The Out There In Here–Rebecca Goldstein’s “Incompleteness” and John Searle’s “Mind, Language and Society”

Haim Watzman

A blog post about whether a world exists outside one’s mind, and if so, how and to what extent we can know about it? That’s a subject you can cover in a few hundred words!

But what’s a writer to do—this blog is the only semantic space in which I can discuss these issues, and I’ve been stimulated by two books I’ve just read—Rebecca Goldstein’s Incompleteness: The Proof and Paradox of Kurt Godel (Great Discoveries) and John Searle’s Mind, Language, and Society : Philosophy in the Real World. Both authors are philosophers who write for a larger public; Goldstein is also a novelist—evident in her vivid portrayal of Gödel as a person, and of his intellectual milieu.

Goldstein’s book stands out among treatments of Gödel’s ideas meant for broad audiences for two reasons. First, it doesn’t talk down to the intelligent layman and follows, step by step, the proofs of his theorems. The logical notation and equations she uses may look scary, but persist—it’s all explained very well. If you ever had a course in basic logic (which you probably had in high school math), you’ll be able to follow it.

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