I have finished __Incompleteness__. It is fast read in most respects – I got
through over the weekend. As a
biography, it is slight. It has a fair
number of entertaining anecdotes, but one should not look here for significant
insight into Godel’s life or thought, nor even much detail concerning the ‘outward
events’ of his life. Because I never met
the man, all of the tales were interesting. In any event, it is a very limited work as biography. If that is what is looking for, look
elsewhere.

I suspect that most inclined to read the book are going to be more interested in getting a “popular” account of Godel’s three theorems and maybe some account of the import of the proofs. There is some of both here. The general remarks about the importance of G’s work are fine. They could be more extensive, and could have tied more closely to current currents of thought. (I think Goldstein says enough about the post-modernist (to use a term very loosely) interpretations of the theorems – that horse has rotted to barren bone by now.)

The account of the proofs is a problem, or a couple of problems. It is certainly simplified. I know that because I followed her explication, and it has been many years since I did logic courses. (The book did trigger some happy memories of my graduate years, and in particular the time spent reconstructing the incompleteness proof. I was surprised by the affect of the memory. My interests at the time were not in logic, so it was something I felt a duty. The memory does not feel that way.) But I think it could prove rather a challenge to plenty of well-educated people. Often I found Goldstein’s account of what was happening in the proofs to be insufficiently detailed or exact. So I think the level is way to low for serious logicians, philosophers, mathematicians, and a bit high for those not. (On the other hand, I got through it okay, so it must pretty low-level.) I was a little disappointed in Goldstein’s hesitancy to engage in exploration of the import of Godel’s work. There are a few pages about it, but they are few and rather too allusive for my taste. Perhaps it is just a bigger book I want.

There are things about the book I liked, partly, I admit, because they play to previously formed opinions (which others would call prejudices). For example, the discussion of Wittgenstein’s views on the proofs and mathematics more generally was consistent with my view of Wittgenstein’s later wanderings. As I have a negative view of the value of the Investigations, I was happy with Goldstein’s comments. (There is not, however, any real argument for Goldstein’s assessment of Wittgenstein on Godel.)

Others have rather more negative views of the book. I can't recall at the moment where the positive review I read was -- maybe just the book club advert.

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