[FOM] FOM future

Harvey Friedman friedman at math.ohio-state.edu
Mon Apr 3 14:54:53 EDT 2006

I thought I would reply separately to everybody who wrote today, all in one

On 4/3/06 9:23 AM, "John Baldwin" <jbaldwin at uic.edu> wrote:

> Harvey, I am just buried at the moment.  I may try to start some
> further threads on infinitary logic which is much more interesting to
> me at the moment and of at least equal foundational significance.
> The development of the legacy of Cantor and Godel in understanding the
> infinite has been moved greatly forward by the connections between the
> work of Shelah, Zilber, Hrushovski and the resulting advances by many
> workers.

On 4/3/06 10:29 AM, "Alasdair Urquhart" <urquhart at cs.toronto.edu> wrote:

> Dear Harvey:
> I did not respond to your previous message, simply because
> I do NOT see it as part of my editorial duties to
> start threads on this or that philosophical topic.
> I contribute now and then to FOM when I feel I have something
> to say.  My duties as I see them are to pass editorial
> judgment on doubtful cases.  I have also encouraged prominent
> logicians to post, from time to time, mostly unsuccessfully.
> I simply do not have the time to do such things as you suggest.
> I am already behindhand in  my editorial duties with the
> Bulletin of Symbolic Logic, and enlarging my editorial duties
> on FOM is out of the question for me.

On 4/3/06 12:39 PM, "Stephen G Simpson" <simpson at math.psu.edu> wrote:

> Harvey Friedman 3 Apr 2006 writes:
>> ...
>> STEVE. What about a thread pointing to and discussing vast unexplored
>> territories of mathematics attackable by the usual setup of RM?
>> MARTIN. Keep up the good work. You do more than enuf.
> Harvey, this is identical to your previous request.  I have already
> answered you, and I copied the answer to the rest of the FOM Editorial
> Board.
> For the future, please stop bothering me with requests of this kind.
> For the other members of the Board:  I will post on FOM as and when I
> see some benefit to doing so.  In the meantime, I have other projects
> which are of a higher priority.


Dear John,

Thanks for your reply. Of course, none of us know anyone who isn't "buried
at the moment", so after a while, I will remind you of this (smile). As  you
well know, at this moment, only a very small number of people claim to see
foundational significance in work of Shelah, Zilber, and Hrushovski, and
modern model theory, generally.

Speaking for myself, I had several satisfying conversations with Lou
concerning the foundational significance of one topic in modern model
theory, and that is TAMENESS. The foundational significance of tameness is
clear to me. And I conjecture that from the f.o.m. perspective, there are
new exciting directions in tameness that would NOT be on the agenda of model

In any case, if you could start a thread devoted to explaining your views as
to the connections between modern model theory and f.o.m., that promises to
be quite valuable for FOM and f.o.m.

FOOTNOTE. A likely outcome from my perspective: I may continue to think that
the connection is weak, but I might find ways to strengthen it that model
theorists would not normally pursue. In particular, I have in the past
worked extensively with infinitary logic.

Dear Alasdair,

I made these requests ambiguously (smile). You are both a member of the
Editorial board and an important philosopher, far beyond the average
philosopher that posts on FOM. I would strive to get you involved, for the
sake of f.o.m. and p.o.m. REGARDLESS of whether or not you are on the Board.
So let me rephrase my request to you (smile).

As an important philosopher with serious f.o.m. interests, and as someone
who subscribes to FOM, and recognizes the potential value of FOM for f.o.m.,
would you be willing to start a thread(s) on some philosophical topic(s)
that would help FOM and f.o.m. or p.o.m.?

I was assuming - without much thought - that you had a serious professional
interest in vagueness, but I may be wrong, as many important philosophers
may not - some even expressed disinterest in this topic to me on occasion.
E.g., they may not like what people write about it, but they might regard a
proper treatment of it as important.

Dear Steve,

"I will post on FOM as and when I see some benefit to doing so."

Of course, you know that posting on new directions in RM is of obvious
benefit to you, FOM, f.o.m., and RM in no particular order (smile). And when
you were moderator of FOM, you obviously saw the "benefit to doing so" with
great frequency, and made a lot of postings on RM and other topics (smile).

FOM has consistently expanded its subscriber base, which is now over 900.
When you were moderator it was, if I recall, at most 300. (Correct me if I
am wrong.) In addition to the 900 current subscribers, there are probably
another 1000 people looking at the Archives from time to time who are not

Part of this is due to the fact that we have an Editorial Board with some
civility rules, which has almost entirely erased the bad reputation that the
FOM had previously, for being too uncivilized.

Overall, this move towards controlling the tone has worked well, although
inevitably, people can complain (as I have from time to time) that it is not
applied even handedly. BUT, as things are inherently subjective, not
everybody can be happy all the time (smile).

In particular, because of these civility rules, I have not been subjected to
the kind of gross abuse that I received in the past, for which I felt I had
to retaliate in kind. That is the upside for me for having civility rules.
The downside is that I have to moderate tone and eliminate certain specific
kinds of content that are labeled as too personal, but this is well worth
the cost. In any case, I can always create a space on my website for
additional remarks not deemed suitable for FOM. HOWEVER, I have never found
the need to do so - although I might systematically do this sort of thing in
the future. I am fully comfortable with the fact that some things are better
put on my website (I haven't yet) and are NOT going to be publishable on
FOM. This is a very satisfactory state of affairs as far as I am concerned.
You should also find this perfectly satisfactory.

So you can obviously agree that the process that you participate in - the
approval or disapproval of selected prospective postings - is worthwhile,
and the FOM is now far healthier than it has ever been.

Your remaining on the Board is a signal to your tacit recognition of the
importance and value of the FOM. So the renewal of your serious scientific
participation in the FOM would be natural and expected. FOM has only gotten
better and more effective, as I am sure you will agree.


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