[FOM] Is ZFC consistent?

Mark Steiner marksa at vms.huji.ac.il
Mon Jun 2 15:57:19 EDT 2003

Many people probably know that Goedel regarded the consistency of ZF as
settled by our, or at least his, direct intuition of the truth of its

When I was a graduate student at Princeton in the late '60s I heard a rumor
that a certain logician from East Germany had proved the INconsistency of
ZF.  I thought, reasonably, that the best way to check was to call Goedel,
who was at the Institute for Advanced Studies.  I didn't realize that Mrs.
Goedel fielded all his calls, and she put me through a 15 minute grilling
concerning my motives in disturbing the master.  I explained that I was just
a graduate student looking for Truth.  Finally she said, "I will let you
speak to him."  And then, though she covered the receiver with her hand, I
could hear the call which brought my fom idol crashing to the earth:

I explained to Prof. Goedel that I had heard a rumor concerning the
inconsistency of ZF as proved by a certain East German logician, upon which
he immediately dismissed the rumor as total nonsense, "both because of the
content of the rumor and because of its subject."

Mark Steiner

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