Harvey Friedman friedman at
Mon Jan 12 16:54:16 EST 1998

The posting of McLarty, 4:39PM 1/12/98, needs clarification at certain
places. Was it too hastily written?

Colin McLarty writes:

>...It would be like the argument Harvey quoted in his post of Mon, 12
>Jan 1998 08:33:45 +0100, as to whether Wittgenstein is a greater philosopher
>than Frege. Just a chain of "is so" and "is not" lightened by a little name

You could be referring to a lot of places in my posting of 1/12/98, 8:33AM.
In fact, I never argued whether or not Wittgenstein is a greater
philosopher than Frege. I did argue that Frege has made a greater
intellectual contribution than Wittgenstein, and I gave the expected cogent
reason - productive foundational advances. And of course there was no name
calling there.

On the other hand, you could be referring to the statements I quoted of
PHIL as to who was the greater philosopher and also thinker: Wittgenstein
or Godel? This had more than a little name calling.

[NOTE: With regard to the question: who is the greater philosopher, Godel
or Wittgenstein?, I now have a more focused viewpoint. By extrapolating
from my own experiences, a lot of high quality philosophy needs to be done
in order to uncover those crucial concepts, connections, and problems,
which forever change the nature of the debate. But this philosophy is
behind the scenes, and is to be judged in terms of the productive
foundational advances that result from it. In any case, I believe that such
behind the scenes philosophy must be of supremely high quality in order to
lead to productive foundational advances. I.e., in order for Godel to get
himself into the position where it was natural for him to 1) properly
formulate his great theorems of the 1930's; 2) realize their cosmic
significance in the history of ideas; and 3) see what has to be done in
order to prove them, as well as 4) absorb all of this ahead of all of his
contemporaries - the greatest mathematicians *and* philosophers of the
period - his behind the scenes philosophy must have been at a preeminent
level far beyond his contemporaries.]

>        A while ago Harvey announced some new results that will convince all
>the world. I look forward to these.

If I announced these new results, what are you looking forward to?

Also, since I *am* about to make some formal announcements, I don't want to
be misquoted as to any intended effect. What exactly are you referring to
that is on the fom?

>And if they create wide excitement I'll
>be thrilled--at the general effect as no doubt by the results themselves.

I don't understand this seemingly ungrammatical English sentence.

>That's great. But insisting that your work is "interesting" is like sitting
>in a closed room and insisting that it's not snowing outside: You may be
>right, may be wrong, but arguing it is worthless. Let's go see.

And I don't understand what this means. Most people I know, including
myself, have a concept of interesting that transcends actual receptions by
other people. Intrinsically interesting matters may generate interest whose
intensity varies over time and also depends on the audience involved. The
notion of "intrinsically interesting" is well worth analyzing and arguing
about. This is difficult work, but potentially rewarding.

>...The only possible exception that anyone has raised
>is Harvey's popularity as a lecturer at math departments. I was pleased, and
>not at all surprised, to hear of that popularity, but I wonder how "general"
>those audiences were. I suspect they contained more of the reviled
>"mainstream mathematicians" than barbers. Certainly the invitations to
>speak, at very nice schools, came from mathematicians and not barbers. I
>think mainstream mathematicians are much less the enemy than Harvey has said.

I talked in 1997 in Philosophy Departments and Computer Science Departments
and Mathematics Departments and Logic Seminars. E.g., I talked in 1997 for
a total of six hours in the #1 ranked Philosophy Department in the US for
over 15 years.

Here is an anectode from the halls of the Baltimore meeting last week. To
give the setting, I stated that I was going to review the Proceedings of
the Centennial Celebration of the AMS - see my posting of 7:44AM 12/31/97.
I said there that the articles are by: Michael Aschbacher, Luis Caffarelli,
Persi Diaconis, Charles Fefferman, Michael Freedman, Harvey Friedman,
Benedict Gross, Joe Harris, Roger Howe, Vaughn Jones, Victor Kac, Andrew
Majda, Charles Peskin, Dennis Sullivan, Karen Uhlenbeck, Edward Witten.

Back to the anectode. An extremely famous mathematician (outside logic)
told me at the Baltimore meeting last week that "I was the only one of
those speakers [see the list above] who did what they were asked to do."
The organizers wrote the following in the Introduction to the Proceedings
concerned what we were asked to do:

"The talks ought to have an expository intent to make it possible for a
broad audience of mathematicans and mathematical practitioners to
understand as much as possible of the spirit of what [each area of]
mathematics has accomplished in the last fifty years and of what it hopes
to accomplish in the next fifty years."

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