Talk:Alfred Tarski

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Formatting and detail[edit]


I just added (Nov. 02/03) a fair bit of text to this article. I've never contributed to Wikipedia before, so I defintely didn't adhere to standards of formatting, and my have gone beyond the level of detail being aimed at.

I'd be very happy is someone wanted to clean up the formatting on my contribution. (And, as the history of this page will show, sloppy spelling errors, too!)

Best to all,

Brian van den Broek

After a quick skim, the level of detail looks fine. It is more detailed than many wikipedia articles, but we need more detailed articles. As you say, it does need some editorial work, which I'll try to get to soon. Also, the article could use some conventional biographical info. (education, academic career, etc.). Loren Rosen

Special characters[edit]

O just added some bio details and a reference to Tarski 2002. In both cases, I need characters I don't know how to produce. "Lukasiewicz" should have a forward slasj (approx. "/") trhough the "L", "Lesniewski" should have an accent aigu (sp?) on the first "s", "Kotarbinski" an accent aigu on the "n" as should "Stroinska". Anybody know how to get these? If you change it yourself, would you mind putting an indication of how here or on my user page, so that I will know for next time? Thanks, vanden 01:09, 5 Nov 2003 (UTC)

Try Ł š ň which gives Ł š ň. See Table of Unicode characters, 128 to 999. But see also Unicode and HTML. These may not render properly on older browsers.


There's a new biography of Tarski out and it looks pretty interesting. Maybe someone who's read it can update the wp article, or at least add a reference. I may pick it up soon. After the success of A Beautiful Mind maybe we're in for a spate of lurid math biographies.

The biography is Feferman and Feferman 2004, already cited in the references and now mentioned in the article. I have a copy now and will try to add some biographical material to the wp article if nobody else does it first.
I too own a copy of F&F 2004. It reveals that Tarski indeed had a far more interesting life than John Nash. It is also lurid; Tarski was a classic case of the Richard Wagner syndrome: "I am a genius and geniuses are exempt from the usual moral rules." An unusual proportion of Tarski's Ph.D. students were women, but his respect for their ability to do math was seldom the sole explanation. 23:38, 10 March 2006 (UTC)

On the use and over-use of sources[edit]

  • JA: Encyclopedia statements need to be sourced. For example, we all have our favorite writers, and Tarski is certainly one of mine, but an encyclopedia begins to sound rather silly when a large %-age of its biographical articles start out saying "X is considered the greatest Y of era Z". If one can quote a source that says that, fine, that takes us off the hook of originating opinions, otherwise it's best to leave it out. Jon Awbrey 17:30, 9 March 2006 (UTC)
  • JA: On the other side of the ledger, copying or paraphasing large sections of a single published biography is a Big NO-NO, and it's incumbent on encyclopedia editors to use multiple sources and to attribute selected individual statements appropriately. Jon Awbrey 17:30, 9 March 2006 (UTC)
Tu quoque.

Some suggestions[edit]

Much of the material in section (4)-(6) is a review of recent polemics in the philosophy literature, about which the jury is still out; hence Wikipedia is not the right place for such material. Moreover, it's not that well written. It should be replaced with a careful concise exposition of the content of Tarski's best known papers. Tarski's theory of truth, by the way, deserves its own entry.

Smullyan has convinced me that much of the hoopla attending the results of Godel (1931) should instead be accorded to Tarski's Indefinability Theorem (TIT). TIT is not tied to Peano arithmetic, and for that reason its philosophical value is more evident. Moreover, TIT is much easier to prove than Godel's results (although Smullyan has shown that these too are not as hard to prove as people think). Proving TIT requires a bare minimum of syntactic machinery, plus the trick called diagonalisation. I invite someone versed in metamathematics to add a paragraph to this entry fleshing out what I say here.

I've done what I could with Tarski the mathematician and logician, and invite others to do more. But anyone doing so had better have done graduate work in the area, and have a copy of Feferman and Feferman at her side! BTW, Tarski's students Steve Givant and Roger Maddux are good expositors of Tarskian mathematics. 00:21, 11 March 2006 (UTC)

  • JA: Re:

Along with Aristotle, Frege, and Kurt Godel, Tarski is one of the four greatest logicians of all time (Vaught 1986).

