In our postmodern age where the Romantic is held largely in contempt, this oft-quoted closing quintet by John Keats tends to bring forth naught but condescending snickers.
When old age shall this generation waste,
Thou shalt remain, in midst of other woe
Than ours, a friend to man, to whom thou say'st,
"Beauty is truth, truth beauty" —— that is all
Ye know on earth, and all ye need to know.
As if to counter such a condescending response, there's this from Guggenheim and MacArthur Foundation Fellow, philosopher and novelist Rebecca Newberger Goldstein:
To me the affinities [between mathematics, physics, and philosophy on the one hand, and fiction, on the other] are natural. It's a matter of different forms of beauty. Mathematicians and physicists are just as guided by principles of elegance and beauty as novelists and musicians are. Einstein told the philosopher of science Hans Reichenbach that he'd known even before the solar eclipse of 1918 supported his general theory of relativity that the theory must be true because it was so beautiful. And Hermann Weyl, who worked on both relativity theory and quantum mechanics, said, "My work always tried to unite the true with the beautiful, but when I had to choose one or the other, I usually chose the beautiful." I would say the same thing about writing novels.
—From, Gödel and The Nature of Mathematical Truth: A Talk with Rebecca Goldstein, Edge, 8 June 2005)
It all sounds right to us.
(Our thanks to the always indispensable Arts & Letters Daily for the link to the Edge interview.)