FOM: G.-C. Rota's Indiscretions
Stephen G Simpson
simpson at math.psu.edu
Wed Nov 18 09:30:24 EST 1998
Robert Tragesser writes:
> You really ought to read Rota. Steve Simpson gives an
> astonishingly truncated and boring account of what is in reality quite
> powerful and amusing (in the best sense), not to mention instructive.
Dear Robert, I was hoping you would follow up on my two postings on
C.-C. Rota's book Indiscrete Thoughts. Evidently you liked the first
one, 13 Oct 1998 00:32:15, but not the second, 1 Nov 1998 13:37:06.
This is perhaps because, in reading Rota's book, I found that some
parts of it grabbed me (e.g. the essay on Fundierung) while others
left me cold (e.g. the ten rules for mathematicians). Even if you
don't find my comments a suitable starting point, I would urge you to
post your own remarks and insights on Rota's thought. Or, you might
prefer to put Rota aside and comment directly on the issues raised in
There are many topics to pursue.
1. We could discuss Rota's suggestion that there is need for a
rigorous analysis of notions such as definitiveness of a proof, the
word `as' or `qua', etc. Maybe this could lead to something of
interest for f.o.m.
2. What do you think of Rota's idea that mathematicians should never
criticize each other in the hearing of outsiders? I have said that
this rule would inhibit high intellectual standards. What do you
I have returned Indiscrete Thoughts to the library, but I will take it
out again if this discussion heats up.
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