Quote of the Day, but not in a good way

Or, contra a regular MR feature, the worst paragraph I've read today:

So in an axiomatic system (first devised by the ancient Greeks, in particular Euclid), we begin with a few (the fewer the better) axioms, which are supposed to be intuitively obvious, and then proceed onward to prove whatever follows from these axioms. (The fewer the better, because we want to keep our appeals to intuition to a minimum to maximize certainty.) In place of a libertarian policy of "let's-just-depend-on-the-good-intentions- (intuitions)-of-citizens-(mathematicians)-to-do-the-right-thing," the axiomatic system imposes some strict governmental controls. In place of random appeas to intuitions, there is to be general consensus on what is directly given, the bedrock, with everything else subjected to systematic rule-regulation. You can think of axiomatization as sort of "big government mathematics." [Emphasis mine.] From Incompleteness: The Proof and Paradox of Kurt Gödel, Rebecca Goldstein, p. 128.

Proving, I suppose, that some things just cannot be repeated often enough. Perhaps if it read "It is not from the benevolence of the mathematician, the logician, or the philosopher..." And as for the appelation of "libertarian" in this at all, well, Mr. Montoya sums up my response quite nicely.

This does not really detract, however, from a generally compelling book on Gödel's life and work. I've recently read a number of the "Great Discovery" series and find that I enjoy them quite a bit. The writers Norton has tapped for the books do an admirable job of blending a popularization of sometimes very difficult concepts, a good deal of biographical content to flavor the work with some humanity, and situating the discoveries in a (granted, brief) historical foundation. So far, however, David Foster Wallace's Everything and More has been the most engaging. Unfortunately, The Man Who Knew Too Much was largely disappointing.


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This page contains a single entry by published on February 24, 2006 1:56 PM.

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