[Marxism] Re: [PEN-L] More Godel

Les Schaffer schaffer at optonline.net
Thu Mar 17 12:49:31 MST 2005

michael perelman wrote:

> Mirowski says that Godel's proof rattled both Turing & Van Neuman,
> making them turn from formalizing to matters such as game theory &
> computers. 

i grabbed a copy of Goldstein's book this morning in the bookstore and 
gave it  a fast read (good on history and philosophical context for the 
work, weak on appreciation of what Godel produced, IMHO: too much loose 
philosophical interpretation). turns out von Neumann was at the 
conference where Godel presented his results, and caught its 
significance immediately, particularly in after-lecture discussions with 
Godel. He returned to Princeton and really pushed the ideas in lectures 
and discussions. he wrote Godel shortly thereafter with an extension to 
Godel's theorem which the latter hadnt presented in the conference but 
in fact had already worked out. Godel was evidently pleased that a 
"giant" like von neumann got the message, a result that Goldstein says 
was absent in the case of Wittgenstein's misunderstandings of Godels proofs.

Likewise Turing picked up the ball in the mid-30's and ran rather far 
with it in computational matters, as ravi points out in a later post. 
This thread continues to the present day, to the point where a commited 
amateur can now browse the web for work of Gregory Chaitin and actually 
download programs which concretely illustrate the results (Chaitin as i 
recall  provides a slightly modified LISP suitable for running his code).

 in relation to a question raised on marxmail regarding any relationship 
between Godel's and Heisenberg's work: next to Goldstein's book  at the 
Border's Bookstore math section stood an interesting work by Palle 
Yourgrau (philosopher at Brandeis) entitled "A World Without Time: The 
Forgotten Legacy Of Godel And Einstein". midway into the book Yourgrau 
relates an incident involving John Wheeler, a Princeton physicist, and 
the two co-authors of his (ahem) massive treatise on general relativity 
(Gravitation). Wheeler et al one afternoon decided to pay Godel a visit 
across campus, and they asked him directly if there was any relationship 
between the incompleteness theorems and the uncertainty principle. 
Godel's answer was apparently fairly brief with a "NO" for the upshot. 
Yourgrau goes on to speculate on why Godel would have felt this way, and 
discusses how Godel abhorred the positivist-like approach of the 
Copenhagen school whereas Godel would have seen himself -- an unabashed 
Platonist and believer in the reality of mathematical ideas -- and his 
theorems as in part exposing the barrenness of a formalism which would 
also deny physical reality to electrons et al.

Both Goldstein and Yourgrau discuss extensively the Vienna school, and i 
am hoping Jim Farmelant kicks in here with some further insights. [Jim: 
i'll get to Dumain's questions hopefully tmw]

les schaffer

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