Monday, July 18, 2011

Disproving the Myth that many early logicians were a few axioms short of a complete set

While I was working on this post another blogger posted on the same topic here and I found a book review of Logicomix that touched on some of the same issues here. (For MY review of Logicomix see here.) They are very good sources and I will refer to them in this post.

There is a notion that logicians who work in foundations early on in the field were crazy. I give examples of where this is said and then I look at the real evidence.
  1. In Rudy Rucker's post about Turing he writes
    ... it really does seem possible that Turing killed himself. Like the other logicians Godel and Cantor, he seems to have been somewhat nuts. Funny how many logicians are crazy and irrational. A paradox.
  2. In Logicomix, a great comic book about the foundations of logic, there is an allusion to Logicians being crazy.
  3. In Gian-Carlo Rota Indiscrete Thoughts he writes: it cannot be a complete coincidence that several outstanding logicians of the 20th century found shelter in asylums at some point in their lives: Cantor, Zermelo, Godel, and Post are some.
I've also seen an explanation for this alleged phenomena: Logicians were searching for absolute certainly and either it can drive you crazy or thinking you can find absolute certainly means you were crazy ahead of time.

So the people above, and others, give some examples of logicians being crazy and then claim that many logicians are crazy. I am reminded of people who say It was cold the other day, looks like Global warming is wrong.

Let us look at the actual record. I will look at all of the logicians in Wikipedia's list of logicians who
  1. were born between 1845 and 1912. (1845 is when Cantor was born, 1912 is when Turing was born.)
  2. I ruled out a few people who were really philosophers, and also Banach who I don't think would call himself a logician.
For each logician on the list who meets my criteria I say if I think they are sane or a few axioms short of a complete set. I am not a historian--- corrections are more than welcome. I also freely admit that crazy is not well defined.

