FOM: Creating "general interest"

Colin McLarty cxm7 at
Fri Dec 19 15:32:45 EST 1997

        Those on fom who insist "fom is of more general interest than other
math" have still not even distinguished the many things this could mean, let
alone picked one it does mean. Does it mean:

1) More people actually want to hear about fom than other math.

2) More people would want to hear about fom than other math, if
        they knew more about it.

3) People would benefit more from learning fom than other parts of math

        In fact, we only seem to be dealing with a thesis about fom, with a
statement that could be true or false. It is actually a project: Harvey
wants to make fom more interesting to more people. That is a fine project,
and I suppose everyone on this lists supports it though we still disagree
widely as to what is fom. (Even if we accept Steve's posted definition, I
and several others believe his principles include much more than he has a
taste for.)

        I can even bring Stanley Rosen on to the list--by way of his book
HERMENEUTICS AS POLITICS, rather than in person. He argues that many (all?)
great philosophies pose as theses but are projects: they pose as proven
truths, but are actually neither true nor false. They are goals to be
achieved. I doubt that Stanley will rank any view of mathematics among the
great philosophies. Just by being "about math" it is not an attempt to
"grasp the whole". Still, I propose to view Harvey Friedman as the Immanuel
Kant of fom, who declares his own "will to freedom" as if it were a fact
about "general interest".  


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