Penelope Maddy. Realism in Mathematics. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 2003, p. 126. ISBN 0-19-824035-X

The possibility remained that the axioms of ZFC would be enough to establish the continuum hypothesis as true, but Gödel for one did not expect this.

What does "for one" mean in this context? The meaning of the sentence would be perfectly clear to me if "for one" were omitted. How do these words modify or amend its meaning?

  • 1
    This question can be answered with a dictionary lookup. onelook.com/?w=for%20one&ls=a
    – jimsug
    Commented Jun 1, 2014 at 1:05
  • @jimsug Dictionaries give many possible meanings: "as the first of several possible instances", "as a particular one of several possibilities", "used to stress that the person named holds the specified view, even if no one else does", "used to say that you think your opinion or action is right, even if others do not". Commented Jun 1, 2014 at 1:39
  • A related question: english.stackexchange.com/questions/140872/use-of-i-for-one Commented Jun 1, 2014 at 1:42
  • That question was closed as off-topic for this reason, though.
    – jimsug
    Commented Jun 1, 2014 at 1:43
  • 2
    If you have used a dictionary and still don't know the answer, you need to clearly state in the question the definition you found and the problems you had with it - otherwise your question will just get closed as off-topic. Commented Jun 1, 2014 at 16:43

2 Answers 2


For one ordinarily modifies the preceding NP. In practice it has much the same meaning as at least: that the NP is one entity occupying the particular syntactic/semantic role which the sentences assigns, and there may be other entities occupying that role.

I, for one, dislike the RNR construction. ... I dislike that construction, and there may be others who also dislike it.
I dislike the RNR construction, for one. ... I dislike that construction, and I may dislike others as well.

The phrase is always ‘parenthetical’: it’s really a shorthand way of qualifying your implication without making a big deal of explaining the qualification. In your sentence, for instance, the author is just making sure that we do not understand his particular notice of Gödel's response to this possibility as an indication that Gödel was the only mathematician who did not expect this result.

  • So, it's more like "Gödel did not expect this, but probably there were other set theorists who shared his view" rather than "Gödel did not expect this, although hardly there was anybody else supporting him", right? Commented Jun 1, 2014 at 18:15
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    @VladimirReshetnikov Exactly so. Commented Jun 2, 2014 at 0:07

The way I understand and use "for one," it has two interpretations, which are closely related:

because nobody else is saying anything or speaking up.... For example: A man is incessantly spanking a child in public and you and your friends stop and watch. Nobody says anything, so you say: "I, for one, think this is outrageous! I'm going to call the police."

as an example of one person (who did or didn't do something) despite what everyone else says or does... Example: "I struggled to raise my child on my own with no financial assistance from anyone. Even my own family told me to give her up for adoption so she could have a better life, but my mother, for one, never gave up on me and always knew that we would make it."

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