FOM: attitudes of core mathematicians and applied model theorists towardf.o.m.

Mark Steiner marksa at
Thu Jan 27 15:08:34 EST 2000

Matt Insall wrote:
> Mark,
> Like Professor Kutler, I would appreciate it if you made your notes
> available, from your course on the philosophical significance of Gödel's
> theorem.
>  Name: Matt Insall
>  Position: Associate Professor of Mathematics
>  Institution: University of Missouri - Rolla
>  Research interest: Foundations of Mathematics
>  More information:
> > -----Original Message-----
> > From: owner-fom at [mailto:owner-fom at]On Behalf Of
> > Samuel S. Kutler
> > Sent: Wednesday, January 26, 2000 10:02 AM
> > To: Mark Steiner
> > Cc: fom at
> > Subject: Re: FOM: attitudes of core mathematicians and applied model
> > theorists towardf.o.m.
> >
> >
> > Mark:
> >
> > You wrote (I took away your parentheses:
> >
> >         I'm teaching an entire course next semester on
> >         the philosophical significance of Goedel's theorem.
> >
> > I hope that this will lead to a book, or that even earlier you will make
> > your notes for the course availabe.  I would love to see your insights.
> >
> > Best wishes from Annapolis,
> >
> > Sam Kutler
> >

Dear Sam and Matt,
	Thanks for the compliment.  I doubt if the likes of you, Harvey, or
Charles Parsons, or the other leading experts in the world on f.o.m. on
this list need to read my notes for an undergraduate course meant for
students of mathematics, philosophy, and other sciences.  I'd rather
read your notes!  I just wanted to point out that I certainly appreciate
the intellectual interest of Goedel's theorem enough to teach it to
others, thus increasing the prestige of f.o.m.
	If I come up with something that I feel is worthy of comment, or if I
want to "try something out" on the world of learning, I'll post it.  I
am still thinking of starting something on Wittgenstein and Goedel's
theorem, and maybe I then can do the opposite: use *your* responses for
my class!
	A personal note: years ago, when I came to Jerusalem, I participated in
the (high level) logic and set theory seminars of my famous colleagues,
because I felt these subjects were worth "breaking my head" over for
their philosophical interest.  I gave up, and turned to the study of
physics, and "core" mathematics, for its g.i.i., however, because I
really couldn't see the relation between the abstruse topics dealt with
and the foundations of mathematics.  I naturally thought this was my
denseness, but I was astounded to learn from this list that some of the
professionals are saying the same thing!  At the same time, the
philosophy of mathematics has also turned away partly from its earlier
interest in logic (I recently heard remarks by Charles Parsons on this
subject at a symposium) to deal with topics which, though they are
entirely legitimate, and have great--yes, intellectual interest, are not
those which will turn mathematicians on (as Martin Davis wrote).  It may
be that this forum could re-establish lines of communications which have
been disrupted over the years.
	You might be interested to hear that the Hebrew University has
established an institute for the foundations of mathematics, headed by
Prof. Carl Posy, earlier of Duke University, who has joined the
philosophy department recently (he has done foundational work in logic,
and also philosophical work on Intuitionism, and the philosophies of
Kant and Leibniz).  This has begun to bring together mathematicians,
philosophers, logicians, and computer scientists to discuss issues of
mutual concern.

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