At 24, Kurt GÃ¶del established himself as perhaps the greatest logician of the 20th century. Standing against the intellectual currents of his time, he unveiled two theorems in 1930 showing that a mathematical system can not prove all truths related to it, nor can such a system prove itself consistent. Like Albert Einstein, who would become his closest friend, GÃ¶del maintained an old-fashioned faith that abstract objective truths exist. In fact, his groundbreaking 'œincompleteness' theorems were intended to disarm creeping relativism. Like Einstein's work, however, GÃ¶del's was soon co-opted and misrepresented by the thinkers he opposed, and the paranoid academic became increasingly anxious about his ideas being suppressed. Apparently fearing that rivals wanted him poisoned, he starved himself to death in 1978.
Rebecca Goldstein 'œmakes the ideal guide' to GÃ¶del's fascinating work and tortured end, said Laura Miller in Salon.com. A professor of philosophy 'œas well as the author of five interesting, if highly cerebral, novels,' she grounds this marvelous intellectual biography with 'œan eminently lucid explanation' of GÃ¶del's theorems and their implications. Roughly speaking, what GÃ¶del did was put a mathematical twist on the paradox inherent in the declaration, 'œThis statement is false.' A math major could spend a semester working up to a complete understanding of GÃ¶del's 'œspectacular' proofs, said Polly Shulman in The New York Times, but Goldstein makes the theorems' essence fit 'œmagically into a few pages of a book for laypeople.' The key is her attitude toward GÃ¶del himself: a combination of 'œtenderness and awe.'
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