[FOM] Profound flexibility
slaterbh at cyllene.uwa.edu.au
Thu Oct 16 21:26:25 EDT 2003
Arnon Avron gets into a tangle (FOM Digest Vol 10 Issue 24):
>I had stated it clearly that I dont attach
>much importance to the question what are the Natural numbers ...
> I do like von Neumann's answer, but I would not
>mind other suggestions (or no answer at all).
> The only question is: why are they
>bothering the people on this list who are really interested in the foundations
There is clearly some conflict in Avron's mind if he can be
interested in the Foundations of Mathematics but not attach much
importance to what Natural Numbers are.
But I pick up of more general concern his mentioning of 'liking von
Neumann's answer'. This kind of language also arises much more
widely, of course, and there were similar references to what people
like in Harvey Freidman's first posting under this head; indeed they
were crucial, as the heading itself witnesses. The underlying belief
is that there is no right answer, but more to the point is the reason
why many people want there to be some freedom in the matter, since it
is that which relates to why there is a need to 'bother' people about
these issues. The danger is that the mathematics people like to do
might be just recreational.
Maybe Aaron has tenure, or a private income, so he does not have to
justify what he likes to do to anybody, but more regularly there are
research funding bodies to convince, and times have changed from when
tenure was so easily available, and aristocratic lifestyles were
common. Von Neumann's answer is wrong (remember the word 'wrong'?).
Barry Hartley Slater
Honorary Senior Research Fellow
Philosophy, M207 School of Humanities
University of Western Australia
35 Stirling Highway
Crawley WA 6009, Australia
Ph: (08) 9380 1246 (W), 9386 4812 (H)
Fax: (08) 9380 1057
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