Friday, July 29, 2005

is math true?

a discourse on formal language vs natural language, from SciTech Daily:

Gödel and the nature of mathematical truth [the story]

If you're a mathematics layperson, as I am, you'll need to wind your way through the trade talk. The following quote gave me a good introduction to the article:
Now, let me turn to the Edge 162 of June 8, 2005 headed by a synopsis of the story Rebecca Goldstein is telling:
"Gödel mistrusted our ability to communicate. Natural language, he thought, was imprecise, and we usually don't understand each other. Gödel wanted to prove a mathematical theorem that would have all the precision of mathematics — the only language with any claims to precision — but with the sweep of philosophy. He wanted a mathematical theorem that would speak to the issues of meta-mathematics. And two extraordinary things happened. One is that he actually did produce such a theorem. The other is that it was interpreted by the jazzier parts of the intellectual culture as saying philosophically exactly the opposite of what he had been intending to say with it."
This may sound interesting, but, disregarding history and context, it is misleading a potentially receptive audience. Ms Goldstein's claim to knowledge of Gödel's personal motivations is presumptuous.


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