[FOM] Re to Sazonov about Certainty and Inquisition

Arnon Avron aa at tau.ac.il
Sat Oct 20 17:32:30 EDT 2007

On Sat, Oct 20, 2007 at 04:14:44PM +0100, Vladimir Sazonov wrote:

> >  Once we recognize  that there are some absolutely certain
> > mathematical propositions and some that are not (Of course,
> > there will always be strange people who deny it.
> > The only thing one can do about it is to ignore them),
> > it is important to find out (as far as possible)
> > what is the extent and applicability of those who are.
> Aha, now I understand that mathematicians or those people working on 
> f.o.m. should be unified into a big sect (the bigger the better - more 
> "objectively") who "know" or believe that they know what is absolutely 
> certain (mathematical truth or a special class of mathematical proofs 
> of absolutely certain truths) and what is not. 

Dear Vladimir,

We know each other well, and you know that I have no doubt 
about your logical and mathematical knowledge and ability. So 
it is clear to me that you were carried by emotions here.
You surely understand the big logical difference between "recognizing
that there are *some* mathematical propositions that are 
absolutely certain and *some* that are not" and 
"know what is absolutely certain and what is not" (especially
that I explicitly said that I don't pretend to know the exact
line). So why did you change what I had said in 
such a drastic way?

> All others doubting and not believing are called "strange 
> people" (or heretics?) which just should be ignored (and 
> be happy that  being not subject to inquisition!).

Don't you think that you were a little bit carried away here? After
all, the last thing the inquisition can be blamed of is ignoring
people who do not share its views!
  Now I did not mean the expression "strange people" to be offensive.
Many people take my own insistence that the main goal of f.o.m
should still be what I described in my last message, as old-fashioned
and strange (one of the editors of FOM,
I don't know who, once talked about my obsession with absolute
certainty!). So I am strange about this issue. So what?
  Still, since it is clear that you were offended, I apologize
for talking about  "strange people", and take these words back.
However, I am not apologizing about claiming that the only 
thing that somebody which share my goals in f.o.m can do about
people who doubt even that there are infinitely many primes
(even though they know and understand Euclid's proof) - is to ignore
these people and their doubts. I do not understand these people, 
and it is obvious that their mind and language are completely 
different than mine. Hence no fruitful discussion between me and 
them is possible: I know for certain that I shall never be able 
to convince them (if Euclid's proof does not convince them, what 
can possibly do???). So what else can I do but to ignore them?
Do you have a better suggestion for me
(except for demanding me to give up what I think is the most 
important goal of f.o.m, because there are people who are
almost absolutely certain that there are no absolutely 
certain propositions)?? 



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