Thursday, February 22, 2018

An Old Joke, a New Book, and a 42-year-old Film Clip

On Twitter the other day, Eugenia Cheng mentions this as one of her favorite “math jokes” (I’ve never thought of it as a joke per se, but do agree it is a favorite quickie logic puzzle):

3 logicians walk into a bar, and the bartender asks, “Would everyone like a beer?
The 1st logician says "I don't know.”
The 2nd logician says, “I don’t know.
The 3rd logician says, “Yes.

Richard Feynman once somewhat famously said, “Philosophy of science is about as useful to scientists as ornithology is to birds.” It’s not an uncommon sentiment among scientists. Nonetheless I do find some aspects of analytical philosophy and philosophy of science interesting, and a recent volume snagged my attention...
After all, how could anyone resist a book with the title “Exact Thinking In Demented Times”… yeah, it sounds like a volume about our current spiralling-to-fascism era, but is actually a historical account by Karl Sigmund (a math professor) of philosophy’s 20th century “Vienna Circle”. The Preface is written by Douglas Hofstadter, usually a significant endorsement in itself, though it turns out Hofstadter played a major role translating this volume from Sigmund’s original German, so has a stake in the book.  
But I am enjoying the volume thus far (less than 100 pages in), and haven’t even yet reached any discussion of the ideas and interactions of members of the famed Vienna Circle, which is what I am most looking forward to.
Anyway, to pique your interest I’ll pass along this bit that entertained me, where Sigmund recounts Ludwig Boltzmann presenting an address to the Philosophical Society with the “bland title On a Thesis of Schopenhauer,” and then opening his talk... 
“with the offhand comment that he had originally intended to use a somewhat more provocative title, to wit: Demonstration That Schopenhauer Is an Insipid and Ignorant Philosophaster Who, by Ceaselessly Propagating Hollow Twaddle, Spreads Nonsense Far and Wide and Forever Perverts Brains from Top to Bottom.  Amusingly enough, Boltzmann was actually giving Schopenhauer some of his own medicine, for none other than Schopenhauer had used exactly these same phrases to rail against the arcane writings of George Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel. Not that Boltzmann cared one bit for Hegel either.”
(I’ll assume this is just as humorous in the original German…;)

I may say more about the 400-page volume in the future.
(An MAA review of the volume is HERE.)
[ADDENDUM:  I've now overviewed the book HERE.]


Lastly, speaking of demented times, and in honor of today’s young people (acting when grown-ups won’t!), some timely old cinema from the “I’m-a-human-being-goddamn-it-and-my-life-has-value” Dept.:

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