[FOM] Corfield's book

Alasdair Urquhart urquhart at cs.toronto.edu
Mon Oct 27 10:40:42 EST 2003

Reply to Steve Simpson:

>  > I was surprised by the fact that a few people engaged in heated
>  > discussions on FOM of David Corfield's recent book "Towards a
>  > Philosophy of Real Mathematics" without having read it.
> Alasdair, who are you referring to?  I haven't read the book (nor do I
> plan to), so I didn't comment on it.  My comments were based solely on
> the material available at Corfield's web site.

My purpose in teasing people about not having read Corfield's book
was mostly to stimulate people to read it, and have a look.
As I said before, my feelings about philosophical books is that
they need to be read extensively.  Nobody commented on this opinion
of mine, but that is my belief.  In other words, philosophy
is in essence a discursive subject.  

> What puts me off about Corfield is, first of all, his obvious
> hostility toward f.o.m.  Why is he so hostile?  And, why has he been
> venting his hostility here on the FOM list, of all places?

Well, I am not sure of the exact history, but my recollection
is that Corfield was responding to basic criticisms of his
work that had already appeared on FOM.  If f.o.m. isn't strong
enough to stand up to reasoned criticism (as Corfield's was),
then I don't think it is up to much.

> >From one of his remarks (1 Oct 2003), he seems to think philosophers
> interested in f.o.m. (what he calls "the neo-Fregean program") are
> getting way too much money (a "huge chunk").  But, if he wants piles
> of money, philosophy of mathematics is the wrong profession anyway, so
> what is his real problem?

Well, this is a matter of internal British academic politics.
But the point is this -- there is very little money made available
for foundational research in Britain, and it would seem that
a large portion of this money has gone to the Arche project*.
I don't interpret his remarks as having anything to do with
wanting to get rich from philosophy of mathematics.  He is
(if I am interpreting him correctly) complaining of the
narrowness of focus of philosophy of mathematics in Britain.

Well, here I am, speaking for David Corfield, when he is
certainly quite capable of speaking for himself.  Let me
repeat that I found his book interesting and stimulating,
and I recommend it to FOM subscribers.  

Also, I don't interpret the book as being "hostile to f.o.m."
On the other hand, I am not too sure what my own definition
of "f.o.m." is, so it is possible we are arguing at cross

* I have no familiarity with British academic politics, so my
remarks should be taken as those of an outsider.

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