FOM: quasi-empiricism and anti-foundationalism

Stephen G Simpson simpson at
Tue Sep 15 10:31:22 EDT 1998

This is a response to Reuben Hersh's clarification of what he means by
"foundationalism".  The clarification is not very clear.

Hersh 12 Sep 1998 18:06:45 writes:
 > That's what foundationalism is--the demand for a secure
 > foundation to make mathematics indubitable.

You seem to be missing my point.

Your original point in 11 Sep 1998 13:22:13 was that, according to
you, there is a historical consensus against indubitability.  I
replied in 12 Sep 1998 10:57:25 that, on the contrary, there is
actually a massive consensus in favor of indubitability,
i.e. mathematical rigor.  I elaborated on that reply.  You failed to
acknowledge or answer that reply.

Let me ask you again: Do you deny the obvious fact that a large
majority of mathematicians accept and take pride in the current high
standards of rigor (definition-theorem-proof)?  And that this
consensus has been in place for most of the 20th century?

If you accept these obvious facts, then how do you square them with
your claim of a consensus against indubitability?

-- Steve


Hersh writes:
 > Left wing politics, in my meaning, is politics that increases the
 > influence of the bottom rung, the lower class, of any particular
 > society.  In the U.S., for example, both the 14th and the 20th
 > amendments to the Constitution would be classified as left wing.
 > Perhaps you'll be kind enough to tell the list whether you would
 > have suupported either if you been around at the time.  Maybe you
 > would, if it had included a clause outlawing taxes on upper income
 > folks.

Since political discussions are out of bounds on the FOM list, let me
answer you in the following somewhat flippant way.

In order to answer your question, I tried to look up the amendments
that you mentioned, but unfortunately my copy of the U.S. Constitution
doesn't contain them.  My copy is in the appendix of a magnificent
book: "A Familiar Exposition of the Constitution of the United
States", by Joseph Story (Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court,
1811-1845), Regnery Gateway edition, 1986, 401 pages.

All right, so I may be behind the times in politics!  

Nevertheless, I'm up to date in f.o.m.


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