his and other philosophers' main arguments, but some meetings between characters in the story are either loosely supported by real evidence, or probably untrue.

    Either way, the result is a rather interesting novel-biography that not only has a fairly nice-looking art style to it, that is perhaps deliberately minimalistic to an extent to compliment the theme of "pure simplicity" that the authors imply at least some mathematicians wish to attain, and also has a lovely amount of detail to the settings and inspired interpretations of actual philosophers (seeing Wittgenstein's huge eyes was fairly enjoyable from the moment he entered the stage), but is also a great, "user-friendly" introduction to mathematics in general and an enjoyable exploration into what it means to be a mathematician, philosopher, analytic, or anyone interested in "certain truth" really. Two other great themes behind the book, I'd say, is that it A) Gives readers characters to relate to with its makers, as the authors and artists often chime in to break the fourth wall and show their reactions to various events throughout the book and discussions on how to best write it, and (B) Shows how math truly is 'everywhere'. I had heard about this before in a TED Talk, but it wasn't until Wittgenstein started comparing language to abstract symbols and Russel discussed his attempts to utilize logic as a pacifist to solve the political problems of the two world wars that I truly began to get a better understanding of what this idea means.

    All in all, it's a delight to read with a unique premise that is actually pulled very well off. If you're at all surprised by the notion of a math book that is also a page-turner and character study, then you may want to take a look into this book.
  • (2/5)
    Well the fact that it took me months to finish this should tell you how much I liked it. The parts about Bertrand Russell's childhood and life were interesting, but the parts about logic, not so much. I didn't really like the drawing, either.
  • (4/5)
    While I commend the effort, I wonder who the supposed audience for this Graphic Novel really is.Case in point: I studied Godel, and I have a bit more of the vaguest idea of what his proof did to Russel's efforts.I can't say that the graphic novel is making a poor effort to explain it, but for really judging it, you need a complete newcomer to the field.Find one, and ask him/her what he got from the book.How many (newcomers) would buy the book in order to get a better understanding of Godel's Theorem? How many (of those who don't know it) would care even a little bit?So, if you are "geek" and know the field already, it's interesting, if not "great".For everyone else, I am afraid it will fail to even register.Please prove me wrong... did you lend it to non-mathematically friends? With what results?
  • (5/5)
    I have been wanting to read this since I first learned of it's existence and it was fantastic. A graphic novel about the search for truth starring Bertrand Russell, what could be better?
  • (4/5)
    As someone who claims little to no concrete knowledge of (or particular interest in) mathematicians or logicians, I found this book tremendously interesting. I not only enjoyed the way it became a layered story within a story (kind of like maus) as a entertaining literary twist, but it also helped me to understand the time and place of Bertrand Russell which in turn helped me better understand his research.
  • (3/5)
    This is an awesome overview of the rise of logic. The story is fantastic until the last quarter. The author introduces you to most of the important logicians since 1700. Their lives, some of it the author embellishes, are the kinds of lives we are told academics are supposed to live. There's one drawback... It turns out the most logical are not what most people would consider rational, reasonable or logical. The author goes on to explain that this has something to do with being rational, reasonable and logical as a fucking insane task. The book devotes a great deal of asides to sanity vs. logic. We finally get up to Alan Turing, and viola! The problem of logic is solved. Only machines can be logical and guess what? Psychology and democracy kick ass! I'm serious, the logical conclusion falls flat, but it's kind of supposed to...

    The book wasn't written with a thesis, but a hypothesis, and so the story seems to be a bit wacky. At the very end, the sum of all things is vague: Democracy is the only way to allow the extremes to have a voice. Logic is not for people, but machines. We aren't really sure what this has to do with Russell speaking about World War Two, but we know that Russell (according to the book) is an anti-war advocate and socialist outside of WW2.

    I give it three stars because it had so much potential, but blew at the end. Up until then, this book is a masterpiece.
  • (3/5)
    There are a lot of things I liked about this book: the art, the fact that the authors tackled this subject, Bertrand Russell (who totally deserves the starring role as literary/logical hero). But the book sort of meandered and I didn't get a clear sense that it had accomplished its mission. Overall I liked it more than I didn't.
  • (5/5)
    Nice, high color, flat shaded, slightly "cartoony" art to tell the story of the development of logic in the 20th century, focussing on the life of Bertrand Russell.
  • (5/5)
    Really enjoyed this, both as a person who studied Philosophy at Oxford (where my tutor was very keen indeed on Wittgenstein) and as someone who is deep in the comics world.



