Philosophia Mathematica 17 (1):116-120 (2009)
The author's aim in this biography is to shed light on the contrasts and polarity—yet relationship—between the rational and the irrational in Gödel's work and personality. On the one hand there is the genius logician whose technical work can be said practically to have attained the limits of what rational thought can produce; on the other hand, one is struck, claims the author, by the irrationality in Gödel's personality and psychic structure, such as his belief in the existence of spirits, demons, angels, the devil, and other evil-wishing forces that he thought had haunted and deprived him of a peaceful existence.As is well known from other biographies, Gödel was of a frail physical health and psychic balance, having suffered from his student days on from bouts of depression and ‘nervous’ breakdowns—generally attributed to being overworked—that required at times short hospitalization in a sanatorium and culminating toward the end of his life in a marked deterioration in his mental health that resulted in his starving himself to death out of fear of being poisoned. These events are only mentioned here in passing.The author, who teaches philosophy at the University of Lille, is naturally interested in Gödel's philosophical views as well as in his metaphysical reflections, such as his thoughts about life after death and the survival of an immaterial soul. From the 1940s Gödel kept a philosophical diary that contains 670 handwritten notes, written in the now defunct Gabelsberger shorthand. Having feared controversies whenever his metaphysical/philosophical views went against the spirit of the times, Gödel was never led to a comprehensive publication of these views, preferring to put these notes in the private format of notebooks that are now preserved in his Nachlassat Princeton University. 1 The author had several opportunities to study the two of these notebooks …
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