In Vincent F. Hendricks & John Symons (eds.), Formal Philosophy. Automatic Press/VIP (2005)
I started out as a student of physics, hard-working, interested, but alas, not ‘in love’ with my subject. Then logic struck, and having become interested in this subject for various reasons – including the fascinating personality of my first teacher –, I switched after my candidate’s program, to take two master’s degrees, in mathematics and in philosophy. The beauty of mathematics was clear to me at once, with the amazing power, surprising twists, and indeed the music, of abstract arguments. As our professor of Analysis wrote at the time in our study guide “Mathematics is about the delight in the purity of trains of thought”, and oldfashioned though this phrasing sounded in the revolutionary 1960s, it did resonate with me. Then I had the privilege of being taught set-theoretic topology by a group of brilliant students around De Groot, our leading expert around the time, who worked with Moore’s method of discovering a subject for oneself. Topology unfolded from a few definitions and examples to real theorems that we had to prove ourselves – and the take-home exam took sleepless nights, as it included proving some results from scratch which came from a recent dissertation (as it turned out later). Only at the very end did De Groot appear, to give one lecture on Tychonoff’s Theorem where an application was made of the Axiom of Choice, a sacral act only to be performed by tenured full professors.
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