Wrapped in a thin plot, the authors set to reconcile mathematics and religious faith in this short 280-page book. And quite surprisingly, they do a far better job that one would expect.

Seriously, any book that tries to dig this deep philisophically is an immediate suspect for some half-baked crappy ending, but "A Certain Ambiguity" manages to end actually leaving the reader thoughtful. At this, the authors had done a splendid job.

The main character is Ravi, and Indian student in Stanford who enrolls in a math class named "Thinking about infinity". Together with the class's lecturer and a small group of friends, he engages on a quasi-philosophical, guided by court records of his grandfather's discussions with a judge in the early 20s.

The book contains a lot of interesting math, and while most of it is on a basic level, the philosophical connections are well developed and very believable. The book could easily be a work of non-fiction, as its main theme is quite real and deals with epistemological questions real philosophers have struggled with throughout the centuries. It is unlikely to change your view of life, but it will induce some interesting thinking on important topics.

[Spoiler] I was surprised to find out that this book does a good job of explaining faith to people with rational/mathematical view of life. However, it only rationalizes the core faith - judge Taylor's "creation axiom", which really can't be disproven. But, as judge Taylor tells Vijay, his deductive method is solid, and only his axioms are at question. The faith judge Taylor rationalizes as an axiom can not, in any way, connect to the modern monotheistic religions (not to mention the polytheistic ones), because it breaks down immediately as soon as the first deductions are made from it about actual human lives. Yes, that "everything must be created by something" is an axiom that has no refutation at the moment, but any attempt to prove from it that Jesus was born to a virgin and walked on water would have to trascend deductive methods.

All in all, this book is really recommended. It actually made me think hard about the philosophical implications of basic math axioms, and encouraged me to read more on the subject. I couldn't possibly ask more of such a small book that can be easily finished in 2-3 sittings.


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