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Alfred Tarski: Life and Logic

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Table of Contents

1. The two Tarskis; 2. Independence and university; Interlude I. The Banach-Tarski paradox, set theory and the axiom of choice; 3. Polot! The Polish attribute; Interlude II. The completeness and decidability of algebra and geometry; 4. A wider sphere of influence; Interlude III. Truth and definability; 5. How the 'Unity of Science' saved Tarski's life; 6. Berkeley is so far from Princeton; 7. Building a school; Interlude IV. The publication campaigns; 8 'Papa Tarski' and his students; 9. Three meetings and two departures; 10. Logic and methodology, center stage; 11. Heydays; Interlude V. Model theory and the 1963 symposium; 12. Around the world; 13. Los Angeles and Berkeley; Interlude VI. Algebras of logic; 14. A decade of honors; 15. The last times.

About the Author

Anita Burdman Feferman is an independent scholar and writer. She is the author of Politics, Logic and Love: The Life of Jean van Heijenoort (published in paperback as From Trotsky to Godel: The Life of Jean van Heijenoort). She knew Alfred Tarski socially for thirty years. Solomon Feferman is on the faculty of Stanford University, where he is professor of mathematics and philosophy. He is a recipient of the Rolf Schock Prize in Logic and Philosophy, a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and has held a Guggenheim fellowship twice. He is the author of In the Light of Logic and the editor-in-chief of the multi-volume Kurt Godel: Collected Works. He was one of Tarski's students at UC Berkeley in the 1950s.


'The Fefermans' biography is an enthralling success story of a self-confident, enterprising, untiring, and entrepreneurial scientist, and a rich and scrupulous account of the numerous achievements accomplished by this powerful logician and his colleagues in philosophy of logic, semantics, set theory, decision procedures, universal algebra, algebraic logic, axiomatic geometry, topology, and model theory.' Hourya Benis Sinaceur, Notices of the AMS 'A chain smoker, a heavy drinker, a frequent user of 'speed', a relentless womaniser, and a man of Napoleonic self-regard and worldly ambition. This is not how one pictures an eminent Professor of Logic. And yet, this is how the great logician, Alfred Tarski, emerges from this marvellous biography. The Fefermans, of course, are uniquely qualified to lead the reader through the intricacies of Tarski's work, which they do very engagingly and with great expository skill. Tarski's colourful personality is conveyed with prose that is economical, superbly readable and extremely vivid, and the whole book is a joy to read.' Ray Monk, author of biographies of Wittgenstein and Russell 'The story of a remarkable Polish mathematician called Alfred Tarski, who fled the Nazi persecution, came to the United States, and single-handedly turned the Mathematics Department of the University of California at Berkeley into the world center for the study of logic. Anita and Sol Feferman's captivating biography pulls no punches, describing his womanizing and his drug use along with his mathematical achievements.' Keith Devlin, Stanford University, author of Goodbye Descartes: The End of Logic and the Search for a New Cosmology of the Mind 'It was a great pleasure to absorb myself in this prodigious work. The heritage of Tarski's Poland is just one of the many themes which the authors develop with sympathy, yet unflinchingly reveal as heavy with conflicts of identity and loyalty. I am amazed at how much they got out of pre-war Poland and at the way they unfold so much of the interior 'logic world' in the course of telling the story. An expert 'interlude' is devoted to explaining the problem of formalising truth, the central spring of Tarski's creative work.' Andrew Hodges, author of Alan Turing: The Enigma 'Here we have a vivid portrait of Alfred Tarski as a man of enormous energy and focus, devoted to logic, women and slivovitz, entirely lacking in self-doubt, and ambivalent about his Jewish heritage. The Fefermans provide a richly textured account of the cultural, intellectual, and political worlds in which Tarski lived -- first in interwar Poland and then in Berkeley, where he built his logic empire. They also draw highly individualized portraits of the many people who figured in Tarski's life and career. The work that made Tarski one of logic's giants is lucidly explained in a series of compact interludes. This is a wonderful book on many levels.' Elliot Sober, Hans Reichenbach Professor of Philosophy, University of Wisconsin, Madison

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