FOM: Foundational Ways

Stephen G Simpson simpson at
Fri Jun 4 19:40:36 EDT 1999

Jeremy Avigad 4 Jun 1999 16:17:52

 > Two other versions (one "slimmed down," one "expanded") appear in a
 > collection of Feferman's essays called "In the Light of Logic"

I bought this book by Sol Feferman a few months ago, and I too think
it is good background reading for some of what we have been discussing
here on the FOM list.  [ Of course one also needs to read some other,
more rigorous books on f.o.m., e.g. my new book ``Subsystems of Second
Order Arithmetic'' <>.  :-) ]

At the same time, I would say that the FOM list is far superior to
*any* book, in at least one respect: the interactive, give-and-take
format.  On FOM, if you read something you like or don't like or don't
understand or want to add to, you can immediately chime in.  This has
led to loads of very interesting clarifications and interdisciplinary
dialog.  I love this stuff.  I'm an FOM addict.  It's too bad that
people like Sol don't seem to be able to stand the rough-and-tumble.


 > [Feferman's essays] manage to avoid the grandiose and fluffy
 > language that FOMers take so much heat for.

What grandiose and fluffy language?  Jeremy, could you please clarify,
perhaps by means of an example?

But, I have to agree with you that Sol's language is far from
grandiose.  Indeed, it is sometimes downright depressing.  For
example, the expanded version of Foundational Ways starts off like
this: ``There is currently a general malaise about the logical
approach to the foundations of mathematics.''

When I read this, I wish that Sol would speak for himself and not for
the rest of us.  I for one am not experiencing any malaise about the
logical approach to f.o.m.

Sol's use of the word ``malaise'' reminds me of the famous Malaise
Speech given around 1979 or so by then-President Jimmy Carter.  Carter
addressed the USA on national television and complained that the
country was in a state of general malaise that was preventing it from
doing what he wanted it to do.  This was remembered as an extremely
unpopular speech, and it cost him a lot of votes in the 1980 election.

-- Steve

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