You may well disagree with what years I pick and my opinions. The point is to get an intelligent discussion going.
  1. Wilhelm Ackerman (1896-1962): He defined the function that bares his name. He also worked on the epsilon-calculus which formed the basis for Bourbaki's logic. Reading Bourbaki might drive one crazy; however, forming the basis for it does not. He was quite sane (Ackerman that is-- Bourbaki had multiple personality disorder.)
  2. Alice Ambrose (1906-2001): She had the longest lifespan of anyone on this list. She studied with Moore and Wittgenstein and got two PhD's. (In those days a women had to do twice as much as a man to get a job.) She was more on the philosophy side of logic, but certainly had math training. She wrote a textbook with her husband, known as Ambrose and Lazerowitz. Sane!
  3. Paul Bernays (1888-1977): He worked with Hilbert on alternative set theories. Sane!
  4. Evert Willem Beth (1908-1964): He helped to establish Logic as a discipline. Sane!
  5. L.E.J. Brouwer (1881-1966): He thought that all math should be constructive. This point of view lost the battle if ideas; however, that does not make him crazy. The Wikipedia article quotes Martin Davis as saying: he felt more and more isolated, and spend his last years under the spell of totally unfounded financial worries and a paranoid fear of bankruptcy, persecution, and illness. However, Dirk van Dal en wrote a scholarly two-volume biography of Brouwer that indicates that Brouwer was not crazy. And I agree. Sane!
  6. Georg Cantor (1845-1918): He had a new way of looking at infinity that was brilliant and is now accepted. That does not make him crazy. He was also convinced that Bacon wrote the plays of Shakespeare and that Joseph of Arimathea was the father of Jesus Christ. That does not make him crazy. However, he was obsessed with these views and was in and out of sanitariums. A few axioms short of a complete set.
  7. Rudolph Carnap (1891-1970): I originally thought he was more of a philosopher; however, he published in thermodynamics and the foundations of probability. He fled Hitler's regime and later refused to sign a loyalty oath in America (during the McCarthy Era). His second wife committed suicide. He led an interesting life but was sane.
  8. Alonzo Church (1903-1995): He invented (discovered?) The Lambda Calculus, proved that Peano Arithmetic was undecidable, and articulated what is now called the Church-Turing Thesis. These are all sane things to do. (Bob Soare distinguishes Church's Thesis from Turing's Thesis here.)
  9. Haskell Curry (1900-1982): He worked in combinatory logic. There is a programming logic named after his first name! (see here). Sane!
  10. Adolf Fraenkel (1891-1965): The F in ZF-set-theory. Provably Sane!
  11. Gottlob Frege (1848-1925) He hated Jews, Catholics, and the French. That might make him unpleasant to hang around, especially if you are a French Jew who converts to Catholicism. However, that does not make him crazy. He is often given as an example of someone who was crazy, though the links ( here and here) argues for Frege being sane. I defer to the two links. Sane!
  12. Gerhard Gentzen (1909-1945): He made the cut- Sane!
  13. Kurt Godel (1906-1978): He stopped eating because he thought people were trying to poison his food. They weren't. A few axioms short of a complete set.
  14. Jean Van Heijenoort (1912-1986): Best known in Logic for writing From Frege to Godel, a history of Logic from ... Frege to Godel (duh). Best known outside of logic for being Trotsky's secretary and later a historian of that movement. He was killed by his estranged fourth spouse. An interesting life, an interesting death, but he was sane.
  15. Jacques Herbrand (1908-1931) Has the shortest lifespan (died at 23 in a mountaineering accident) of anyone on this list. He worked in proof theory. Sane!
  16. Arend Heyting (1898-1980) He continued Brouwer's work on intuitionism. Sane!
  17. David Hilbert (1862-1943): In Logiccomix they claim that Hilbert's son Franz had a mental illness and Hilbert cut off all contact with him. However, this refutes this and claims that Hilbert's son was only put away for 3 years and then re-joined his family. One may question if David Hilbert deserves a World's Greatest Father mug, but one cannot question his sanity.
  18. Clarence Irving (1883-1964): He took exception to Principia's use of material implication. I'm impressed that he read and understood Principia enough to have objections. Sane!
  19. Stanislaw Jaskowski (1906-1965): He worked in Intuitionistic Logics. Since I can't prove that he was crazy I assume he was sane.
  20. William Ernest Johnson (1858-1931): He wrote three volumes on logic which showed technical expertise but was superseded by Principia Mathematica. This did NOT drive him crazy. Sane!
  21. Philip Jourdain (1879-1919): He was interested in paradoxes and formed the card version of the liar's paradox. He also worked on algebraic logic. Quite sane. His sister Eleanor Jourdain claimed to have traveled through time and seen ghosts, but was not a logician.
  22. Stephen Kleene (1909-1994): Kleene hierarchy, Kleene star, Kleene algebras are all named after him. He also proved the recursion theorem. Did this go to his head and make him insane? NO- he was totally sane.
  23. Christine Ladd-Franklin (1847-1930): Her PhD was on Algebra and Logic. She faced problems being a women in a man's field but kept her sanity.
  24. Stanislaw Lesniewski (1886-1939): He rejected axiomatic set theory (because of Russell's paradox) and tried to obtain other formal systems to replace it. A noble effort that failed. Still, he kept his sanity.
  25. Adolf Lindenbaum (1904-1941): He proved Lindenbaum's Lemma- every consistent theory of predicate logic can be extended to a complete consistent theory. Like many major advances, profound at the time, easy to prove now. Certainly sane.
  26. Leopold Lowenheim (1878-1957): The Lowenheim of Lowenheim-Skolem. See Skolem for more on that. A model of sanity.
  27. Jan Lukasiewicz (1978-1956) Wikipedia says He thought innovatively about traditional propositional logic. Is innovatively a word? My spell checker does not think so but whoever wrote his Wikipedia entry thinks so. Sane.
