Indiscrete Thoughts (Modern Birkhäuser Classics) and over one million other books are available for Amazon Kindle. Learn more
Rent
$39.56
  • List Price: $62.95
  • Save: $23.39 (37%)
Rented from Amazon Warehouse Deals
To Rent, select Shipping State from options above
Due Date: Dec 21, 2014
FREE return shipping at the end of the semester. Access codes and supplements are not guaranteed with rentals.
Trade in your item
Get a $4.18
Gift Card.
Have one to sell? Sell on Amazon
Flip to back Flip to front
Listen Playing... Paused   You're listening to a sample of the Audible audio edition.
Learn more
See this image

Indiscrete Thoughts Hardcover – December 18, 1996

ISBN-13: 978-0817638665 ISBN-10: 0817638660 Edition: 3rd printing 2000

Rent
Price: $39.56
6 New from $65.00 16 Used from $14.67
Amazon Price New from Used from
Kindle
"Please retry"
Hardcover
"Please retry"
$65.00 $14.67
Free%20Two-Day%20Shipping%20for%20College%20Students%20with%20Amazon%20Student


NO_CONTENT_IN_FEATURE

Shop the New Digital Design Bookstore
Check out the Digital Design Bookstore, a new hub for photographers, art directors, illustrators, web developers, and other creative individuals to find highly rated and highly relevant career resources. Shop books on web development and graphic design, or check out blog posts by authors and thought-leaders in the design industry. Shop now

Product Details

  • Hardcover: 280 pages
  • Publisher: Birkhäuser Boston; 3rd printing 2000 edition (December 18, 1996)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0817638660
  • ISBN-13: 978-0817638665
  • Product Dimensions: 9.3 x 6.4 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,329,481 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Review

From the reviews:

"Read Indiscrete Thoughts for its account of the way we were and what we have become; for its sensible advice and its exuberant rhetoric."

--The Mathematical Intelligencer

"Learned, thought-provoking, politically incorrect, delighting in paradox, and likely to offend—but everywhere readable and entertaining."

--The American Mathematical Monthly

"It is about mathematicians, the way they think, and the world in which the live. It is 260 pages of Rota calling it like he sees it... Readers are bound to find his observations amusing if not insightful. Gian-Carlo Rota has written the sort of book that few mathematicians could write. What will appeal immediately to anyone with an interest in research mathematics are the stories he tells about the practice of modern mathematics."

--MAA Reviews

"This is a paperback reprint, in the Modern Birkhäuser Classics series, of a book first published in 1997. It has aged very well, and richly deserves its inclusion in this series. … an excellent book, fun to read, and interesting to think about." (Fernando Q. Gouvêa, MathDL, January, 2008)

From the Back Cover

Indiscrete Thoughts gives a glimpse into a world that has seldom been described, that of science and technology as seen through the eyes of a mathematician. The era covered by this book, 1950 to 1990, was surely one of the golden ages of science as well as of the American university.

Cherished myths are debunked along the way as Gian-Carlo Rota takes pleasure in portraying, warts and all, some of the great scientific personalities of the period —Stanislav Ulam (who, together with Edward Teller, signed the patent application for the hydrogen bomb), Solomon Lefschetz (Chairman in the 1950s of the Princeton mathematics department), William Feller (one of the founders of modern probability theory), Jack Schwartz (one of the founders of computer science), and many others.

Rota is not afraid of controversy. Some readers may even consider these essays indiscreet. After the publication of the essay "The Pernicious Influence of Mathematics upon Philosophy" (reprinted six times in five languages) the author was blacklisted in analytical philosophy circles. Indiscrete Thoughts should become an instant classic and the subject of debate for decades to come.

"Read Indiscrete Thoughts for its account of the way we were and what we have become; for its sensible advice and its exuberant rhetoric."--The Mathematical Intelligencer

"Learned, thought-provoking, politically incorrect, delighting in paradox, and likely to offend—but everywhere readable and entertaining."--The American Mathematical Monthly

"It is about mathematicians, the way they think, and the world in which they live. It is 260 pages of Rota calling it like he sees it... Readers are bound to find his observations amusing if not insightful. Gian-Carlo Rota has written the sort of book that few mathematicians could write. What will appeal immediately to anyone with an interest in research mathematics are the stories he tells about the practice of modern mathematics."--MAA Reviews

--This text refers to the Paperback edition.

More About the Author

Discover books, learn about writers, read author blogs, and more.

