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the Complete Review
the complete review - biography / philosophy


John L. Casti and Werner DePauli

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To purchase Gödel

Title: Gödel
Author: John L. Casti and Werner DePauli
Genre: Biography/philosophy
Written: 2000
Length: 199 pages
Availability: Gödel - US
Gödel - UK
Gödel - Canada
  • A Life of Logic

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Our Assessment:

B+ : fine, simple introduction to Gödel's most important work (and the implications thereof)

See our review for fuller assessment.

Review Summaries
Source Rating Date Reviewer
Chronicle of Higher Ed. . 8/9/2000 Carlin Romano
New Criterion . 12/2000 Martin Gardner

  From the Reviews:
  • "Most of Godel: A Life of Logic, which favors World Book prose when not explicating technical aspects of its subject's work, seeks to enlighten us about the distinguished scholar from Brno and his remarkable incompleteness proof. (...) Yet also present, sedately delivered here and there despite being as routine as an elephant in an elevator, are the weird human details about the young man who was called Herr Warum, "Mr. Why," for his curiosity." - Carlin Romano, Chronicle of Higher Education

  • "(A) splendid nontechnical account of the Godelian revolution and at the same time a sketch of Godel's eccentric life and its tragic ending." - Martin Gardner, New Criterion

Please note that these ratings solely represent the complete review's biased interpretation and subjective opinion of the actual reviews and do not claim to accurately reflect or represent the views of the reviewers. Similarly the illustrative quotes chosen here are merely those the complete review subjectively believes represent the tenor and judgment of the review as a whole. We acknowledge (and remind and warn you) that they may, in fact, be entirely unrepresentative of the actual reviews by any other measure.

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The complete review's Review:

       John L. Casti and Werner DePauli's book on Gödel is only in part biographical. Two chapters, making up about a fifth of the book, are devoted specifically to Gödel's life -- a decent summary, though one might wish for more. Gödel was an unusual character with a brilliant mind, and more detail both about his intellectual development and his private life would have been of great interest. (Hao Wang's Reflections on Kurt Gödel offers some additional material, but also not enough.)
       Most of Gödel is devoted to what the authors call: "perhaps the most famous mathematical (and philosophical) result of this century", Gödel's incompleteness theorem. They summarise and restate Gödel's Theorem in a variety of ways, discussing first how it came about and then all the implications, as well as then considering some of the additional discoveries made based on or as an outgrowth of it. Casti and DePauli explain these mathematical, logical, and philosophical issues quite clearly, though occasionally they try too hard to be playful (so, for example, the first discussion, built up around the concept of a 'Chocolate Cake Machine'). The book spells out the few complex mathematical concepts fairly clearly, and the entire text is very accessible.
       The various examples and discussions do show well how profound the implications of Gödel's Theorem are. A chapter discussing Artificial Intelligence is of particular interest, and overall this books serves as a good introductory survey of incompleteness.
       Casti and DePauli don't entirely ignore Gödel's other work, also devoting a chapter to his work on Einstein's theory of general relativity (which gives them an opportunity to consider the time-travel possibilities Gödel's results suggest). But incompleteness rules the day -- as well, perhaps, it should.
       As an introductory text focussed on incompleteness -- and brief glimpse of Gödel's life -- Gödel is entertaining and adequate. (Usefully: the brief references section at the end gives short summaries of other relevant texts, suggesting what interested readers might want to turn to next.)

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Gödel: Reviews: Kurt Gödel: John L. Casti: Werner DePauli-Schimanovich: Books by Kurt Gödel under review: Other books about Kurt Gödel under review: Other books by John Casti under review: Other books of interest under review:

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About the Authors:

       John L. Casti is an American science writer. He is on the faculty of the Santa Fe Institute and that of the Technical University, Vienna, and divides his time between these two institutions.

       Werner DePauli teaches at the University of Vienna.

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