  28. Saunders Mac Lane (1909-2005) (He preferred the space between Mac and Lane.) His PhD thesis was on Logic and he also worked in Category theory. But he also did lots of Algebra. Sane.
  29. Carew Arthur Meredith (1904-1976): He worked on obtaining short axiom basis for logic systems. Sane.
  30. John von Neumann (1903-1957): Calling him a logician seems odd since he contributed to so many fields. Sane.
  31. Jean Nicod (1893-1924): Co-discovered the Sheffer Stroke from which you can do everything in prop logic. Sane.
  32. Pyotr Novikov (1901-1975): He proved the word problem for groups undecidable. His son Sergei Novikov won a Fields Medal in 1970 and, more importantly, is a professor at The University of Maryland! Sane.
  33. Giuseppe Peano (1858-1932): His Wikipedia entry calls him the founder of Mathematical Logic and Set Theory. That seems over-the-top, but not by much. His axiom system is still the standard. Sane.
  34. Emil Post (1897-1954) He introduced Turing Degrees. In the mid 1940's he posed Post's Problem which is to find a r.e. set (now called c.e.) that is neither decidable nor complete. This was solved in 1956 by Friedberg and Munhnik independently. He suffered from mental illness. A few axioms short of a complete set.
  35. Mojzesz Presburger (1904-1943): Presburger proved Presburger Arithmetic was decidable. What are the odds of that!? Sane!
  36. William Quine (1908-2000): He was more of a philosopher; however he did do some math. At Harvard he taught Symbolic Logic every fall for 50 years. That might drive some crazy; however, he was quite sane.
  37. Frank Ramsey (1903-1930): The paper where he proved what is now known as Ramsey Theory was titled A Problem in Formal Logic and solved a case of the Decision Problem. He regarded himself as a logician so we shall too. Speculation: He would be surprised at where his work lead to (combinatorics) and then pleased that it lead back to logic again : The Large Ramsey Theorem (see also here) and much work in the reverse mathematics of Ramsey's theorem".
  38. Raphael Robinson (1911-1995): He worked in Logic and Number Theory. He is probably best known for his work on tiling the plane. He married Julia Bowman (who changed her name to Julia Robinson) who was also a logician but born in 1919--- a little too late to be on this list. Having two academics in the same area get married might drive some crazy, but not them. Sane!
  39. J. Barkley Rosser (1907-1989): He strengthened Godel's incompleteness theorem. Sane!
  40. Bertrand Russell (1872-1970): He was obsessed with the quest for certainty; however, that does not make him crazy. He had several wives (not at the same time) and believed in open marriage. He was not crazy, just ahead of his time. Sane.
  41. Moses Schonfinkel (1889-1942): He worked in Combinatory Logic. By 1927 he was in a sanitarium. The only non-famous logician on my list who was a few axioms short of a complete set.
  42. Thoralf Skolem (1887-1963): He is best known for the Lowenheim-Skolem theorem: The notion that any consistent set of axioms has a countable model is very interesting--- One corollary: there is a countable model of the reals. Thinking about that might drive some crazy, but not him. Sane!
  43. Alfred Tarski (1901-1983): The Banach-Tarski paradox is crazy; however, Tarski was not. Sane.
  44. Alan Turing (1912-1954): He defined Turing Machines, though he didn't call them that. The story I had assumed was true is that the British Government made him take hormones (or something) to cure him of his homosexuality, and this drove him to suicide. But the story doesn't quite work with the timeline. He committed suicide a few years after he was forced to take drugs. Delayed reaction? Suicide for some other reason? Really was an accident? In any case, since his possible suicide is the only evidence that he was crazy I say Sane!
  45. Nicolai Vasilev (1880-1940): The originator of non-Aristotelian logics. Sane.
  46. Alfred North Whitehead (1861-1947): In Russell-Whitehead's Principia Mathematica they spend 300 pages proving that 1+1=2. This might drive some insane but not him. Whitehead was stark raving sane.
  47. Ludwig Wittgenstein (1889-1951): He gave away all his money and seemed to be a self-hating Jew. Odd yes, but he was sane. (NOTE- Scott Aaronson left a comment that argues that Wittgenstein should be classified as a few axioms short of a complete set. I believe his arguments (they are backed up by facts) and may later redo the stats at the end of this post.)
  48. Ernest Zermelo (1871-1953): The Z in ZF set theory. He disapproved of Hitler's Regime. Hardly crazy. Rota says that Zermelo was crazy but neither I nor this post have been able to find any evidence of this. Zermelo did spend time in a hospital for lung problems, which may have confused Rota.
So what to make of all of this?
  1. Cantor, Godel, Post and Schonfinkel were crazy. So we have 4 out of 48 were crazy. That's around 8%. This website claims that 6% of all people are crazy. So 8 seems high, but the sample space is pretty small. Conclusion: Same as the posts on the same topic referenced at the beginning: the notion that people in logic are crazy is not well founded. In addition, this post argues that the problems Cantor, Godel, and Post had were unrelated to their study of logic. (There was no comment on Schonfinkel.)
  2. AH- but Rota said that so many outstanding logicians were crazy. Since three of the four who I say were crazy were outstanding there may be a point here. One could look at who on my list was outstanding and see what percent of them logicians were crazy. However, determining who was outstanding is even harder than determining who was crazy, so I leave it to others to continue this work.
  3. There were some on the list that in my opinion were sane but others think were crazy: Brouwer, Frege, Turing, Zermelo. Perhaps more. If enough of them turn out to be crazy then there may be something to this logicians are crazy theme; however, I doubt this will happen.
  4. Was it crazy to spend so much time and effort on this one post? I am not on the logic list, nor was I born between 1845 and 1912 so the answer is not relevant to the study.
  5. This blog posting has a crazy number of links: 71. That breaks the record for this blog which was held by this entry which had around 37.


