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Showing posts from September 11, 2005

continuation on Goldstein

In my last post on Goldstein’s book, Incompleteness, I said that Goldstein tried to present Goedel’s two theorems from the perspective of Goedel’s own sense of what these theorems ultimately proved. That is, what they proved meta-mathematically. Goldstein is interested in the divergence between the popular image of what Goedel was up to and the fact that Goedle’s incompleteness proof, by insinuating a moment of absolute uncertainty into any formalization of arithmetic, seems to point to the insufficiency of conventionalism, not to affirm it. The uncertainty, you will remember, goes like this: in any formally consistent language adequate for number theory, a., there will be one proposition that one can generate from the axioms of the system the truth or falsity of which can’t be decided by those rules, and b., that the consistency of the system can’t be proved within the system. Now, Goldstein’s major point is to show why Goedel might take his theorems as evidence that there are real

The Big 'S'

LI used to write for a business mag. So naturally we like ‘synergy’ when we see it, and boy, did we see it in the NYT today . There is the President on the first page, photo opping in a New Orleans that has been cleared of the kind of people that would make his entrance there unsafe, promising to treat the Gulf Coast like he has treated Iraq – from the appointment of a Bremer like figure to screw things up (Karl Rove is going to be the Gulf czar) to another load of borrowing from the Chinese and Japanese central banks to stuff into the pockets of the croney-network – the engineering/petroleum/war industries outlined in Robert Bryce’s book, “Cronies.” The organ Bush refers to most – his heart -- was enthroned last year by the simplest of all strategies – bribery, in the shape of tax cuts for people who are looking for some influx of money to substitute for their fallen wages (after all, the private sector is more than ever a first come first serve proposition, with the first comers bein

Reasons to live in America

America, circa 2005. Essential reading on the state of this so called civilization in the Washington Post story about the Civic Center . There are two reasons, essentially, to live in America if you have a philosophical bent. One is that there is more pure buffoonery per square inch in this country than anywhere else in the world. The other is... what is the other? Oh yes, it is the freest, richest, and most just country in the whole wide world. No, that's not it. Let's see -- well, it is a country in which this can happen. Remember, this was after four days of no food and no water and no security, with the bodies piling up and gangbangers raping and stealing and assaulting people, with old ladies and men pushed into corners and left to die, and with the Secretary of Homeland Security very proud that he'd finally identified the Superdome on a Map of New Orleans: “On Thursday … the New Orleans police made a dramatic entrance. Sgt. Hans Ganthier and 12 other New Orleans SWAT


LI’s been reading Incompleteness, Rebecca Goldstein’s book on Kurt Goedel. Goldstein’s book pursues an interesting philosophical argument and a feeble intellectual historical one. The latter consists of lumping together disparate currents (logical positivism, subjectivism, social constructionism, formalism) under the rubric “postmodernism, ” and then claiming that the postmodern annexation of Goedel’s incompleteness theorem is philosophically suspect. Postmodern here is a shapeshifting label lifted straight out of the Saturday arts section of the New York Times, but with little real meaning outside of being a caricature for a kind of touchy feely relativism that Goldstein evidently dislikes. Ourselves, we dislike the term, partly because it so often functions just as it functions in Goldstein’s text, as a moving target under which is gathered a diffuse sensibility. But if it does have a distinct intellectual historical meaning, we imagine that Lyotard hit on it: postmodernity is what i

norway sinks again

Last year, the NYT published an article by Bruce Bawer that fed into the perennial rightwing American suspicion that Europe never did recover from WWII , due to the terrible socialists. Bawer’s article made various claims that had been touted by some Ayn Randish Swede think tank (literally -- the think tank had commissioned translations of Ms. Rand's works), and supplemented it with his own witness, as a man who lives in the terrible slum of the Nordic country: “In Oslo, library collections are woefully outdated, and public swimming pools are in desperate need of maintenance. News reports describe serious shortages of police officers and school supplies. When my mother-in-law went to an emergency room recently, the hospital was out of cough medicine. Drug addicts crowd downtown Oslo streets, as The Los Angeles Times recently reported, but applicants for methadone programs are put on a months-long waiting list. … After I moved here six years ago, I quickly noticed that Norwegians li


ps -- readers should go to the NOLA site and read about the Superdome, which was opened up to visitors for the first time since the National Guard evacuated it. Here's a snippet: The floor and Momentum Turf playing field have been transformed into a mushy lake of inch-deep black water. The fetid soup coated a sea of trash and spoiled food. The bathrooms on the 200 level overflow with human feces and urine. In one men’s room, the human waste spilled out of the entrance and into the concourse. Blood stains several walls. Stagnant for days in the still air, the water, spoiled food and human excrement will require decontamination and will be removed by professionals. “You could put a petri dish in here and just see what grows,” one technician said. “The flies are telling you there’s a biohazard.” The leftovers run the gamut – from mundane items such as clothes and blankets to the more personal, car keys, wallets, photo albums. One collection includes an organ donor card, a personal ide

police force tattered

LI has been tough on the New Orleans cops. However, this WP article gets past our authority suspicious radar . The description of the current state of the NOLA police force reads much like Cormac McCarthy’s description of Glanton’s scalphunters in Blood Meridian: “They sleep on the concrete sidewalk or in their cars. They scavenge for food from abandoned stores and cook by fire. They wash the laundry by hand and leave it to dry on lines hung from lampposts. This is what life has been like for New Orleans police officers since Hurricane Katrina tore apart their city nearly two weeks ago.” LI has a feeling that we should be studying this reduction of the American way of life: who knows what city or situation will emerge as the next object lesson in massive, contemptuous mismanagement, blessed by a governing class that lives in the monied equivalent of light years away from the mother ship, the homeland, or whatever you want to call our native muck and grease. They are the fly over peop

quality versus quantity

LI is pleased to see that Liberty Library has been putting up a pretty extensive Herbert Spencer collection . We’ve been reading The Man versus the State. We do not find Spencer a particularly pleasant author to read. Unlike James Fitzjames Stephen, who cast his ideas into the sort of Victorian hulking prose we can imagine Doctor Moriarity indulging in whilst planning to overthrow obscure monarchies, Spencer has a tendency to fall into that dulcet tone of dyspepetic conservative indignation Dickens satirized in Scrooge. His melancholy for the tragic loss of liberty in civilization is the kind of thing that later became a specialty of the National Review. It is one thing for Burke to wax tragical at the death of Queens; it is another to wax tragical at having to pay a shilling in property tax to keep up a public library. Here is Spenser in full cry, listing the terrible regulatory intrusions of the State: “Then, under the Ministry of Lord John Russell, in 1866, have to be named an Ac