  • JA: I think that a direct quotation and a page reference would be called for here. Also a mention of the following form: "R.L. Vaught, one of Tarski's students, wrote ..." Jon Awbrey 00:52, 11 March 2006 (UTC)
  • WW: In the 3rd paragraph of section Mathematician, the statement that "Alonzo Church proved in 1936 that Peano arithmetic ... is not decidable" is very likely wrong. Note that the undecidability of PA is already a direct implication of Godel's incompleteness theorem, as PA itself is a recursive (computable) axiomatic system. Alonzo Church actually proved that first-order logic in general is undecidable, by observing that Godel's proof depends only on a finite segment of PA. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 12:22, 31 July 2008 (UTC)
  • AT: Seconding WW. The sentence about Church is misleading. Aetilley (talk) 06:29, 10 May 2015 (UTC)

Year of birth?[edit]

On some places year of birth is 1901, but on some places is 1902. What is true year? Date is January 14, but for year of birth I am not sure. Can anyone help about that? --Djordjes (talk) 08:12, 5 June 2006 (UTC)

Feferman & Feferman p. 5 says 1901, with an endnote specifically stating "In some biographical articles, Tarski's birthdate has been given incorrectly as 14 January 1902". (talk) 08:04, 24 January 2008 (UTC)
This is very strange. Such a discrepancy could almost be explained by the fact that in 1900/1901 Russia (and therefore Warsaw???) still had the Julian calendar. But from Julian calendar#From Julian to Gregorian it looks as if the difference at the time was only 13 days! Another explanation could be the boring "first day of the century" debate. --Hans Adler (talk) 15:25, 24 January 2008 (UTC)
Probably just a transcription error someone made somewhere along the way. A little weirder, the German title of the Warheitsbegriff paper mismatched the bibliography entry in F&F. The version that I just changed in the article appeared to be a direct translation of the Polish title (the concept of truth in the language of deductive disciplines; instead of ... in formalized languages). F&F's citation is Studia Philosophica 1, pp. 261-405. Was there a different German translation in 1936? (talk) 10:26, 29 January 2008 (UTC)

Slowly switching the references[edit]

I will slowly, as time permits, switch to the more standard (at least on Wikipedia) system of footnotes for references. The current parenthetical referencing is not ideal in such a long article because readers have no easy way to go back and forth between the text and bibliography. Anyone who feels like helping out is more than welcome to do so. I suspect that, along the way, I'll make the article messier but once it's done, it should be an improvement. I'm trying to implement the system used, say, in the recently featured Albert Speer article. Pichpich (talk) 03:52, 20 December 2008 (UTC)

conflicting ANB citations[edit]

The article cites an American National Biography series (vol. 21) piece about Tarski, attributed to Anita B. Feferman, but elsewhere there's a cite attributing authorship jointly Anita B. Feferman and Solomon Feferman. If someone here has access to the volume, can they check the authorship of that article? There is a separate, book-length 2004 biography of Tarski that was co-authored by both Fefermans, so that may have caused confusion. Thanks. (talk) 05:05, 18 March 2010 (UTC)

I checked at the library. The ANB article is credited to Anita Burdman Feferman. (talk) 01:17, 29 March 2010 (UTC)


Today the article by JT Smith in American Mathematical Monthly this year has been added to the Logic bibliography. Smith's article shares his research on Mario Pieri. Apparently Pieri's Point and Sphere memoir was translated into Polish and formed the substance of Tarski's geometry course at University of Warsaw 1926/7, contrary to the "original course" asserted in the text of our article at the moment. I note that there are 66 watchers on this important biography, so caution with the rewrites is in order. I expect that now the reference is posted, one of the usual attendants at this site will make adjustments. Smith notes that Tarski served as examiner at Smith's thesis defense, and at that time Tarski mentioned Pieri. It seems remarkable that such an important source in Tarski's career should appear only now through Smith's penetrating investigation.Rgdboer (talk) 23:43, 24 August 2010 (UTC)

Another source is Steven Givant (1999) in Mathematical Intelligencer. Further note that the article Tarski's axioms seems to be the place to discuss Pieri's role in the evolution of Tarski's system, which in fact is original with him.Rgdboer (talk) 03:33, 10 September 2010 (UTC)

What are logical notions: are individuals in or out?[edit]

There is an ambiguity in the statement: "No individuals" in the list of logical notions. If individuals are NOT among the accepted logical notions, then they should NOT be in this list. Rather, they should be noted below the list as explicitly excluded, as the intro to the list leads the reader to assume that everything listed IS a logical notion. Alternatively, the intro to the list needs to be rewritten. Ross Fraser (talk) 08:45, 20 April 2011 (UTC)

Category:Tarski lecturers[edit]

There's an unexplained category Category:Tarski lecturers. Can someone knowledgeable please add a small section to this article, then add a {{main}} template to the category so as to explain it. Thanks. Andy Dingley (talk) 10:54, 14 March 2014 (UTC)