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Reflections on Kurt Gödel [Paperback]

Hao Wang
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
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Book Description

March 14 1990 Bradford Books

Newton/Descartes. Einstein/Gödel. The seventeenth century had its scientific and philosophical geniuses. Why shouldn't ours have them as well? Kurt Gödel was indisputably one of the greatest thinkers of our time, and in this first extended treatment of his life and work, Hao Wang, who was in close contact with Gödel in his last years, brings out the full subtlety of Gödel's ideas and their connection with grand themes in the history of mathematics and philosophy.The subjects he covers include the completeness of elementary logic, the limits of formalization, the problem of evidence, the concept of set, the philosophy of mathematics, time, and relativity theory, metaphysics and religion, as well as general ideas on philosophy as a worldview. Wang, whose reflections on his colleague also serve to clarify his own philosophical thoughts, distinguishes his ideas from those of Gödel's and on points of agreement develops Gödel's views further.The book provides a generous array of information on and interpretation of the two main phases of Gödel's career - the years between 1924 and 1939 at the University of Vienna, which were marked by intense mathematical creativity, and the period from 1940 to his death in 1978, during which he was affiliated with the Institute for Advanced Studies in Princeton, a time in which Gödel's interests steadily shifted from questions of logic to metaphysics. And it also examines Gödel's relations with the Vienna Circle, his philosophical differences with Carnap and Wittgenstein, the intimate and mutually fruitful friendship with Einstein, and the periodic bouts of depression for which Gödel was hospitalized a number of times over the course of his life.Hao Wang is Professor of Logic at The Rockefeller University and author of scores of articles and several books on logic, computers, and philosophy, including From Mathematics to Philosophy (extensively discussed with Gödel and containing contributions by him) and Beyond Analytic Philosophy: Doing Justice to What We Know (MIT Press Bradford Books). He is currently preparing a companion volume, Conversations with Kurt Gödel which will concentrate on Gödel's unpublished ideas. A Bradford Book.



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From Library Journal

Wang, professor of logic at Rockefeller University, was personally acquainted with Godel in his last years, and relies on recollected conversations as well as published and unpublished material in this first extended treatment of Godel's life and work. Known primarily as a mathematician/logician from his published work, Godel's extensive unpublished work, says Wang, contains "bold speculations on several perennial issues of universal concern." Those issues are only hinted at here, as most of the philosophical discussion concerns the philosophy of mathematics. Wang promises a future book dealing with Godel's Nachlass. Because material now available on Godel is limited, this somewhat rambling, anecdotal account is essential for pertinent subject collections. Leon H. Brody, U.S. Office of Personnel Management Lib., Washington, D.C.
Copyright 1987 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Review

"The depth and authority of Wang's analysis are certain to make his treatise a standard reference."--"New Scientist"

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Godel's was a life (1906-1978) devoted, as much as is humanly possible, and with success, to the doing of fundamental theoretical work. Read the first page
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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index | Back Cover
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4.0 out of 5 stars Since no one else has reviewed this I will. March 2 2004
By Jason T
Format:Paperback
I understand that Wang has been an important source in compiling information on Godel and bringing it to public attention over the years, but this is the first book of his I've read. This volume contains a variety of material about Godel- biographical facts, personal recollections, chronologies, Godel's philosophical ideas, the impact and historical setting of his mathematical work, his relationship with Einstein, comparisons to other prominent intellectuals, and more. It assumes a basic understanding of Godel's theorems. The major portion of the book is Wang's attempted presentation and examination of Godel's (largely unpublished) philosophical activity. Much of this is about Wang's own philosophy as he attempts to clarify both their positions by articulating points of agreement and disagreement. Some of these sections require more background in philosophy than most students of mathematics possess (myself included).
Wang supplies lots of interesting historical and biographical material as well. The 75 page chronology of Godel's life and work is very informative. Contains 11 photographs of Godel and company. The book ends with some useful commentary on selected publications of Godel. If you're looking just for a biography get Dawson's excellent book, but anyone seriously interested in Godel will want this as well.
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Amazon.com: 4.5 out of 5 stars  2 reviews
13 of 14 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Since no one else has reviewed this I will. March 2 2004
By Jason T - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
Wang has been an important source in compiling information on Godel and bringing it to public attention. This volume contains a variety of material about Godel- biographical facts, personal recollections, chronologies, Godel's philosophical ideas, the impact and historical setting of his mathematical work, his relationship with Einstein, comparisons to other prominent intellectuals, and more. It assumes a basic understanding of Godel's theorems. The bulk of the book is a presentation of some of Godel's (largely unpublished) philosophical activity. There is also quite a bit on Wang's own views as he contrasts them with Godel's. Some of these sections require more background in philosophy than most students of mathematics possess (myself included).

Wang supplies lots of interesting historical and biographical material as well. The 75 page chronology of Godel's life and work is very informative. Contains 11 photographs of Godel and company. The book ends with some useful commentary on selected publications of Godel. If you're looking just for a biography get Dawson's excellent book, but anyone seriously interested in Godel will want this as well.
3 of 23 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Wang Exposes Godel's Great Predictions. April 11 2005
By George Shollenberger - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
On Pages 1 and 2, Wang tells us that Godel, the master of the incomplete, suggests the possibility of philosophy as an exact theory emerging within the next hundred years or even sooner. There will be, he believes, scientific disproofs of what he calls' mechanism in biology' and of the proposition that 'there is no mind separate from matter'; moreover he thinks it practically certain that the 'physical laws, in their observable consequences, have a finite limit of precision. In his conversations, he recommends the important project of finding what might be called a 'rational religion.'

I conclude that exact philosophy already exists because theological statements are being proven, even though the ultimate truth will always be incomplate. This prediction means that the scientific method cannot be used to prove worlds, which is a box in which we live. Thus, universe cannot be measured without measure standards. So the universe is relativistic and can never be known exactly. I also agree with Godel that mechanisms will never be found in living things. This is why US medical care is so bad. I agree with Godel that minds will never be without bodies because only organizations exist in Nature. I also agree with Godel that a rational religion is coming because theological statements are being proven.
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