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Incompleteness: The Proof and Paradox of Kurt Gödel (Great Discoveries) Paperback – February 17, 2006
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Kurt Gödel is often held up as an intellectual revolutionary whose incompleteness theorem helped tear down the notion that there was anything certain about the universe. Philosophy professor, novelist, and MacArthur Fellow Rebecca Goldstein reinterprets the evidence and restores to Gödel's famous idea the meaning he claimed he intended: that there is a mathematical truth--an objective certainty--underlying everything and existing independently of human thought. Gödel, Goldstein maintains, was an intellectual heir to Plato whose sense of alienation from the positivists and postmodernists of the 1940s was only ameliorated by his friendship with another intellectual giant, Albert Einstein. As Goldstein writes, "That his work, like Einstein's, has been interpreted as not only consistent with the revolt against objectivity but also as among its most compelling driving forces is ... more than a little ironic."
This and other paradoxes of Gödel's life are woven throughout Incompleteness, with biographical details taking something of a back seat to the philosophical and mathematical underpinnings of his theories. As an introduction to one of the three most profound scientific insights of the 20th century (the other two being Einstein's relativity and Heisenberg's uncertainty principle), Incompleteness is accessible, yet intellectually rigorous. Goldstein succeeds admirably in retiring inaccurate interpretations of Gödel's ideas. --Therese Littleton --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
From Publishers Weekly
Gödel's Incompleteness Theorem, which proved that no formal mathematical system can demonstrate every mathematical truth, is a landmark of modern thought. It's a simple but profound statement, but the technicalities of Gödel's proof are forbidding. If MacArthur Fellow and Whiting–winning novelist and philosopher Goldstein (The Mind-Body Problem) doesn't quite succeed in explaining the proof's mechanics to lay readers, she does a magnificent job of exploring its rich philosophical implications. Postmodernists have appropriated it to undermine science's claims of certainty, objectivity and rationality, but Gödel insisted, to the contrary, that the theorem buttresses a Platonist conception of a transcendent mathematical reality that exists independent of human logic. Goldstein is an excellent choice for this installment of Norton's Great Discoveries series, which seeks to explain the ways of science to humanists. Her philosophical background makes her a sure guide to the underlying ideas, and she brings a novelistic depth of character and atmosphere to her account of the positivist intellectual milieu surrounding Gödel (including a caustic portrait of philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein) and to her sympathetic depiction of the logician's tortured psyche, as his relentless search for logical patterns behind life's contingencies gradually darkened into paranoia. The result is a stimulating exploration of both the power and the limitations of the human intellect. Photos.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
Top customer reviews
She still gets his story across in a comprehensible and appealing manner such that you cannot help but appreciate the man for who and what he was: positively brilliant.
I don't quite get how Rebecca could be Mrs. Steven Pinker now, but I love her anyway.
Most recent customer reviews
I found this book to be incredibly painful, academically, to read.Read more