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Incompleteness: The Proof and Paradox of Kurt Godelby Rebecca Goldstein
Synopses & Reviews
A gem....An unforgettable account of one of the great moments in the history of human thought.--Steven Pinker
A masterly introduction to the life and thought of the man who transformed our conception of math forever. Kurt Godel is considered the greatest logician since Aristotle. His monumental theorem of incompleteness demonstrated that in every formal system of arithmetic there are true statements that nevertheless cannot be proved. The result was an upheaval that spread far beyond mathematics, challenging conceptions of the nature of the mind.
Rebecca Goldstein, a MacArthur-winning novelist and philosopher, explains the philosophical vision that inspired Godel's mathematics, and reveals the ironic twist that led to radical misinterpretations of his theorems by the trendier intellectual fashions of the day, from positivism to postmodernism. Ironically, both he and his close friend Einstein felt themselves intellectual exiles, even as their work was cited as among the most important in twentieth-century thought. For Godel, the sense of isolation would have tragic consequences.
This lucid and accessible study makes Godel's theorem and its mindbending implications comprehensible to the general reader, while bringing this eccentric, tortured genius and his world to life.
About the series: Great Discoveries brings together renowned writers from diverse backgrounds to tell the stories of crucial scientific breakthroughs--the great discoveries that have gone on to transform our view of the world.
"A gem. . . . An unforgettable account of one of the great moments in the history of human thought." --Steven Pinker
Probing the life and work of Kurt Gödel, Incompleteness indelibly portrays the tortured genius whose vision rocked the stability of mathematical reasoning-- and brought him to the edge of madness.
KURT GODEL IS CONSIDERED the twentieth century's greatest mathematician. His monumental theorem of incompleteness overturned the prevailing conviction that the only true statements in math were those that could be proved. Inspired by Plato's philosophy of a higher reality, Godel demonstrated conclusively that there are in every formal system undeniably true statements that nevertheless cannot be proved. The result was an upheaval in mathematics. From the famous Vienna Circle and sparring with Wittgenstein to Princeton's Institute for Advanced Study, where he was Einstein's constant companion. Godel was both a towering intellect and a deeply mysterious figure, whose strange habits and ever-increasing paranoia led to his sad death by self-starvation. In this lucid and accessible study, Rebecca Goldstein, a philosopher of science and a gifted novelist whose work often focuses on science, explains the significance of Godel's theorems and the remarkable vision behind them, while bringing this eccentric, tortured genius and his world to life.
About the Author
Rebecca Goldstein is a MacArthur Fellow, a professor of philosophy, and the author of five novels and a collection of short stories. She lives in Cambridge, Massachusetts.
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