FOM: Re: your mail

Neil Tennant neilt at
Wed Sep 8 20:19:31 EDT 1999

Dear Professor Soare,

I have received your "spamming" message to me as a subscriber to fom.
You asked for reactions, so here are mine.

1. I am grateful that your capitalizations in this message were
confined to section headings, and not applied to many words and phrases
in the body of the text, as was the case in one of your earlier postings
to fom. That typographic feature gave your earlier communication a
slightly hysterical air, which might have alienated some of your readers.

2. Your litany of comparisons between CT and RM, with the rhetorical
invitation repeatedly extended to Friedman and Simpson to fill in the
details for RM, must strike the reader as jejune. Someone like myself,
positioned outide the professional community of mathematicians, but taking
an active and appreciative interest in the foundational and philosophical
aspects of mathematics, would be quite unmoved by the discovery (if it
were the case) that only N publications in RM had appeared in
such-and-such prestigious journals, whereas M (>>N) had appeared in CT or
any other area. The readiest explanation would be that (a) RM is a much
younger field, (b) RM is a much more challenging and intellectually
profound enterprise, and (c) work in RM is still in such foment and
continual improvement that authors have not yet placed papers for
posterity in the appropriate journals.

3. Your theatrical "seizure" of authority to pronounce on the
significance, GII or whatever of CT, thereby reducing the likes of
Friedman to "non-experts", is childish. It is completely inimical to the
spirit of open and evaluative discussion on fom. Anyone who knows
Friedman's formidable qualifications to speak his mind on any area of
foundations (set theory, model theory, recursive function theory, proof
theory,...) would be eager to have his candid assessments of different
areas of mathematical foundations.

4. Your best strategy would be to post messages with genuine foundational
content, rather than ad hominem blasts.

5. Your characterization of past discussions on fom was very lop-sided,
colored by your own run-in with the moderator. For my part, I have learned
a tremendous amount from fom, and have found its many subscribers
invariably helpful and informative on a wide range of topics. 

I hope that these comments will be received in a spirit of constructive
engagement. Perhaps you and Simpson and Friedman should hammer out a
truce, possibly with mediation from a neutral third party, so that you can
rejoin the fom list on some mutual understanding of the need to curb
unnecessary personal polemic.

Neil Tennant

Neil W. Tennant
Professor of Philosophy and Adjunct Professor of Cognitive Science
230 North Oval
The Ohio State University

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