Subsections

8. At Work: 1967-1972

8.1 Philosophy of Life c1968-1970

After leaving Cambridge and taking a job in Computing I found myself living in bedsits, in a strange place, with raging hormones, wondering why I got depressed and what to do about it. This provoked a certain about of thought, of the kind which might be called ``philosophy of life'', or, how to be.

I went through a number (can't remember what number) of ``philosophies'' to which I gave names, and tried each for size before deserting it for the next. The two I remember were the early ``rationalism'' which was an attempt to persuade myself that I should really do whatever it was that I had rationally decided would be best for me, and anarchism which was more of less a capitulation to the fact that I just don't do that. Of course, anarchism is really the name of a political philosophy, but I used it (at least in my head) for a personal philosophy for a long time, and felt that there should be some fit between the personal and the political (the way you treat yourself, the way you treat others, and the way you think the state should treat people ought to fit together).

Anyway, this was the period in my life when I worried about this kind of thing, and then settled into and gradually forgot this thing that I thought of as anarchism, and which amounted to self-trust. Just do what you do.

I did have many subsequent periods of soul searching, even to the point of suicidal depression. But actually, they were mostly provoked by women, or the lack of them, and they didn't result in this same kind of ``philosophical'' thinking. There was one more period of crisis which seems to me similar, and which I hope has just now drawn to a close.

8.2 Russell and Logical Positivism - 1970-71?

Eventually I went back to University and read joint mathematics and philosophy. I did do some philosophical reading before that, and must have thought about this, but I have no recollection of these thoughts. However, many years later I noticed that I had a philosophical position which seemed to be at odds with contemporary philosophers, and eventually concluded that it must have been largely formed by during the philosophical reading which preceded my return to University. Of these the most significant readings I guess were Bertrand Russell, notably his history of Western Philosophy and his Introduction to Mathematical Philosophy, and Ayer's Language Truth and Logic.

8.3 Foundations - 1971-2

I spent five years in the computer industry before returning to University at Keele. Toward the end of this period, I was retrieving papers by Church and Turing and others from via the company library in company time, and had some story about why this was relevant to my work which I don't think my boss (John Dawes) actually believed, though he didn't seriously object. I can't remember what the story was, but it must have been pretty tenuous. I had a think about floating point representation of real numbers, and thought at that time that it was a mistake that the theory of real numbers was not more constructive, blaming that for the use of floating point numbers for reals. This must have come from Turings stuff about computable reals.

Since than I have always had a leaning toward better computational support for computable reals, but have never actually done anything significant about it. These days it seems to me essential for the application of proof technology in building correct software for doing mathematical analysis.

Roger Bishop Jones 2016-01-07