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Lou Reed and Godel

Doug Hofstadter’s book about Godel’s theorem, “I am a Strange Loop”, points out that mathematicians before after Hilbert and Russell and Whitehead thought that in axiomatic systems,

(a) if you could prove it, it must be true, and

(b) everything true could be proved.

Godel threw a monkey wrench into (b).

There’s a similar set of assumptions people often make about human beings:

(a) If you can persuade someone of the logic of something, they should experience the same feeling as you about it; and

(b) if people experience some feeling, there must be a logical cause.

But this too breaks down in various ways.

In my case, take global warming as an example of the falseness of (a): it’s logical that I should be anxious to do something about it, but the logic doesn’t really move me enough. I could try to explain why, but, in the end, that’s how I feel. It’s a version of Schopenhauer’s “You can do what you want but you can’t want what you want.” I might want to be a person that wants to do something about global warming, but I can’t be that person. That said, a long time ago I was friendly with a philosopher/physicist who told me in all serious that he wanted to be a person that liked classical music, and he could really make himself into that kind of person. I never knew whether to believe him.

(b) is more difficult. There probably is a cause for most feelings or reactions, depending on what kind of cause you like — Freud, Darwin or some neuroscientist stuff. But on the other hand, who cares: I like licorice: why? God knows and no-one cares. And why justify it?

I thought of this when some telemarketer called to get me to donate money to some charity. I told her not to bother me at home. She tried to explain to me the virtue of the charity. I said I didn’t want her to call me. She kept asking me WHY I wouldn’t give money for something good? She wanted an explanation and I was tempted to give her one. But when I asked her why she had to call me, she said I was on her “list” and that was that. She didn’t need any justification, though she wanted me to justify not giving. There’s an old Lou Reed song called “Doin the things that we want to,” and she knew how to do it.

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