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The Quest for the Foundations of Mathematics Or How to Push New Ideas

Recently, I read a new comic book entitled, Logicomix by Apostolos Doxiadis and Christos Papadimitriou, that shines light on the world of philosophy, mathematics, and….organizational leadership. Logicomix is first and foremost a story about the search for the foundations of mathematics. While the book takes a studied look at many mathematicians and logicians it focuses on the life of Bertrand Russell. The drama of the story stems from the seemingly inevitable madness of 20th century logicians. Russell himself stood on the edge of madness as he worked tirelessly to ground mathematics in logic.

Logicomix excels in observing the stress and the madness mathematicians face when they play with macro-concepts, astronomical contradictions, and diverging theories. Their world is one where new ideas need to be methodically established and presented in the harshest critical light. Strung throughout the discussion of mathematics Logicmix also defines and presents the philosophical problems of the 20th century. Indeed, European philosophical thought, leaning towards idealism in the middle of two World Wars, drove Russell, his pupil Wittgenstein, and many others towards the fervent search for the foundations of mathematics.

In the final analysis, philosophy and organizational leadership are rooted in the world of rhetoric, the world of debate, and the world of dialogue. The rhetoric of philosophy—or better still, the rhetoric among philosophers, is a remarkable source that can enhance one’s leadership capacity for pushing new ideas forward.

One of the challenges that leaders face is how to push ahead on new ideas. Thomas Kuhn reminds us how often paradigms trap our thinking and create blinders. The sheer struggle to take off the blinders and move ahead may be an exhausting lifetime journey. The world of philosophy is a world in which dialogue and progression seems to be a running stream, but even in this world, which we would think to be the epitome of expansive discussion—there is a struggle for new ideas. Logicomix not only states this clearly, but it illustrates this point deftly.

This video is part 1 of 3. I recommend you watch them all to observe the comic’s unique origins!



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