Speech by René Talbot at the award ceremony
at the Wuppertal University on 23.5.2022
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Dear Professor Kahle,
First of all, please allow me to say a few words about the idea and background of the Kurt Gödel Circle of Friends:
The Kurt Gödel Circle of Friends was founded in Berlin in September 2016 with the aim of making the scientific work of the logician, mathematician and philosopher Kurt Gödel accessible to a broader public and to discuss it in a topical way. In particular, Gödel’s calculations on Einstein’s theory of relativity and the resulting consequences with regard to the concept of time as well as quantum physics are the basis of our efforts; key words here would be: the non-existence of „time“, „world without past“. Time would thus only be a practical, traditional narrative, the world would therefore have no past at all.Gödel’s insights are therefore not only interesting for physicists and mathematicians. They lead much further and encourage us to think about fundamental philosophical questions, such as the relationship between body and soul, the temporal structure of individual consciousness, taking into account the fact that causes lead causally to an effect, while decisions and actions have reasons.By offering the Gödel Prizes, we therefore want to address philosophy and the natural sciences as well as cultural and social sciences in an interdisciplinary way. We want to stimulate and try to create knowledge with certainty, in the sense of Kurt Gödel, unshakable knowledge, so to speak, beyond any opinions and fashions. Gödel’s incompleteness proofs in logic and mathematics are prime examples of this.A few words about the first two Gödel Prizes 2019 and 2021.
At the heart of the natural and cultural sciences and philosophy lies the question of how time is to be understood. At this interface, reductionism, which is almost condescendingly claimed by the natural sciences, serves to pretend that everything is under control scientifically and that what is still open will soon be clarified. To contradict this with Gödel in the name of the prize was the task of the first essay competition. The best questions were sought and awarded prizes, which reductionists would have to answer but could not and why. The results were quite excellent – to date, not a single contradiction or even attempt to refute the various arguments has been received, which were published by Oliver Passon and Christoph Benzmüller in a book by Springer-Verlag – for which we thank them both very much.
After the demystification of reductionism, the ground was prepared for the second competition with the question of what it means for our world view if we assume the non-existence of time with Gödel. This brought up a controversy as to whether a logical proof must be given for this or whether Gödel’s arguments are not sufficient for a decision, at least in physics. Prof. Kahle raised his concerns about a proof. On the other hand, the quantum gravity physicist Prof. Kiefer laid down that the timelessness „of the world will gradually gain a foothold in science“. The fact that the so-called spectral-gap problem in quantum physics has turned out to be undecidable is likely to play a significant role in a decision. This was published in Nature in 2015 by Prof. Michael Wolf together with Toby S. Cubitt and David Perez-Garcia.
This means that it has become illusory to distinguish micro-physics from macro-physics or cosmology, since it is impossible to determine the macro-state of a material even with theoretically complete knowledge of all micro-states. The consequences of this statement will now be the subject of the third competition, which we intend to finalise with the jury after this event.
The social location of institutionalised knowledge production is the university. That is why we are particularly pleased about the support of the Bergische Universität Wuppertal. Oliver Passon in particular has mediated this cooperation. We would like to express our gratitude for his commitment!
Finally, allow me to make a few comments on the person of Kurt Gödel and the „big white elephant in the room“ when it is claimed about him that he was „insane „* because he had been psychiatrised, forcibly. It is a slander even if it has since been euphemised as „mentally ill“.
Since this lecture hall is also on Max Horkheimer Strasse, here is a quote from him in a letter to Theodor Adorno dated 28 August 1941:
„The murder of the insane contains the key to the pogrom of the Jews …. The fact that they are not as spellbound by the purposes and aims in the service of which the lives of the present-day run as the able-bodied themselves makes the lunatics uncanny spectators who must be taken away … Again and again it should be proved that freedom is not possible.“
Kurt Gödel lived at that time in the atmosphere of these scientifically justified medical mass murders of 1939 -1949. At a time when in Austria and Germany a psychiatric diagnosis was regularly a death sentence. How then can Kurt Gödel be blamed for living a rather secluded life and becoming suspicious? In particular, he was extremely careful about what he ingested. After the death of his wife Adele, one could even say that he was over-cautious, which unfortunately led to his death.
Thank you for your attention.
* Sandra Takano reported on this in Christoph Benzmüller’s Gödel Seminar in 2019: Page 34 of the presentation: