FOM: general intellectual interest; Franzen's quest

Stephen G Simpson simpson at
Tue Mar 17 00:52:05 EST 1998

Torkel Franzen writes:
 > the last outburst by Simpson to the effect that intellectual
 > interest is an absolute, independent of how many people are in fact
 > interested.

The "outburst" to which Franzen refers is my thoughtful, balanced
posting of 12 Jan 1998 23:11:59 on general intellectual interest and
the sex life of termites.

It appears that Franzen didn't understand my point.  Let me have
another go at explaining it.

The point is that general intellectual interest is an objective
concept, not a sociological or subjectivistic concept.  To put the
point in another way, general intellectual interest has nothing to do
with polls, book sales, TV ratings, etc.  General intellectual
interest has everything to do with the unity of human knowledge and
the hierarchy of concepts.  See also my web page at

Note also that, in these objective terms, Friedman's results on the
necessary use of large cardinals in finite combinatorics have a great
deal of general intellectual interest.  I urge Franzen to carefully
reread and study my posting on the sex life of termites, as part of
his quest to comprehend Friedman's results.

-- Steve

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