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Incompleteness: The Proof and Paradox of Kurt Godel (Great Discoveries) Hardcover – 18 Mar 2005
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"Magnificent.... A stimulating exploration of both the power and the limitations of the human intellect.... Goldstein is an excellent choice for this installment of Norton's Great Discoveries series: Her philosophical background makes her a sure guide to the underlying ideas, and she brings a novelistic depth of character and atmosphere ... to her sympathetic depiction of the logician's tortured psyche, as his relentless search for logical patterns ... gradually darkened into paranoia."
In this penetrating, accessible, and beautifully written book, Rebecca Goldstein explores not only the work of one of the greatest mathematicians but also the relation of the human mind to the world around it.--Alan Lightman, author of Einstein's Dreams
Godel's torment and his genius. By the book's end, we understand well why Einstein would look forward to 'the privilege of walking home with Godel, ' and we can't help but wish that we'd been able to join them.--Brian Greene, author of The Elegant Universe and The Fabric of the Cosmos --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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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.
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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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.