Customer Reviews

4.8 out of 5 stars
5 star
8
4 star
2
3 star
0
2 star
0
1 star
0
See all 10 customer reviews
The book is funny.
Palle E T Jorgensen
Our memory is strained, our mind distorted to accommodate some artificial logic, like a student struggling with German grammar.
Viktor Blasjo
I enjoyed it just for the account of Prof.
Daniel Nathan

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

21 of 23 people found the following review helpful By Bob Burton(wapo155@twp.com) on December 9, 1998
Format: Hardcover
It appears that Gian-Carlo Rota straddled the boundary between mathematics and philosophy for quite a while before drifting over to the latter realm, where he focuses his energies, at least in this book, on the history and ontology of mathematics. As a devout phenomenologist, a dedicated follower of Heidegger and Husserl, he takes up arms against the established pieties of his fellow mathematicians: that mathematics is a formal system, or an abstract structure, or an orderly progression of theorems and proofs. Stuff and nonsense! sayeth Rota; mathematics is the whole fuzzy blob of whatever it is that mathematicians actually do when they're doing mathematics.
I couldn't disagree more. But I'm awed by the man's insights, and, even when his arguments seem riddled with holes, I want to stick with him. No, more than that: I want him here in the room with me so that I can alternately praise him and force him to see the truth.
My guess is that Rota's career as a philosopher is motivated in large part by an innate desire to debunk and a love of argumentation. He's an outrageous fellow and a pleasure to read.
Comment Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback. If this review is inappropriate, please let us know.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
12 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Jaime Silvela on October 20, 2002
Format: Hardcover
This book is a pleasure to read, whether or not you're interested in math or philosophy. It stands on the premise that when speaking or writing of science and scientists, we should acknowledge their fallibility and avoid myths. Rota believes the mythification of science and scientists is responsible for many of the flaws in education and science in general.

Accordingly, Rota attempts in this book to show us mathematicians behind the scenes. He exposes the prejudices, mannerisms and also the nice traits of giants such as John von Neumann, Stanislaw Ulam, Willi Feller, Norbert Wiener. His portraits are not based on dull facts, but on lively anecdotes, and you really get a sense of the people he describes. I wish professional biographers took note. Rota also speaks of mathematics and philosophy, again debunking myths and exposing clearly the underlying trends.

As a writer, Rota is fantastic. Through his brief sketches of people, places and events, a connected whole emerges. The clarity of his writing and thought, and his obvious pleasure with words, remind me of Norman Maclean's "A River Runs Through it". A bit like poetry in prose.
Comment Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback. If this review is inappropriate, please let us know.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
14 of 15 people found the following review helpful By Michael Demkowicz on April 11, 2001
Format: Hardcover
Great mathematicians and philosophers can clearly teach us mathematics and philosophy, but I've always thought they could offer more. As critical and itelligent observers, they can draw attention to unsolved problems. As individuals often privy to the greatest genius of their time, they can pass on the odd bits and pieces of wisdom they inevitably pick up, but can't easily fit into any coherent system.
In this book, Gian-Carlo Rota does what I wish more accomplished figures would do: he writes down a motley asortment of wisdoms he collected throughout his life along with a number of pressing questions he never saw answered. True, there is no one overarching theme in his thoughts, nor does he defend any one particular thesis, but few of us have ever synthesized our thoughts into a coherent system.
Like any good educator, Rota doesn't patronize, nor does he dwell on personal reminiscences. "Indiscrete Thoughts" is his way of exiting the scene, leaving behind all the unfinished business of his day for the next generation of mathematicians and philosophers to pick up.
Comment Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback. If this review is inappropriate, please let us know.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
8 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Palle E T Jorgensen VINE VOICE on November 4, 2004
Format: Hardcover
`Funny stories about mathematicians!' An oxymoron, you might counter. Need I say that the title of the book is a pun. If you aren't from math, you might say that it is an inside joke. Pick up the book! If you are anything like me, you will not be able to put it down!

And I think you will not be disappointed; even if you might initially have misgivings.

The book is funny. If you don't believe me, give it a try, and judge for yourself. I had one of the best laughs of the year. The book is also unique in several ways; autobiographical in many ways, and written by an outstanding scientist; one with a rare talent for writing, for making observations about human nature, and for interpersonal skills. Had Rota not turned to math, he might well have become a novelist.

A number of the protagonists in the book are the famous math professors Rota encountered when he was an undergraduate in Princeton in the early fifties; that was also the period of another illustrious mathematician, John Nash [later to become a Nobel Laureate, and the subject of a bestseller, and a movie; `A Beautiful Mind'].

The stories I enjoyed the most in Rota's little book was those about Alonzo Church, a pioneer in logic; William Feller, one of the founders of modern probability theory; Solomon Lefschetz (of topology), to mention only some. But you will likely select your own favorites from Rota's illustrious gallery. Rota paints his subjects with a mix of colors: humor, respect, love, insight in the human soul, wisdom, and personal reflection. What is charming and amusing is to observe thru the eyes of the then young and impressionable undergraduate student Gian-Carlo Rota, that the famous scientists shared personal weaknesses, and failed human relationships, with the rest of us.

Reviewed by Palle Jorgensen, November, 2004.
Comment Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback. If this review is inappropriate, please let us know.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again

Customer Images


What Other Items Do Customers Buy After Viewing This Item?