Incompleteness: The Proof and Paradox of Kurt Gödel

Incompleteness: The Proof and Paradox of Kurt Gödel


Translated into Czech, Italian, and German. Translations pending in other languages.

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From the jacket:
A masterly introduction to the life and thought of the man who transformed our conception of math forever.

Kurt Gödel is considered the greatest logician since Aristotle. His monumental theorem of incompleteness demonstrated that in every formal system of arithmetic there are true statements that nevertheless cannot be proved. The result was an upheaval that spread far beyond mathematics, challenging conceptions of the nature of the mind.

Rebecca Goldstein, a MacArthur-winning novelist and philosopher, explains the philosophical vision that inspired Gödel’s mathematics, and reveals the ironic twist that led to radical misinterpretations of his theorems by the trendier intellectual fashions of the day, from positivism to postmodernism. Ironically, both he and his close friend Einstein felt themselves intellectual exiles, even as their work was cited as among the most important in twentieth-century thought. For Gödel, the sense of isolation would have tragic consequences.

This lucid and accessible study makes Gödel’s theorem and its mindbending implications comprehensible to the general reader, while bringing this eccentric, tortured genius and his world to life.

About the series:Great Discoveries brings together renowned writers from diverse backgrounds to tell the stories of crucial scientific breakthroughs—the great discoveries that have gone on to transform our view of the world.

  • Discover magazine, Best Science Books of 2005
  • Chicago Tribune, Best Books of 2005
  • New York Sun, Best Books of 2005

—Jim Holt, The New Yorker

—Edward Rothstein, The New York Times

“Masterful.... an eminently lucid explanation of Gödel’s theorem and its implications...”
—Laura Miller,

“What a wonderful book! Finally, a biographer worthy of Gödel!... Finally someone who understands Gödel!”
—Gregory Chaitin, Journal of Scientific Exploration

“[A] fine book.... a moving picture of a passionate life. “
—David Guaspari, The Weekly Standard.

“A formidable job.”
—Anthony Doerr, The Boston Globe

“Unfolds its surprisingly accessible story with dignity, tenderness and awe.”
—Polly Shulman, The New York Times Book Review

“The author has skillfully humanized [difficult material] by showing us Godel, Wittgenstein, and Einstein in their work, their friendships, and their disagreements. Perhaps only a novelist could have done this. Rebecca Goldstein has, in any case, done it superbly well.”
—John Derbyshire, The New York Sun

“An artfully written and thoroughly engaging account.”
—Brian Greene, Professor of Physics, Columbia University, and author of The Elegant Universe

“[Goldstein] does a magnificent job... Her philosophical background makes her a sure guide to the underlying ideas, and she brings a novelistic depth of character and atmosphere to her account of the positivist intellectual milieu surrounding Gödel... The result is a stimulating exploration of both the power and the limitations of the human intellect.”
Publishers Weekly

Last updated on 02/05/2013