  1. I really loved Logicomix. I often find that the background is really useful in understanding the evolution.

    As for crazy, it might just be the prerequisite needed to be able to see around corners. Sanity, after all is relative to our perspective, isn't it?


  2. The craziness of those "outstanding" examples may have derived from their conviction that they were uncovering the inner secrets of the universe; specifically, the illusion that sets, axioms, proofs and logic, inclusing the infinite ones, were real entities, and not merely artificial constructs of our mind. This would explain their obsessive search for THE "logic of everything", and their despair when that goal eluded them.

  3. > Haskell Curry (1900-1982): He worked in combinatory
    > logic. There is a programming logic named after
    > his first name!

    There is also a logic programming language named after his last name! (see

  4. In physics it is statistical mechanics that is associated to madness, as vividely depicted in the opening sentence of David Goodstein's classic textbook States of Matter:

    Ludwig Boltzman, who spent much of his life studying statistical mechanics, died in 1906, by his own hand. Paul Ehrenfest, carrying on the work, died similarly in 1933. Now it is our turn to study statistical mechanics. Perhaps it will be wise to approach the subject cautiously.

    Of course, nowadays no one should take this association seriously ... or *should* we? :) :) :)

  5. Though well outside the window you're looking at, Charles Lutwidge Dodgson is an interesting example: among non-mathematicians, he's probably more well-known (as "Lewis Carroll") than all the mathematicians on your list *combined*. What's more, because of Alice in Wonderland, people generally assume he was a regular hatter, but he actually was not. Anyway, I wouldn't be surprised if he contributes something to the stereotype.

    "Is innovatively a word?" says "Yes!"

  6. I see you don't tell us whether Ramsey was sane or a few axioms short of a complete set. This coded message has led me to your short proof that P!=NP, which not many people realize is being kept secret by an elite group of theoretical computer scientist. I have been forced into hiding with this dangerous information.

  7. Dellightful post Bill! I enjoyed the word games you played in the description of several logicians!

  8. I especially appreciated the caveat that "crazy" is ill-defined (see the words of Szasz for a full treatment of that topic). I'd just add that, as in Turing's case, it's particularly controversial to use suicide as a measure of insanity.

  9. First of all I don't see Papadimitriou had done any significant work in logic so that he's adequate to write something called "Logicomix".

