Philosophical aspects of logic and set theory; truth status of mathematical axioms; Philosophy of Mathematics; philosophical aspects of mathematics in general; relation of mathematics to philosophy; etc. Consider also posting at http://philosophy.stackexchange.com/, where philosophy-of-mathematics ...

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55
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2answers
16k views

Is the analysis as taught in universities in fact the analysis of definable numbers?

Ten years ago when I studied in the university I had no idea about definable numbers, but I came to this concept myself. My thoughts were as follows: All numbers are divided into two classes: those ...
37
votes
7answers
7k views

Arguments against large cardinals

I started to learn about large cardinals a while ago, and I read that the existence, and even the consistency of the existence of an inaccessible cardinal, i.e. a limit cardinal which is additionally ...
29
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7answers
3k views

Can a problem be simultaneously polynomial time and undecidable?

The Robertson-Seymour theorem on graph minors leads to some interesting conundrums. The theorem states that any minor-closed class of graphs can be described by a finite number of excluded minors. As ...
10
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5answers
2k views

Interesting meta-meta-mathematical theorems?

The Goedel incompleteness theorems can be considered meta-mathematical theorems, as they are "written" in a meta-theory and "talk" about properties of a class of formal theories. The following may be ...
42
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15answers
6k views

Abstract Thought vs Calculation

Jeremy Avigad and Erich Reck in their remarkable historical paper "Clarifying the nature of the infinite: the development of metamathematics and proof theory" claim that one of the factors of becoming ...
59
votes
4answers
8k views

Nelson's program to show inconsistency of ZF

At the end of the paper Division by three by Peter G. Doyle and John H. Conway, the authors say: Not that we believe there really are any such things as infinite sets, or that the Zermelo-Fraenkel ...
12
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10answers
4k views

Is PA consistent? do we know it?

1) (By Goedel's) One can not prove, in PA, a formula that can be interpreted to express the consistency of PA. (Hopefully I said it right. Specialists correct me, please). 2) There are proofs (...
15
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2answers
3k views

Question arising from Voevodsky's talk on inconsistency

This question arises from the talk by Voevodsky mentioned in this recent MO question. On one of his slides, Voevodsky says that a general formula even with one free variable describes a subset of ...
15
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2answers
2k views

Clarification of Gödel's second incompleteness theorem

I am sorry for the following question, because the actual answer to this question is in the beautiful works of Feferman and Jeroslow, but, unfortunately, I havn't any time to go into that specific ...
78
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16answers
20k views

What if Current Foundations of Mathematics are Inconsistent? [closed]

The title of the question is also the title of a talk by Vladimir Voevodsky, available here. Had this kind of opinion been expressed before? EDIT. Thanks to all answerers, commentators, voters, ...
63
votes
39answers
12k views

nontrivial theorems with trivial proofs

A while back I saw posted on someone's office door a statement attributed to some famous person, saying that it is an instance of the callousness of youth to think that a theorem is trivial because ...
55
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13answers
12k views

Logic in mathematics and philosophy

What are the relations between logic as an area of (modern) philosophy and mathematical logic. The world "modern" refers to 20th century and later, and I am curious mainly about the second half of ...
79
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23answers
13k views

Has philosophy ever clarified mathematics?

I've recently been reading some standard textbooks on the philosophy of mathematics, and I've become quite frustrated that (surely due to my own limitations) I don't seem to be gleaning any ...
67
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18answers
9k views

Can a mathematical definition be wrong?

This question originates from a bit of history. In the first paper on quantum Turing machines, the authors left a key uniformity condition out of their definition. Three mathematicians subsequently ...
46
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9answers
5k views

How do they verify a verifier of formalized proofs?

In an unrelated thread Sam Nead intrigued me by mentioning a formalized proof of the Jordan curve theorem. I then found that there are at least two, made on two different systems. This is quite an ...
19
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18answers
8k views

What are some applications of other fields to mathematics?

