FOM: Some reflections on Rota

Robert Tragesser RTragesser at
Fri Apr 23 17:54:43 EDT 1999

        I do agree with Dr. Whitely that a major part of power and 
philosophical importance of Rota was his effort at getting at how (the 
deepest) mathematicians think and understand,  and,  as a teacher,  of 
conveying to that mysterious dimension that never makes it into 
textbooks and almost never into lectures -- genuine mathematical 
thinking and understanding,  which lies behind,  but is not the least 
evident in,  the products of that thinking and understanding.  FOM as I 
have experienced it on this FOM site seems very much preoccupied with 
the products of such thinking and understanding;  and there has been 
considerable evidence of hostility toward (or at least not having a clue
about) these Rotaian interests,  imagining perhaps a conflict;  whereas 
Rota has emp[hasized that there is no conflict whatdsoever between the 
direction of his interests and work and that more inspired by,  
motivated by,  say Go"del's achievements in applications of mathematical
logic.  Certainly the kind of understanding of mathematical 
understanding and thought Rota was after could only here and there,  by 
accident as it were,  be given a "Scientific" treatment in the 
Go"del-Tarski spirit,  and whether it could or not would matter very 

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