FOM: How McLarty and Thayer should parse "more general interest" jshipman at
Wed Nov 12 08:08:46 EST 1997

A relatively minor point I was making is being misunderstood, so I will clarify
it and put it back in context.  I am not trying to make the silly claim that
the field of "Foundations of Mathematics" is in some sense "bigger" or "more
important" than Mathematics itself.  Therefore counting bestsellers and
estimating votes for Goldwater miss the point.  What I WAS saying is that
results in FOM are potentially of "more general interest" than results in Math
itself for the simple reason that they require less specifically mathematical
background.  "More" is an adverb modifying "general", not an adjective
modifying "interest".  But the context of this point was that this distinction
between FOM and ordinary Math ought to be a small one because ordinary Math can
and should be made more accessible to non-mathematicians.  In particular, more
effort should be directed toward explaining current research in terms the
educated layman can appreciate, as is done routinely and effectively in other
scientific areas (e.g. physics).  I mentioned some possibilities for this.  The
Singh and Kaku books McLarty cited are good steps in this direction.-Joe Shipman

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