    Apart from that it is ridiculous to joke about "crazy logicians". Mental problems are disastrous in real life regardless one's professional success!

  10. I wouldn't say Godel was crazy. Having a false belief does not make one crazy, if it did we should call a large segment of US population crazy because of their not just false but provable stupid beliefs.

    A person having a mental disorder is not necessarily crazy. But why it is popular to make claims like that most logicians are crazy? Because it looks paradoxical, most don't understand what these logicians have done and it looks strange to them, and it is also entertaining, it is like gossips about private lives of movie stars or politicians or if you are in UK (or other ununited ones) about royals. If you ask me people interested in following these gossips or watching those silly evening shows on TV are way more crazier than any logician you have listed above as crazy or few axioms short of. But it is a democracy, so Socrates is sentenced to death.

  11. Thank you for busting this myth.

    I think Cantor is the original source of this stereotype. After all, he was the first man to stare infinity in the eye. And it drove him mad, I tell you, mad!

    1. Issac Newton said that God is the only infinity, As such humans are finite and cannot stare into infinity.

  12. Luv it! ...but how do we know the crazy ones aren't really the only sane ones, and the "sane" ones aren't really completely bonkers??? excuse me while I return to my padded room.

  13. It would be interesting if, more generally, mathematicians are more prone to mental illness (all the way from mild Asperger's syndrome to schizophrenia) than other scientists. I guess the answer would be positive. How to interpret it is another story: Does the field particularly attract some kind of mentally ill people, or does working in it intensify a latent disposition to mental illness that would however not have surfaced if they had chosen another profession? Maybe it is much more complicated. But I see a correlation here.

  14. Somewhere I read a quote that goes something like this:

    Dreamers build castles in the clouds. The truly crazy ones try to move in and live there.

    I think the observation was made before we coined the term "jet set".

  15. Bill, you might want to reconsider your "sane" classification for Wittgenstein!

    According to Ray Monk's biography, during World War I, he volunteered for the Austro-Hungarian army and repeatedly begged to be sent to sent to wherever the heaviest fighting was, not because he cared at all about the war's outcome but because he thought the experience of battle would ennoble and purify him.

    One of his main influences was Otto Weininger, a raving misogynist and anti-Semite who shot himself; Wittgenstein was ashamed that he didn't kill himself as well.

    At one point, Wittgenstein abandoned philosophy to become an elementary-school teacher in a small village in Austria, where he quickly became notorious for boxing boys' ears and pulling girls' hair when they couldn't solve math problems (he later went door-to-door to beg the parents' forgiveness).

    My impression, after reading Monk, was that Wittgenstein was not merely insane but committed to insanity as a philosophical ideal.

  16. I have often wanted to box the ears and pull the hair of students who couldn't understand induction, though I do both to either sex. Wittgenstein's only boxing BOYS ears
    and pulling GIRLS ears is surely insane :-)

    Seriously, THANKS for the correction- For now I'll modify
    the post to note your comment. If enough corrections come in I may redo the whole thing (yours was the first so far).

  17. Incidentally, according to the Fefermans' biography, Tarski once modestly referred to himself as "the second-greatest logician of the twentieth century, and the greatest sane one." That might be my favorite self-description of all time. :)

  18. With regard to Wittgenstein's sanity (or lack thereof), Monk's biography (that Scott mentioned) is good, but even better is the Recollections of Wittgenstein (Rush Rhees, ed.) which consists of essays written not by historians or philosophers, but by people who knew Wittgenstein personally.

    If we adapt from the Greeks the maxim "Call no person sane until you know the manner of their death", then the immensely dignified death of Wittgenstein (pp. 167-71) illuminates a personality that was sane to a very high degree.

    As for Wittgenstein's interest in Otto Weininger, Rhees discusses this at some length (pp. 91-2 and 177-87), in passages that are fascinating but too long and intricate to summarize here, and the verdict again (IMHO) must be "sane".

