Author Interview  

John Allen Paulos

About John Allen Paulos

An Interview with John Allen Paulos

More About John Allen Paulos

John Allen Paulos is Professor of Mathematics and Presidential Scholar at Temple University in Philadelphia. In addition to Innumeracy, he is the author of Beyond Numeracy: Ruminations of a Number Man, A Mathematician Reads the Newspaper and Once Upon a Number, all of which are published by Penguin. He has also published many scholarly papers on logic, probability and the philosophy of science. Paulos has appeared on many television and radio shows, frequently contributes articles to publications such as Nature, The Nation, Newsweek and the New York Times and is a monthly columnist for His Discover magazine article, 'Dyscalculia', won the 1994 Folio Ovation award.

What is the meaning of life, and can philosophy help you to find it?
People find meaning in life. People have purposes and goals. I'm not sure what it means to say that Life Itself has meaning, purpose or goal.

Do you agree with Socrates that the wise man is the man who admits he knows nothing?
It's certainly wise to acknowledge that one often doesn't know much. In the recent Presidential debates, I was reminded that candidates seldom say anything remotely like, "I don't really know" or "I'm not at all certain." Surely, this sort of admission is the correct response to many of the questions put to them that its non-utterance is something of an intellectual scandal. On the other hand, I don't think it's true that we know absolutely nothing, and thus it's not wise to claim such complete ignorance.

Have you ever heard a tree fall in the middle of a forest?
I did on the second Tuesday of last week.

A priori or A posteriori?
As a mathematician, I'd have to say both, of course.

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