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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A magnificent examination of the theory of knowledge, 15 Sep 2009
By 
Simon Pollack - See all my reviews
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Rebecca Goldstein's book can be described as epic in its approach to the theory of knowledge. And, as a philosophy layman (though I'm mathematically literate), it is definitely understandable while deep enough to require several re-reads of previous sections to follow the story.

It is, in fact, a story. It has a central theme, appropriately reaching its technical summit in the middle of the book: namely Goedel's famous theorem(s). It provides a wonderful discussion of the context historically (the characters, the places, the intellectual developments) of Goedel's work. And it provides a very accessible account of the modern history (from late 19th century) of the relevant branches of philosophy. Notably, it covers how Goedel's work was inspired by, and then effectively defined, what it is that can be said about "mathematical truth" (apologies for the slackness of this phrase's meaning: read the book and you will know what I mean).

Highly recommended to any interested readers willing to put in a little effort to understand a challenging subject.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A historical approach for Gödel's proof and its epistemological ramifications, 22 Feb 2010
By 
Antonios F. Arkas (Athens, Greece) - See all my reviews
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This book primarily constitutes Gödel's biography and an analysis of the historical background from which the proof immerged and secondary an outline of the proof. The historical presentation is successfully entangled with the very intricate and interesting epistemological and philosophical ramifications of this great intellectual achievement. Finally the book is supplemented with an attempt to explain the main features of the proof. I concider the first three goals i.e. biography, historical context and analysis of proof's ramifications to meet with success but not so for the last one concerning the proof outline.

Every scientific idea - especially those which were so revolutionary that managed to shake the foundations of science and knowledge - seem naked, purposeless and unintelligible when presented without the accompanying historical context. Since history is created from special charismatic and dramatic persons, a historical approach inevitably comprise a biography and an account of the ideas which influenced the revolutionist thought. Ideas could be thought as intellectual species which evolve in human minds under the pressure of reality and the discovery of new inexplicable facts. Rebecca Goldstein successfully manages to achieve these two goals with an excellent presentation of the persons and the ideas relevant to Gödel's proof. Her narrating style makes these intricate epistemological and philosophical ideas much more easier to digest and pleasant to read.

One of the aspects which makes this book an excellent choice for reading is it's integrity. Not only it presents the historical context of the proof but it also bonds and evolves these past ideas to help exemplify the monumental ramifications of Gödel's intellectual child to epistemology and philosophy. I consider the presentation of these ramification to be the most interesting part of the book. There is a lot of misunderstanding concerning the epistemological interpretation of the proof and Rebecca Goldstein clarify the misconceptions which also held a great pain for Gödel himself.

The only drawback of the book is the epigrammatic presentation of the proof itself which I don't consider it to be a serious flaw because I think this presentation is basically out of the scope and the central idea of the book which is more historical and epistemological than technical. If one wants to have a better but not very technical and cumbersome explanation of Gödel's proof, I recommend the book "Gödel's Proof" from Douglas R.Hofstadter.

I surely recommend reading "Incompleteness: The Proof and Paradox of Kurt Goedel". The reader who has a prior knowledge of this meta-mathematical triumph will acquire a more thorough-going understanding of its significance and the one who has never before had an acquaintance with the proof will have an excellent initiation to one of the doors leading to the understanding of what the mysterious nature of Mathematics might be and with what remarkable ways human beings acquire knowledge of this ghostly realm.
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5.0 out of 5 stars A wonderful book about the philosophy of logic and Godel/Wittgenstein, 21 Jan 2013
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This review is from: Incompleteness: The Proof and Paradox of Kurt Godel (Great Discoveries) (Hardcover)
I was familiar with Godel but knew little about Wittgenstein before reading this short but enchanting book about their mid-20th century clash of ideas. Two very interesting characters-- so different but each brilliant in his own way. This book also provides clear insights into Godel's key contributions to mathematical logic, for the layman like myself.
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Incompleteness: The Proof and Paradox of Kurt Godel (Great Discoveries)
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