    I love the self-referential nature of the work, with the creators discussing the best way to tell the story (and indeed, arguing about what kind of story it even is - is it a tragedy or a story with a happy ending?). This even ties into the comics story-telling itself, with depictions of self-referentiality in the part where they are discussing paradoxes. And overall, the comics story-telling is done niftily - for instance, there are plenty of those large panels where the characters loop and wander within a landscape as they talk (good avoidance of talking head syndrome, which would otherwise be a big danger in a comic of this nature).



    Most of all, I loved the depiction of the various philosophers, logicians, and mathematicians within its pages. Gottlob Frege as someone who could have stepped out of a Miyazaki film! Robotic-looking Kurt Godel! Bertie Russell himself, the central figure - womanizer, searcher after certainty, finding humanity in his later years after what the reader suspects must have felt to others like a rather inhuman earlier part of his life.



    All this, and I think it even passes the Bechdel test too, despite in principle being about old dead white men.



    In some ways best of all is the way I came to find out about it. R and I were doing a road-trip in Greece, and stopped in a service station near Sparta. It had a bookshop, and he was looking for a copy of the Little Prince in Greek - which it had, but it also had Logicomix in the original Greek. I say original, in that it came out first in Greek, as the creators are (almost all) Greek. The copy that R bought was the, what, third or fourth printing? It had gone through thirty or forty thousand copies in Greek before it was even available in English. Blimey!

