Kurt Gödel

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Either mathematics is too big for the human mind, or the human mind is more than a machine.

Kurt Gödel (28 April 190614 January 1978) was a logician, mathematician, and philosopher of mathematics.


  • To every ω-consistent recursive class κ of formulae there correspond recursive class signs r, such that neither v Gen r nor Neg (v Gen r) belongs to Flg (κ) (where v is the free variable of r).
    • Proposition VI, On Formally Undecidable Propositions in Principia Mathematica and Related Systems I (1931); Informally, recursive systems of axioms cannot be complete.
  • But every error is due to extraneous factors (such as emotion and education); reason itself does not err.
    • Attributed as a remark of 29th November 1972, in Incompleteness (2005) by Rebecca Goldstein
  • The formation in geological time of the human body by the laws of physics (or any other laws of similar nature), starting from a random distribution of elementary particles and the field is as unlikely as the separation of the atmosphere into its components. The complexity of the living things has to be present within the material [from which they are derived] or in the laws [governing their formation].
    • As quoted in "On 'computabilism’ and physicalism: Some Problems" by Hao Wang, in Nature’s Imagination (1995), edited by J. Cornwall, p.161-189
  • I like Islam, it is a consistent idea of religion and open-minded.
    • As quoted in A Logical Journey: From Gödel to Philosophy (1996) by Hao Wang
  • Ninety percent of [contemporary philosophers] see their principle task as that of beating religion out of men's heads. … We are far from being able to provide scientific basis for the theological world view.
    • As quoted in Logical Dilemmas : The Life and Work of Kurt Gödel (1997) by John W. Dawson Jr.

Quotes about Gödel[edit]

  • If a 'religion' is defined to be a system of ideas that contains unprovable statements, then Gödel taught us that mathematics is not only a religion, it is the only religion that can prove itself to be one.
  • Gödel published comparatively little, but almost always to maximum effect; his papers are models of precision and incisive presentation.
    • Solomon Feferman, in "Gödel's Life and Work", Kurt Gödel: Collected Works, Volume I : Publications 1929-1936 (1986), p. 1
  • In the end we search out the beginnings. Established, beyond comparison, as the most important logician of our times by his remarkable results of the 1930s, Kurt Gödel was also most unusual in the ways of his life and mind. Deeply private and reserved, he had a superb all embracing rationality, which could descend into a maddening attention to detail in matters of everyday life.
    • Solomon Feferman, in "Gödel's Life and Work", Kurt Gödel: Collected Works, Volume I : Publications 1929-1936 (1986), p. 2
  • The progenitor of information theory, and perhaps the pivotal figure in the recent history of human thought, was Kurt Gödel, the eccentric Austriac genius and intimate of Einstein who drove determinism from its strongest and most indispensable redoubt; the coherence, consistency, and self-sufficiency of mathematics.
    Gödel demonstrated that every logical scheme, including mathematics, is dependent upon axioms that it cannot prove and that cannot be reduced to the scheme itself.
    In an elegant mathematical proof, introduced to the world by the great mathematician and computer scientist John von Neumann in September 1930, Gödel demonstrated that mathematics was intrinsically incomplete. Gödel was reportedly concerned that he might have inadvertently proved the existence of God, a faux pas in his Viennese and Princeton circle. It was one of the famously paranoid Gödel's more reasonable fears.
    • George Gilder, in Knowledge and Power : The Information Theory of Capitalism and How it is Revolutionizing our World (2013), Ch. 10: Romer's Recipes and Their Limits
  • Toward the end of his life, Gödel feared that he was being poisoned, and he starved himself to death. His theorem is one of the most extraordinary results in mathematics, or in any intellectual field in this century. If ever potential mental instability is detectable by genetic analysis, an embryo of someone with Kurt Gödel's gifts might be aborted.
    • Brian L. Silver, in The Ascent of Science (1998)
  • The one man who was, during the last years, certainly by far Einstein's best friend, and in some ways strangely resembled him most, was Kurt Gödel, The great logician. They were very different in almost every personal way — Einstein gregarious, happy, full of laughter and common sense, and Gödel extremely solemn, very serious, quite solitary, and distrustful of common sense as a means of arriving at the truth. But they shared a fundamental quality: both went directly and wholeheartedly to the questions at the very center of things.
    • Ernst G. Strauss, in reminiscences of 1982, as quoted in "Gödel's Life and Work", by Solomon Feferman, in Kurt Gödel: Collected Works, Volume I : Publications 1929-1936 (1986), p. 2

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