Proofs & Theories

I have been reading Proofs & Theories. This is not a weighty logical tome, but the (oddly titled?) very slim volume of short essays and occasional pieces by Louise Glück.

How little, I would have thought, there could be in common between the writing experiences of a Nobel-prize-winning poet and of someone putting together a few elementary logic books! Yet her words resonate. At the very outset, she talks of the anxieties and frustrations: “wanting to write, being unable to write; wanting to write differently, being unable to write differently.” It requires poetic licence, perhaps, to write here as she does of “various kinds of torment” (torment?)… but yes, I recognize the constant sense of striving, “not made serene by sensations of achievement”. When you make the writing public, “The work stands as a reprimand or reproach”, difficult to connect to. And then, very soon, “What strikes me is how far away all this work seems” — and I don’t necessarily mean the particular logical content (in my case) but often the tone, the style.

Which is a feeling that struck me again just now, when I had occasion to re-read a chapter of IFL. I didn’t like the authorial voice very much. I suppose I originally wrote most of that chapter some twenty years ago, but I have revised it in the last five years; but I’m sure I could now do better. Or at least write with a lighter touch. I’m increasingly tempted to have one more bash at that book! (Try again. Fail again. Fail better.)


The occasion for dipping into IFL was very belatedly putting online one more set of answers to exercises, and also adding to the  online page of corrections for typos. I’m probably getting to the point where I should update the file for the printed and downloadable book. (That’s in one way not that much of a palaver; the more time-consuming bit will be checking that I don’t inadvertently make unintended changes in the process!)

I have also updated the corrections page for GWT. 


Have I mentioned here Akihiro Kanamori’s relatively recent book Essays on Set Theory which brings together nineteen previously published essays?

Apart from a handful of more technical pieces, these are mostly historical and/or philosophical essays, or papers focussing on the development and work of particular set theorists of note. It is very good to have these widely scattered essays brought together like this. They are typically readable, interesting and enlightening. Lots about proofs & theories …

And three cheers to College Publications for re-publishing them (as a 600 page book!) so very inexpensively.

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