Review of T. Franzen, Godel's theorem: An incomplete guide to its use and abuse [Book Review]

Philosophia Mathematica 14 (2):262-264 (2006)
This short book has two main purposes. The first is to explain Kurt Gödel's first and second incompleteness theorems in informal terms accessible to a layperson, or at least a non-logician. The author claims that, to follow this part of the book, a reader need only be familiar with the mathematics taught in secondary school. I am not sure if this is sufficient. A grasp of the incompleteness theorems, even at the level of ‘the big picture’, might require some experience with the rigor of mathematical proof. Moreover, since the incompleteness theorems concern formal deductive systems, it would help for a potential reader of this book to have some familiarity with at least elementary logic.There are, of course, a number of informal expositions of the incompleteness theorems. I do not see the need to engage in a comparative study. The second, and more important, goal of the present book is to discuss some alleged consequences of the incompleteness theorems and, in particular, to debunk thoroughly claims in philosophy, religion, and literary criticism that are supposed to be established, or at least bolstered, by incompleteness. The execution of this part of the book is masterly. The arguments are clear and compelling.The book has eight chapters, each between eight and twenty-eight pages. The opening chapter gives a very brief account of the incompleteness theorems and a sketch of Gödel's life and work. Chapter 2 gives the main overview of the incompleteness theorems, plus …
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DOI 10.1093/philmat/nkl004
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