Reasons for the Kurt Gödel Award

Kurt Gödel – The Great Unsettler

I begin my speech with a quote from Prof. John Lucas in his book „Reality and Time“: „I find in Gödel’s theorem good reason for rejecting the reductionist tendency of our age.“

First of all, I would like to draw attention from what Kurt Gödel said to how he said it. Here there is one crucial difference: In recent years, attention focused on Gödel’s unpublished notes and statements. With his publication A Logical Journey, Hao Wang in particular has contributed to the fact that the Gödel reception was practically only about this.

But these are only mind games put down on paper by Kurt Gödel, considerations as in a rehearsal. Fundamentally different from that is everything that Kurt Gödel himself authorized to be published. This includes his proof that „in every universe that can be described by means of the theory of relativity, there is no time.“ which he published on Albert Einstein‘s 70th birthday, so to speak as an intellectual gift to him. It is to the credit of Prof. Palle Yourgrau to have put this almost completely unconsidered proof back at the centre in his book „A World Without Time: The Forgotten Legacy of Godel and Einstein.

One should add that Kurt Gödel himself made this distinction meticulously. The biographers unanimously report that he was exceedingly cautious about what he chose to publish, and that he published something only when he was absolutely sure. He only failed to dispose that all notes, etc., should be destroyed after his death, as Michel Foucault, for example, is said to have ordered, but this was not followed through correctly. Such a desire is understandable because it is all too human to make mistakes and err. This is especially true for Kurt Gödel, since he, for example, for a significant part of his life was afraid of being poisoned, which was certainly not the case.

Srećko Kovač also emphasizes in his text: On Causality as the Fundamental Concept of Gödel’s Philosophy, citation:
It should be noted that Gödel’s Max Phil manuscripts, which we make use of, were not aimed for publication, …
I think it might do Kurt Gödel an injustice if one specifically refers to his mind games which he deliberately did not publish. They may satisfy the curiosity of what Kurt Gödel thought about,  but any of these publications risk violating the will of Kurt Gödel and his privacy.

On the other hand, his published proofs are now a logically assured truth, without allowing for speculation and behind which the person Kurt Gödel stands with his entire life’s work. This includes, in particular, Gödel’s proof that in a universe in which Einstein’s theory of relativity applies, there is no time, at least not in the understanding that has been common so far. Among other things, the Berlin Kurt Gödel Circle of Friends has undertaken to understand this proof and in particular it’s philosophical consequences. For this it has proposed putting A world without a past up for discussion. In my opinion, quantum mechanics, especially in it’s De Broglie–Bohm theory interpretation, can be perfectly reconciled with this evidence. On December 9, 2015, Toby S. Cubitt, David Perez-Garcia and Michael M. Wolf reported in the scientific journal „Nature“ that a mathematical problem, which is basic to many fundamental questions of particle and quantum physics, is definitely unsolvable: even with the theoretically complete knowledge of all microstates it is impossible to determine the macrostate of a material. This brings the quantum and microphysical uncertainties into the macrophysical. So what does all this mean?

Kurt Gödel has thoroughly and repeatedly unhinged the scientific world. Thus mathematics was dealt with relatively broadly. But was it really understood that it can be consistently inferred from this that there are true statements without provability – in other words, truth without proof? This is already a huge imposition, especially when science claims to describe or explore generally true statements beyond subjectivity in a causal framework.

This causal framework is fundamentally challenged when there is no time. In what sense, then, should we speak of causality if the temporal order for an if, then and only then, is lost, but only the observation remains that „The world is everything that is the case“?

With Kurt Gödel’s proof of the non-existence or only apparent existence of time, he has succeeded in creating the same uncertainty in physics as in mathematics. This thoroughly ruins the common reductionsm that claims to be able to derive explanations about the world from this supposedly safe terrain. In my opinion, Kurt Gödel has thus become the greatest unsettler. He has deeply shaken the scientific fields chosen as the supposedly safe ground on which science, chemistry, biology, medicine, etc. could be built. What needs to be rethought and what consequences this will have for philosophy is far from foreseeable.

This explains why the Kurt Gödel Circle of Friends is announcing a competition for a Kurt Gödel Award 2019 for the promotion of anti-reductionist knowledge in natural sciences and humanities. This prize is to be awarded as part of an essay competition for the best question that reductionists would have to answer, but cannot, and why. The terms and conditions of participation have been distributed here and will be published on the Kurt Gödel Circle of Friends homepage:
By this competition, as well as by participation in this event, we hope to attract new members to the Circle of Friends, so that we can then formally establish the Circle of Friends as an association. If you are interested, please contact us via the Circle of Friends homepage.


From 26 February to 1 March 2019, with the support of the Kurt Gödel Circle of Friends, a block seminar including a workshop took place at the Institute of Mathematics and Computer Science in the Free University of Berlin:

Kurt Gödel – Philosophical Views

See here for full details incl. the slides of the powerpoint-presentations on the Free University’s website.

Part of the workshop was the announcement with the call for entries and the reasons for the 2019 Kurt Gödel Prize, see above.

Picture gallery of the workshop