    To summarize, the recollections in Rhees' book are challenging, in that they leave one more confident in Wittgenstein's sanity ... but a little bit less confident in every else's sanity (including one's own). :)

  19. @Scott, the idea to go through difficulties to achieve purity and personal growth is not an indicator of insanity, and is a part of many Asian beliefs. War is no different.

    I am not punishing students in that area of time was unusual. What is unusual is the fact that he went back after several years to ask for forgiveness. I don't remember anyone claiming that W was insane. I can guess that you admire Russell, probably also GEM, so you can count on their opinion.

    This way of judging extra-ordinary humans has happened here more than once. I found completely unbelievable that thoughtful people like you judge insanity of others (those we don't understand) so easily. If we are going to judge people's sanity based on what is typical in our society at the moment then I would say Gandi was insane, Socrates was insane, Newton was insane, any extraordinary human ever lived was insane.

  20. You quote Rota as saying:

    it cannot be a complete coincidence that several outstanding logicians of the 20th century found shelter in asylums at some point in their lives: Cantor, Zermelo, Godel, and Post are some.

    However, you do not quote the next sentence in that article, which is about Alonzo Church:

    Alonzo Church was one of the saner among them, though in some ways his behaviour must be classified as strange, even by mathematicians' standards.

    Rota goes on to tell stories about Church, including the following:

    Every lecture began with a ten-minute ceremony of erasing the blackboard until it was absolutely spotless. We tried to save him the effort by erasing the board before his arrival, but to no avail. The ritual could not be disposed of; often it required water, soap, and brush, and was followed by another ten minutes of total silence while the blackboard was drying. Perhaps he was preparing the lecture while erasing; I don't think so. His lectures hardly needed any preparation. They were a literal repetition of the typewritten text he had written over a period of twenty years, a copy of which was to be found upstairs in the Fine Hall library.


  21. Ron- thanks for the Church comment. It raises the question
    of- what is ECCENTRIC and what is INSANE.
    Are Church's actions eccentric or insane? I would go
    with eccentric, but ... VERY eccentric.

  22. To give perspective, there's crazy/raving insane, there's mental illness, and there's eccentric. Cantor was the raving kind. Goedel/Post was the mental illness kind (debilitating paranoia/food aversion late in life for Goedel, debilitating depression throughout life for Post). For Wittgenstein, however viscerally disturbing it might be, principled suicide is not necessarily a sign of mental illness. As to Frege, he was probably just kind of a jerk.

  23. 'Kurt Godel (1906-1978): He stopped eating because he thought people were trying to poison his food. They weren't. A few axioms short of a complete set.'

    This looks like a case of social maladjustment and rationalizing a behavior with other motivations.

    People stop eating for many reasons. Many animals have an instinct to avoid food when they feel that digestion would take up too much energy.

    If Godel was fasting for other motivations and rationalizing it, that is not the same thing as being entirely deluded.

  24. 'The craziness of those "outstanding" examples may have derived from their conviction that they were uncovering the inner secrets of the universe; specifically, the illusion that sets, axioms, proofs and logic, inclusing the infinite ones, were real entities, and not merely artificial constructs of our mind.'

    Most people presume that there is an absolute reality out there, but in fact, we humans do not have absolute knowledge - we have subjective experiences and fallible perceptions.

    So, suppose that math is not really the language of God. Suppose that math is not really the secret of absolute reality. Nonetheless, we humans live in subjective narratives. If math is the utmost essence of human experience, then it is, so far as any human can ever know, the essence of reality.

    Of course, even in that case, it might be possible for a human to transcend humanity, and thus to transcend math.

  25. If we are going to judge people's sanity based on what is typical in our society at the moment then I would say Gandi was insane, Socrates was insane, Newton was insane, any extraordinary human ever lived was insane.

    Actually, Gandhi, Socrates, and Newton all did have some insane aspects, though Socrates probably less than the other two. (Gandhi: asking women to sleep naked with him in order that he could test his vow of celibacy; Newton: all that alchemy stuff.) They also, of course, had great and lasting achievements (in all three cases, more clearly than Wittgenstein).

    But "insanity", in the sense that I'm using the word here, is clearly not a precondition for extraordinary moral or intellectual achievements. Charles Darwin, John Stuart Mill, Bertrand Russell, Albert Einstein, Richard Feynman, and Martin Luther King were all giants who challenged orthodoxies of their time, yet they all come across to me as perfectly sane (in some cases, frighteningly sane). If you know something about the biographies of these people, do you not agree that Wittgenstein, Gandhi, and Newton were "a few axioms short of a complete set" in a sense that Einstein, Russell, and Darwin were not?


  27. @Scott,

    For Russell, I am sure you have read his autobiography and there are more unusual things about him than about W. Mill literally had a mental break down.

    It seems that you consider views you strongly disagree with as an indication of insanity.

  28. “It was once told as a good joke upon a mathematician that the poor
    man went mad and mistook his symbols for realities; as M for the moon and S for the sun.”
    (Heaviside, O., Electromagnetic Theory, Vol. 1, p.133, 1893)

  29. “It was once told as a good joke upon a mathematician that the poor
    man went mad and mistook his symbols for realities; as M for the moon and S for the sun.”
    (Heaviside, O., Electromagnetic Theory, Vol. 1, p.133, 1893)

  30. The connection between logician and insanity might have been made in a jest. I find that there is absolutely no reason to take it very seriously.

    I don't know who you exactly are. But the fact that you have gone somewhat overboard in your counter proof with facts, data, evidences, that it has in fact forced me to doubt your sanity!

  31. Enough people have said it, not in jest, that I think some take it seriously. While debunking this not-that-widely-held myth is
    not that important, its part of a more general plan of getting people to be aware that uttereances like this can be checked an proved or disproved. Similar for a more recent post about
    presidents with daughters.

  32. Enough people have said it, not in jest, that I think some take it seriously. While debunking this not-that-widely-held myth is
    not that important, its part of a more general plan of getting people to be aware that uttereances like this can be checked an proved or disproved. Similar for a more recent post about
    presidents with daughters.

  33. How can one understand evolution through logic, when evolution cannot be proved. Throwing billions of years around like confetti is hardly what you call logical.

  34. With regard to Turing and suicide and insanity- suicide does not necessarily imply insanity. I hate that premise. There are many reasons for suicide; in Turing's case he was punished and shamed by the British government for his homosexuality and wanted to escape that maltreatment. This was probably a factor in his suicide.

  35. From the Principia Discordia:

    GP: Maybe you are just crazy.
    M2: Indeed! But do not reject these teachings as false because I am crazy. The reason that I am crazy is because they are true.
    GP: Is Eris true?
    M2: Everything is true.
    GP: Even false things?
    M2: Even false things are true.
    GP: How can that be?
    M2: I don't know man, I didn't do it.

    From The Criminal Mind:

    "As I have stated in an earlier chapter, in the natural world there is no such thing as mental disease or defect, but rather certain patterns of behavior to which, in a given social context, we apply certain names which enable us to talk about and to effect certain changes in the social relationships of those who exhibit them and to effect changes in the individuals themselves. At best, we are left to the imposition of purely arbitrary criteria in selecting such persons."

    The Arab poet Al-Mutanabbi:
    "That with intellect suffers in bliss with his mind
    And the ignorant in misery lives blissfully"

    John Nash:
    "Though I had success in my research both when I was mad and when I was not, eventually I felt that my work would be better respected if I thought and acted like a 'normal' person. People are always selling the idea that people with mental illness are suffering. I think madness can be an escape. If things are not so good, you maybe want to imagine something better. I did have strange ideas during certain periods of time. To some extent, people who are insane are nonconformists, and society and their family wish they would live what appear to be useful lives."

  36. There is a broken link on this blog post. You are linking to, but that page no longer works. Here is a working version

    1. Thanks.
      I've fixed it.
      Also thanks- I had fun rereading the post and the commments.

  37. "Bourbaki had multiple personality disorder" -- Yes they did!