Does Mr. Bertrand Russell's quote

The true spirit of delight, the exaltation, the sense of being more than Man, which is the touchstone of the highest excellence, is to be found in mathematics as surely as in poetry.

mean these feelings of delight and exaltation can be found in mathematics as they are known to be found in poetry, or that these feelings are found in poetry in addition to theirs being found in mathematics?

  • 1
    I think it means that the feeling of "delight..." is found in mathematics just as well as it is found in poetry. A poet will surely encounter that emotion/feeling/state of being, and so will a mathematician.
    – AIQ
    Sep 23 '19 at 20:02
  • What do you not understand about this? There's no need in English to say Mr. for famous people.
    – Lambie
    Sep 23 '19 at 21:36

As surely as in poetry takes poetry as the known reference point, to which mathematics is compared. Mr. Russell assumes that you already know with certainty that these feelings are found in poetry, and he is telling you that the same feelings are also found in mathematics.

Here's a moderately famous example of the same kind of comparison:

I knew as well as I knew anything that the oppressor must be liberated as surely as the oppressed. A man who takes away another man's freedom is a prisoner of hatred; he is locked behind the bars of prejudice and narrow-mindedness. I am not truly free if I am taking away someone else's freedom, just as surely as I am not free when my freedom is taken from me. —Nelson Mandela

In other words, it is already clear that an oppressed person must be liberated and that a person deprived of freedom is not free; Mandela is saying that, in addition, the oppressor must be liberated and one who takes away another's freedom is himself not free.

As surely as the Sun rises is a cliché for saying that something is completely sure to happen. Here is a U.S. Senator using a long form of it in a Congressional debate in 1964:

Before the debate is over, [Senator Thurmond] will be relieved of the misunderstanding that he has in mind, because we are going to pass Title I, as surely as the Sun rises in the East and sets in the West.

In other words, the Senate is sure to pass Title I (some legislation currently under debate), regardless of Senator Thurmond's objections. It's practically a taunt.


in mathematics ... as in poetry

We find something in poetry. We find the same thing in mathemetics, we find it as (in the same way) we did in poetry.

As Russell was a leading mathemtical philosopher this is consistent with his delight in things mathematical.

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