Russell was attempting to find a basic set of axioms that would provide the basis for all mathematics. This was the culmination of a quest that was a major focus of mathematics throughout the 19th century. The quest was unsuccessful and Godel proved that it was impossible. So, at least with respect the Russell and mathematics, it is turtles all the way down.
One of the fears of physicists is that there may be no single unified theory. The basic constants may turn out to be arbitrary. So for physics as well, it may be turtles all the way down.
The little old lady may have been on to something.
----- Original Message ----
From: Carrol Cox <[log in to unmask]>
To: [log in to unmask]
Sent: Wed, January 13, 2010 10:36:27 PM
Subject: Re: Eliot's poetry: the medium & the message
Diana Manister wrote:
> Dear Jonathan,
> Wasn't it Joseph Campbell who used to tell that cosmological story
> about "it's turtles all the way down"?
It has multiple soures. Some of them must be made up.
The one I heard is that Bertrand Russel was giving a public lexture. In
the question period a 'little old lady' (it is always little old ladies
in these legends) said that the truth was the universe rested on the
back of a gian turtle. Russel then asked her what the turtle rested on.
Her reply, "You can't fool me young man, It's turtles all the way down."
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