It is commonplace to consider applications of mathematics to other fields, especially the exact sciences. But what I would like to know about is the converse topic, namely: What are some ...
13
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5answers
2k views

What is the “reason” for modularity results?

The question is a little wishy-washy, but I take my cues from other popular questions that relate to the philosophy behind the mathematics as Why do Groups and Abelian Groups feel so different? . I ...
18
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7answers
1k views

Extensional theorems mostly used intensionally

Some theorems are stated and proved extensionally, but in practice are almost always used intensionally. Let me give an example to make this clear -- integration by parts: $$ \int_a^b f(x)g'(x)ds = \...
15
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1answer
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Martin's “Philosophical Issues about the Hierarchy of Sets”

Some months ago (October 2010), in the context of the Workshop on Set Theory and the Philosophy of Mathematics, Professor Donald A. Martin gave a talk entitled "Philosophical issues about the ...
28
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7answers
2k views

Why should we believe in the axiom of regularity?

Today I started reading Maddy's Believing the axioms. As I knew beforehand, it includes some discussion of ZFC axioms. However, I really hoped for a more extensive discussion of axiom of foundation/...
23
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4answers
2k views

In what ways did Leibniz's philosophy foresee modern mathematics?

Leibniz was a noted polymath who was deeply interested in philosophy as well as mathematics, among other things. From my mathematical readings I have the impression that Leibniz's stature as a ...
7
votes
3answers
2k views

randomness in nature [closed]

What is the explanation of the apparent randomness of high-level phenomena in nature? For example the distribution of females vs. males in a population (I am referring to randomness in terms of the ...
6
votes
5answers
2k views

A meta-mathematical question related to Hilbert tenth problem

I am reading Bjorn Poonen's very nice survey on Hilbert's Tenth problem (http://www-math.mit.edu/~poonen/papers/uniform.pdf), and while I believe I understand the mathematics well, I have widespread ...
6
votes
2answers
1k views

Meta$^{n{-}th}$ mathematics [duplicate]

Metamathematics has a reasonably clear connotation, enough to have a Wikipedia page, with Gödel, Tarski, and Turing playing leading roles; Kleene's book (Introduction to Metamathematics (Amazon link));...
8
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8answers
3k views

ULTRAINFINITISM, or a step beyond the transfinite

Cantor has, in the immortal words of D. Hilbert, given all of us a paradise (or perhaps, I would rather say, a great vacation spot), the TRANSFINITE. $\aleph_0, \aleph_1,\aleph_2\dots$ the lists ...
10
votes
6answers
2k views

Defining variable, symbol, indeterminate and parameter

Are there precise definitions for what a variable, a symbol, a name, an indeterminate, a meta-variable, and a parameter are? In informal mathematics, they are used in a variety of ways, and often in ...
8
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2answers
772 views

Is platonism regarding arithmetic consistent with the multiverse view in set theory?

A "truth" platonist for arithmetic believes, given a statement in the language of arithmetic, that the problem whether the statement is true has a definite answer. Prof. Hamkins has argued for a ...
9
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3answers
2k views

Use of Conjectures to Prove a Theorem

Name a theorem T that has a proof based upon the truth of a conjecture C, and also has another proof based upon the falsehood of the same conjecture C, but for longtime has no known direct proof that ...
6
votes
2answers
604 views

Can we define an “empirically generic” real number?

Summary: My question, in a nutshell, is how we should intuitively imagine a generic real number (as opposed to a random one), and whether we can construct numbers which empirically behave like generic ...
2
votes
0answers
248 views

Interpretation of Shannon Entropy Application

Consider a collection of increasing positive integers $\{a_i\}_{i=1}^m$ and the distribution $p_i=\frac{a_i}{\sum_{i=1}^ma_i}$. Let entropy of $\mathcal{A}=\{a_i\}_{i=1}^m$ be given by $$H(\mathcal{A}...