[FOM] Logicomix

Vaughan Pratt pratt at cs.stanford.edu
Thu Apr 22 03:37:05 EDT 2010

On 4/21/2010 8:44 AM, Alasdair Urquhart wrote:
> Here is a list of a few historical
> inaccuracies in the book.
>   	Russell never met Frege.
>   	Russell never met Cantor.
>   	Russell did not attend a lecture by Goedel on the incompleteness results.
>   	Russell's Uncle William was insane, but not locked up at Pembroke Lodge.
>   	Russsell never confessed his love to Evelyn Whitehead (though he does
>   	seem to have been attracted to her).
> In defence of Doxiadis and Papadimitriou, they admit that they have
> invented all kinds of things that never happened.

In further defence of the authors, they explicitly admit to the first 
three items on this list, in the paragraph beginning "A few examples of 
such deviations from fact" on p. 315, along with a number of other 
inaccuracies not on this list.

> One thing that irritated me about the book is that they make Russell,
> who spoke impeccable prose, into a ridiculous stage Englishman with
> phrases like "old bean", "old chap" and so on and so forth.

I would have thought the opposite, that in private conversation (as 
opposed to public speaking or conversations at the high table) he would 
have used such phrases more often than he did in the book, of which 
there seemed hardly any instances.

> Whether the book would attract younger readers to logic is debatable,
> since one the main themes of the novel is that there is a close
> connection between logic and madness.

I took the main theme of the book to be that it is very hard to pin down 
the foundations of mathematics.  Admittedly not all characters were 
equally healthy mentally, with the more pathological ones ranging from 
eccentric to insane as alluded to a number of times, but was any 
character in the book misrepresented in this regard?  Moreover 
Papadimitriou even suggests that the connection between logic and 
madness might be far-fetched (pp. 78-79).


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