Monday, April 13, 2009

The Truth of the Enlightenment

"Oskar Morgenstern, who along with Albert Einstein was to serve as one of his two witnesses at the proceedings, reports that Godel had taken the injunction to study the American system of government for the naturalization exam quite seriously, so much that he confided in Morgenstern that, to his distress, he had discovered an inconsistency in the American Constitution. Morgenstern, fearful that this would jeopardize the swearing-in ceremony, conspired with Einstein on the drive to the courthouse to distract Godel's attention. Of course, the judge scheduled to administer the oath was acquainted with Einstein, and so Godel was accorded special treatment when the appointed time arrived. The judge ushered them all into his chambers, began chatting with Einstein and Morgenstern, and as part of the process of making polite conversation, queried Godel: "Do you think a dictatorship like that in Germany could ever arise in the United States?" Godel, with all the tenacity of a logician, the fervor of a firsthand witness of Hitler's Anschluss, and the rationality of a paranoid, became animated, and launched into an elaborate disquisition on how the Constitution might indeed allow such a thing to happen, due to a subtle logical inconsistency. The judge, wiser in the ways of man, quickly realized that something had gone awry, and thus quashed Godel's explanation with an assurance that he needn't go into the problem, and proceeded to administer the citizenship oath" (308).

--from Philip Mirowski's wonderful Machine Dreams: Economics Becomes a Cyborg Science

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