"I invented a new religion for you last night. God has a number in mind. If the sum total of all good acts minus the sum total of all bad acts exceeds this number then everyone goes to heaven. Otherwise, everyone goes to hell. Imagine then. Something you do could send everyone to hell."
I'm sad to hear of his passing.
> Many of his logic problems are extensions of classic puzzles. Knights and Knaves involves knights (who always tell the truth) and knaves (who always lie). This is based on a story of two doors and two guards, one who lies and one who tells the truth. One door leads to heaven and one to hell, and the puzzle is to find out which door leads to heaven by asking one of the guards a question. One way to do this is to ask "Which door would the other guard say leads to hell?". This idea was famously used in the 1986 film Labyrinth.
According to: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Raymond_Smullyan
Anyways, I loved reading his books as a child.
Wish I've looked into that sooner.
I took that book home and treasured it for the whole summer, pouring over each puzzle, solving each one without peeking at the answers, then comparing my answers to the ones in the back of the book. By the end of the summer I think there were only 1 or 2 I hadn't been able to work out myself. Sure enough, as the first day of 7th grade rolled around, it was in my backpack and promptly returned to the shelf of my math teacher's classroom. Satisfied that I had gotten all I could from "The Lady or the Tiger", I next turned my attention to the Apple IIe he had sitting in the corner and a book entitled "Apple Basic".
The rest, as they say, is history.
One final note...as I continued through school and university, I gradually came to realize that Taoism was the school of philosophy that matched most closely to how I understood the world and is, in some sense, the closest thing I have to a "religion". It wasn't until much later in life (well after I turned 30), that I happened to stumble back across Smullyan and his writings, only to discover that he was also a rather adroit Taoist philosopher. (His "Is God a Taoist?" essay, http://www.mit.edu/people/dpolicar/writing/prose/text/godTao... is highly recommended.)
To this day I wonder if "The Lady or the Tiger" didn't have more of an impact on my early development than simply fostering a love of logic...
"Oh come off it! You're not now talking to your Sunday school teacher, you are talking to me."
Someone once said that it isn't philosophy if it doesn't make you laugh. (If it only makes you laugh, it's not good philosophy.) It may have been Smullyan.
> Smullyan admits the following puzzle might have come in handy had he designed it before meeting his wife.
> "I'll make a statement. If the statement is true, you give me your autograph. It doesn't have to be on a check, it can be on a blank piece of paper. If the statement is false, you don't give me your autograph," Smullyan sets up the puzzle. "Well, my statement is, `You will give me neither your autograph nor a kiss.'
And his puzzles always came with variations, like this (http://blog.tanyakhovanova.com/2010/05/raymond-smullyans-mag...):
> Afterwards, Raymond Smullyan joined me in the elevator. “Do you want to see a magic trick?” he asked. “I bet I can kiss you without touching you.” I was caught off guard. At that moment I believed anything was possible. I agreed to the bet.
> He asked me to close my eyes, kissed me on the cheek and laughed, “I lost.”
And this bit from the preface to The Lady or the Tiger aptly summarizes most people's attitude towards maths:
> Before he called the boy to the phone, the
father said to me in soft conspiratorial tones: "He is reading
your book and loves it! But when you speak to him, don't let
him know that what he is doing is math, because he hates
math! If he had any idea that this is really math, he would
stop reading the book immediately!"
If I asked CNN whether Fox News would answer "da" if asked whether Smullyan is dead, would they answer "ja"?
I just picked up A Spiritual Journey and Set Theory And The Continuum Problem several weeks back. Both of these books feel like they are personal, and direct mathematical and spiritual conversations that are directed towards an audience very much like myself. I told my dad (a practicing amateur number theorist) a few weeks back that the set theory book in particular made me feel like I'd found a mathematical topic (foundations of logic) that really spoke to me and even the first few chapters had clarified some confusion within the area that I'd been carrying for years.
This feels much like I felt a few weeks ago when I found myself regretting that I'd never sent Obama a letter during his presidency and would never get the chance again.
Godspeed Professor Smullyan and thank you for everything you shared with us along the journey!
PS thank you to everyone in this thread who has shared their connection to this wonderful man, it's really heartening to find some community amidst this loss.
As one door closes, another opens. You have the chance to send Trump a letter.
Anyway, Smullyan's book is a real treat. In the later chapters he even goes beyond Gödel. I've never completely figured out how much of that is Smullyan and how much is other published research.
In item #249 of my book of logic puzzles titled What Is the Name of This Book?, I describe an infallible method of proving anything whatsoever. Only a magician is capable of employing the method, however. I once used it on [noted philosopher] Rudolph Carnap to prove the existence of God.
"Here you see a red card," I said to Professor Carnap as I removed a card from the deck. "I place it face down in your palm. Now you know that a false proposition implies any proposition. Therefore, if this card were black, then God would exist. Do you agree?"
"Oh, certainly," replied Carnap, "if the card were black, then God would exist."
"Very good," I said as I turned over the card. "As you see, the card is black. Therefore, God exists!"
"Ah yes!" replied Carnap in a philosophical tone. "Proof by legerdemain! Same as the theologians use!"
Folks also might enjoy The Magic Garden of George B. (And of course, all of Smullyan’s other books.)
But, he added, the impact of his apparent lenience was that many of his students worked harder in his course than in any other.
Would love to see more studies around this methodology and its impact on students. Not only an incredible professor, but an innovative teacher. Rest in peace!
This dialogue is absolutely marvellous: http://www.mit.edu/people/dpolicar/writing/prose/text/godTao...
Some are so amazingly difficult that it's hard to understand how someone could be that smart.
Couple that with what everyone I've ever heard say about him, the person... that he was a wonderful, caring generous man.
Wow. Sad to hear about his passing. He set the initial path for much of my subsequent interests.
If Hofstadter hadn't changed my life forever, maybe Smullyan would have.
Pope Francis has also made a big point of not judging others and trying to shift Catholicism back to its roots of faith and charity rather than being hypocritical morality enforcers. Not clear he will succeed long run, but there is a recognition in big places that doctrinal Christianity has lost its way.
How are faith & charity different from any other moral issue? Why do you (apparently) think encouraging faith & charity is okay, but (apparently) not humility, chastity, temperance, prudence &c.?