    **************
    Re-read prior to reviewing it for 1001 Comics. Even better second time round; upgraded from four stars to five.
  • (3/5)
    Nicely done biography of Bertrand Russell and his search. I didn't like the editorial panels nearly as much as I liked the bio, and though I get why they included and ended with The Orestia, I still found it jarring. I wanted more Bertie. I enjoyed the majority of this graphic novel very much, and would recommend it to all the math/logic geeks I know.
  • (3/5)
    The parts that were kind-of biography of Bertrand Russel were very good. The parts that were the book's creators patting themselves on the backs for how smart and clever they are, making a graphic novel! about math! and logic! got really old and annoying.
  • (3/5)
    A useful book, as it helps to arrange the stories of various mathematicians into some sort of coherent whole. For a person who is already acquainted with the contributions of these various mathematicians there is a lot of value.But the fourth wall breaking just seems precious and the inclusion of the Oresteia muddled and pretentions.The changes in clothing and hairstyles during the course of the narrative are entertaining. The various characters are drawn well, or at least in a way that seems to resemble the way they appeared in real life. The young Russel is probably a bit too handsome.
  • (4/5)
    You might think that a graphic novel in which the mature Bertrand Russell, in 1939, gives a talk on "The Role of Logic in Human Affairs" would be a real snoozer. Actually a lot of people would; this book isn't for everyone. But I was fascinated by how Russell used the story of his life and quest for higher mathematical and logical truth to relate to the then-burning question of whether the USA should intervene in the developing European War. I remember in college in the early '70's that Bertrand Russell had a devoted following who had elevated him to near-saintly status; he comes across here as a flawed genius whose devotion to logic shook the world of epistemological thought. A fascinating and well-constructed look in graphic novel form at a complex man and scholar -- but if your college philosophy classes put you to sleep, don't bother.
  • (5/5)
    This is a great book about where to draw the line between the irrational and the rational, both literally and figuratively.
  • (3/5)
    The story of Bertrand Russell's attempts to find an unshakeable foundation for mathematics (and logic,) this book uses the authors working on adapting the story for the comic as a framing device, and jumps between characters and timelines.I loved finding a comic that explores mathematics and philosophy, and I'm glad I read it. I also found it slightly frustrating for not going into more depth, and for the framing device that seems to talk down to the reader. I can't say I really *enjoyed* the story, but it was curious and interesting and I'd suggest others read it and tell me what they think.
  • (5/5)
    Weaves a story of logic, mathmatics, history, love and war. Not your grampa's comic book.
  • (5/5)
    I love this kind of comic book philosophy. It sort of follows Wittgensteins advice to try & reduce philosophy to some kind of joke
  • (2/5)
    This book is awful. Its awful for these reasons:1) The artist has the meager ability to draw every character from the exact same static angle for over 300 pages. The art is so repetitive that it makes you beg for a half-adept college student with a clip-art library and photoshop.Emotions represented range from: disinterested to less-disinterested with the occasional Mr Potato-Head eyes-drawn-downward angry face.2) The life of Bertrand Russell is interesting enough to not have to pretentiously interject the multiple authors' own struggles into this semi-fictionalized biography. I'm not exaggerating with I say this constitutes almost a quarter of the book or more.3) There are made-up meetings for the convenience of not having to write/draw an accurate or true story. The authors admit they did this solely for dramatic effect (and convenience), going as far as arranging the hero to meet with another famous mathematician that was already dead at the time of their meeting. This is a measure of laziness that is kind-of appalling and, I would argue, is a disservice to a man as incredible as Bertrand Russell.4) I can't express in words how annoying the authors of this story are. They constantly interrupt the biography of a man that is so much more interesting than the whiny, pretentious, argumentative dialogue of a bunch of west-coast yuppies. The artist at one point even dedicates an ENTIRE PAGE to show the opulent mountain-top condo of a Berkeley professor waxing semi-philosophical as he enjoys a fine cabernet (p208). The characters/authors so reek of false-humility, they ruin any insight their characters might have given the reader. In attempting to appear SO humble in their story, they actually come across as the exact opposite.5) Its awful. This book is not well-written and whatever research the authors did is made moot by the sheer amount of fabricated events portrayed in this book. I feel that I learned more about the minutia of the authors daily struggles in writing this book than i did about Bertrand Russell's anti-war activism, atheism, or politics.Please read the "Introducing:" series or books instead, or perhaps "... For Beginners".
  • (5/5)
    A perfect blending of ideas and graphic story-telling. A fictionalised biography of Bertrand Russell, it manages to embrace the thinking of most C20th mathematical and philosophical giants - Russell, Whitehead, Hibbert, Cantor, Wittgenstein, Godel, right up to Turing - inside a compelling argument. Rather brilliantly, the creators of the book use narrative and design tropes to present as well as explain the big ideas, ultimately leaving some important questions unanswered - which is rather the point. Challenging, nourishing, entertaining.
  • (4/5)
    Bertrand Russell, British logician and philosopher spent his life in pursuit for truth and for a clear, logical system for understanding that truth. He began with the study of mathematics (until one of his own discoveries undermined the foundations of truth upon with math stood) and later integrating philosophical logic.The graphic novel is interesting in the ways that it is layered -- a story within a story within a story. It opens with the author of the graphic novel talking directly to the reader and explaining that this is a graphic novel about Bertrand Russell and going into the process of making the book. Then it shifts into the story itself with Russell meeting up with a group of antiwar protesters while on his way to giving a lecture on logic. The protesters call for him to join them, because he once protested against WWI when he was younger. Instead, he invites them to listen to his lecture, wherein he begins to tell his life story and how he began his life-long pursuit of truth. The graphic novel shifts back and forth through these layers of storytelling (and even eventually uncovers a fourth and arguably a fifth layer).At first I was put off by the self-referential aspect of Logicomix. I didn't like that the author and the artists interacted with the reader. However, I soon came to realize that including this multi-layer aspect to the graphic novel, not only allowed the authors to creatively explain certain aspects of logical theory that get lost in the storyline, but the layering actually begins to embody some of the logical theories being discussed.The graphic novel is a book the contains itself, or at least the discussion of itself, which seems to touch upon "Russell's Paradox", a theory discussed in the book, and which I'm sure that I can't rightly explain on my own. Honestly, thinking about it makes my head hurt, but it goes something like, if it contains itself, then it doesn't; if it doesn't, it does. If that doesn't make sense, don't ask me, because I can't wrap my mind around it either.Fortunately, Logicomix doesn't dwell too much on the complexities of logic theory, but rather focuses on the people who developed them, what motivated them, and the conflict between thinking theory and trying to live it.At the end of the graphic novel, the authors admit to bending some of the factual history to make for better storytelling and follow that up with a glossary of sorts that presented a slightly more in depth and factual look at the various logic theories and logicians that the readers encounter in the book.Logicomix turned out to be a supremely fascinating book with gorgeous art and a passion for intellectual discovery. Definitely worth a read.
  • (2/5)
    "Logicomix" is a graphic biography of renowned philosopher Bertrand Russell. The book is ambitious in its aims -- to paint a portrait of Russell's life, to introduce readers to his works and to examine the link between madness and the pursuit of logic. Doxiadis, Papadimitriou and co. tell a story from their own point of view as enthusiasts trying to unravel a puzzle; the team behind the book make frequent cameos throughout the book (almost overtaking it in parts).Ambitious as the book is, I find it guilty of overreaching and spreading itself too thin. For example, the overwrought presence of the narrator and confused distinction between plot and subplot weakened the narrative. On the plus side, the art is meticulously done, and the close interplay of text and image really speaks to the volumes of the work that went into this book.
  • (4/5)
    Logicomix is a fascinating introduction to the life and ideas of mathmetician/philosopher Bertrand Russell, told in graphic novel form. The book impressively and ambitiously captures the tumult and passions of the search for the foundations of mathematics and logic in the early 20th century, and throws in romance, madness, history, and the Greek play Oresteia. A neat trick that keeps the story is accessible is when the authors and illustrators insert themselves at various points in the story, debating how to present it most effectively.
  • (4/5)
    Excellent graphic novel about Bertrand Russell. The way the story is told is very interesting: not only do we see images of the past, with all main characters in logic, but these images are mixed with images of the authors of the book: their discussions on which parts of history to include, and why (or why not). This combination gives a very dynamic way of receiving the infoamtion present in the book. Besides this style, the book itself contains a lot of information, both on the characters and their research topics.
  • (4/5)
    As someone who studied Philosophy and Logic in college, I appreciated this graphic novel. Logicomix tries to explain a fairly complicated subject, Logic and Mathematics, and succeeds fairly well. The art is excellent. The story is well written. I didn't really like the back and forth between Bertrand Russell's story and the narration by the authors, but it wasn't overly interruptive and tolerable. The best parts of the story for me were the explorations into the links between madness and those who strive to make rational sense of the world. The book touches on this in several places, but I wouldn't have minded an even deeper exploration into that theme. But as it is, a really enjoyable story that makes Russell's life, Logic, and Math interesting.
  • (5/5)
    I loved this book. It is great. It is wonderfully conceived and wonderfully executed. The drawing is great and draws the reader in to the situations and the characters. The writing is great too. Could be a spoiler: I'm a little leery of the ending with its seeming conclusion that computers have changed everything. I want to think more about what seems to be the moral teaching of the story, which I guess is engagement in the world on a human level, away from abstractions and theories...and maybe that it is abstractions and theories that lead to the bad things in the world. I think I will read it again before I return it to the library.
  • (5/5)
    I don't read graphic novels very often, but this one is about Bertrand Russell-- so I had to. I enjoyed it thoroughly. The artwork is wonderful and the story-line is engaging. The explanation of his work and its importance to modern day is well thought out. I highly recommend this book to anyone interested in philosophy, mathematics or a wonderful read.
  • (4/5)
    I have been curious about this book ever since I heard it was coming out. How would mathematics, logic, and Bertrand Russell work in a graphic format? Part of the answer turned out to be the writers and graphic artists discussing this in the book. While it didn't work out perfectly it did get the job done. I am glad that such subjects as the foundation of mathematics is getting exposure in the graphic novel arena. Maybe Einstein and his theories will be next. Or Alan Turing. Overall, the final result of Logicomix opens some doors for more works in this are. At least I hope it does.
  • (5/5)
    I came to Logicomix from a relatively more classical and continental philosophical education, which is to say that my knowledge of the analytical tradition was rather naive. The philosophy of mathematics, in particular, was largely nonexistent to me. Certainly, I was aware of Bertrand Russell in a more general sense as an influential philosopher but I found some of those who championed him to be condescending and myopic. I came across what seemed to be an impenetrable barrier of logocentricism that dissuaded from reading the philosopher for myself. That is, until Logicomix: An Epic Search for Truth was published. By presenting Russell's passion for and struggle to discover the foundations of mathematics, I was able to circumvent this barrier and found an empathetic interest in the quest. I read it all in one sitting. Though, of course, the storytellers bend historical accounts and remain silent on more challenging mathematical substance, the graphic novel presents a clear picture of the essence of this epic search for truth. I often find myself flipping back to my favorite pages.