FOM: reply to Graham White

Stephen G Simpson simpson at
Tue Aug 18 02:41:45 EDT 1998

Graham White writes:

 > I ... think that some things in category theory are of considerable
 > philosophical interest (but not because they're foundational). ...

OK, good.  But the purpose of the FOM list is to discuss foundations
of mathematics.

What do you think of the claims of "categorical foundations", as they
have been discussed here on the FOM list?  Is there any such thing as
"categorical foundations"?

 > "Boycotting"? Is this something the recursion theorists have
 > *organised* among themselves? Or do they just individually find
 > this an unpleasant list to be on?

I'm not sure whether it is organized.  I suspect that it is, but I
can't prove it.  Of course there could also be some individual
recursion theorists who individually find the FOM list unpleasant, for
one reason or another.

 > I just don't believe that Bourbaki is part of a general trend to
 > "anti-foundationalism and compartmentalisation" Andr'e Weil a
 > compartmentaliser? Dieudonn'e a compartmentaliser? Serre a
 > compartmentaliser?  This is so daft I can't take it seriously, and
 > maybe you didn't mean it in that sense.

I meant it in the following sense: the writings of Bourbaki exhibit no
interest in or understanding of f.o.m. or other interfaces between
mathematics and the rest of human knowledge.  In this sense Bourbaki
is a paradigm of anti-foundationalism and compartmentalization.  Read
Mathias's article "The Ignorance of Bourbaki".

 > Still, it's sociologically interesting; only list I've ever been on
 > when the list owner did more flaming than the rest of the list put
 > together.

Do you really think this?  Harvey Friedman will be disappointed,
because he insists that he himself is "worse than Simpson" (see his
posting of 15 Mar 1998 06:41:02).

Incidentally, your remark reminds me that I am the owner of the FOM
list (actually, I prefer to call myself "the moderator").  As such, I
need to point out that in some parts of your posting you come
dangerously close to personal invective, a no-no on the FOM list.


-- Steve

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