How clearly can we see ourselves?

Some egotism is inevitable, and I do not feel that it really  needs  justification.  Good  work  is  not  done  by  ‘humble’  men.  It  is  one  of  the  first  duties  of  a  professor,  for  example,  in  any  subject,  to  exaggerate  a  little  both  the  importance  of  his  subject and his own importance in it.

A man who is always asking ‘Is what I do worth while?’ and ‘Am I the right person to do it?’ will  always  be  ineffective  himself  and  a  discouragement  to  others. He must shut his eyes a little and think a little more of his subject and himself than they deserve. This is not too difficult: it is  harder  not  to  make  his  subject  and  himself  ridiculous  by  shutting his eyes too tightly.

If  then  I  find  myself  writing,  not  mathematics,  but  ‘about’  mathematics,  it  is  a  confession  of  weakness,  for  which  I  may  rightly  be  scorned  or  pitied  by  younger  and  more  vigorous  mathematicians.  I  write  about  mathematics  because,  like  any  other  mathematician  who  has  passed  sixty,  I  have  no  longer  the  freshness  of  mind,  the  energy,  or  the  patience  to  carry  on  effectively with my proper job.

A Mathematician’s Apology, G. H. Hardy


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