[FOM] June 2003 issue of the BSL

Todd Wilson twilson at csufresno.edu
Sat Jun 14 13:30:19 EDT 2003

On Fri, 13 Jun 2003, Alasdair Urquhart wrote:
> I'd like to call FOM subscribers' attention to the recent issue of
> the Bulletin of Symbolic Logic [....]  Girard's article "From
> Foundations to Ludics" is particularly provocative [....]  I've read
> Girard's article a couple of times, but my grasp of it is rather
> weak.  I see Harvey is proposing to review it, as well as Angus
> Macintyre's article in the same issue.  I look forward to seeing his
> reviews.
> I'd be glad, too, if other subscribers could help to elucidate
> Girard's new programme.

I've read Girard's BSL article a couple of times myself, and I would
characterize my grasp of it as less than weak -- in fact frustratingly
weak -- and I would like to join Alasdair Urquhart in hoping to see a
review of this article by Harvey Friedman, and to second his call to
other FOM subscribers for additional elucidation of Girard's program.
However, at the risk of heresy, I would like to wonder aloud about
Girard's motivation for writing articles in the way he does.  I have
no doubt, having studied and marveled at Girard's groundbreaking work
on System F and on Linear Logic, that he is a technically accomplished
visionary, but I also have no doubt that someone as accomplished as he
is could find a more straightforward way of presenting the results of
his thinking.

I could, in the same cynical vein as Neil Tennant, in his 28 May 2003
post ("FOM Potential") on why leading figures in philosophy and
foundations of mathematics do not establish a presence on lists like
FOM, posit several explanations as to why such an accomplished
researcher as Girard might write such obscure articles (or why such
articles ever get published) -- and Girard is by no means unique here,
especially when one includes other fields such as social theory and
even theoretical physics.  However, not being as brave as Neil, I'll
pass on the opportunity to comment personally on the emperor's
possible nudity and instead ask that Professor Friedman, or anyone
else who takes up an elucidation of Girard's program(s), at least
consider addressing the issue is his or her review.  As a teacher and
writer who has always tried to achieve maximal clarity in all forms of
communication with students and readers, I would like to understand
what, besides a simple failure to measure up to the task, could lead
to such frustratingly obscure communications.

Todd Wilson                               A smile is not an individual
Computer Science Department               product; it is a co-product.
California State University, Fresno                 -- Thich Nhat Hanh

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