Nils Roeller on Wed, 9 Jul 1997 09:56:50 +0200 (MET DST)

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<nettime> Goedel - a nomadic case study

Nils Roeller*

Goedel - a nomadic case study

Napoleon realized the strategic importance of officers skilled in
mathematics and so he was eager to found the Ecole Polytechnique. Hitler
was different. He concentrated on a stupid, cold and bloody Lebensraum
instead of recognising that, in the small town of Goettingen, German
mathematicians had already been successful in opening spaces that were
waiting to be inhabited, like the flexible Riemann-space and the
friendly Hilbert-space. Not seeing the opportinities that mathematics
offered was one reason for losing the war. He and the Nazis pushed
mathematicians out of Germany or murdered them. At the same time
American and British politicians were engaging people like the
computer-builder, John von Neumann or Alan Turing, the computer-thinker,
to join their war-committees in the speeding up of research into war
technology . The case of Kurt Goedel is very different. Called the
second genius in logic after Aristoteles, he left the German sphere of
totalitarism because he didn't want to serve in the German army.
Together with Adele - a girl that worked in the nightspot “Der
Nachtfalter" (Vienna) - he emigrated via Siberia and Japan to America.
His thinking on life, religion and politics is now accessible in the
book, “A logical jouney", by Hao Wang. In a small note on page 4, one
gets a hint that mathematical thinking argues for non-conformity.

The basis for this is that a society, ruled by mechanical laws and
orders, will not be able to solve certain problems of vital importance.
This can be deduced from the famous Goedel theorem “GT1: Any consistent
formal theory of mathematics must contain undecideable propositions" and
GT3: "No formal system of mathematics can be both consistent and
complete" (Wang, 3). Hao Wang offers (with humourous repetitions)
insights in the life and work of Goedel who refused to be engaged in
research for war technology. He concentrated on mathematics, living with
Adele in Princeton and chatting with Einstein. The text serves as a good
introduction to the nomadic jargon of mathematics (Deleuze/Guattari).
Hao Wang: A logical jouney - From Gödel to Philosophy. Cambridge/Mass.:
MIT Press
* Inspired by Otto E. Roessler and discussions with Kerstin Bergmann, Anthony Moore and Evelyn Mund.

Nils Röller
Accademy of Media Arts
Peter-Welter-Platz 2
50676 Cologne

0049 - 221 - 20189-  226
Fax : 17

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