This is a remarkable book. It examines in considerable detail Godel's proof, a mathematical demonstration noted for its difficulty in its novel logical arguments. The chapter topics - the systematic codification of formal logic, an example of a successful absolute proof of consistency, the arithmetization of meta-mathematics - appear almost unapproachable. And yet, Ernest Nagel and James R. Newman have created a delightful exposition of Godel's proof. I actually read this book in one sitting that took me late into the night. I simply didn't want to stop; it is really a good little book. Godel's proof is not easy to follow, nor easy to grasp the full implications of its conclusions. Many mathematical texts, overviews, and historical summaries avoid directly discussing Godel's proof as these quotes indicate: "Godel's proof is even more abstruse than the beliefs it calls into question." "The details of Godel's proofs in his epoch-making paper are too difficult to...
I read Godel's paper in grad school. I wish I had read this first, because it lays out the structure of the argument clearly. N&N are particularly good on clarifying what Godel did and did not prove. This is important because of all the loose mystical obfuscation out there about this theorem. N&N clearly explain what formal "games with marks" methods are, and why mathematicians resort to them. They then walk through what Godel proved, with a bit on how he proved it. The basic idea of his (blitheringly complex) mapping is explained quite well indeed. Suitable for mathematicians, or philosophy students tired of mystical speculations. Also goo for anyone with an interest in computability theory or any formal logic. And read it before you read Godel's paper!
Simply magnificent. This book meets and exceeds the description on its back cover -- offering "any educated person with a taste for logic and philosophy the chance to satisfy his intellectual curiosity about a previously inaccessible subject." This book gives anyone with the interest and the motivation a solid, if not complete, understanding of the ideas underlying the proof. While it's true that someone very unfamiliar with mathematics (or, more importantly, with logic and mathematical thinking) would not get as much out of the book, it does a very good job of walking the reader through Gödel's complex but breathtakingly elegant reasoning. I wholeheartedly recommend this book.
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