Axiomathes 20 (2-3):153-207 (2010)

Matthias Schirn
Ludwig Maximilians Universität, München
This essay consists of two parts. In the first part, I focus my attention on the remarks that Frege makes on consistency when he sets about criticizing the method of creating new numbers through definition or abstraction. This gives me the opportunity to comment also a little on H. Hankel, J. Thomae—Frege’s main targets when he comes to criticize “formal theories of arithmetic” in Die Grundlagen der Arithmetik (1884) and the second volume of Grundgesetze der Arithmetik (1903)—G. Cantor, L. E. J. Brouwer and D. Hilbert (1899). Part 2 is mainly devoted to Hilbert’s proof theory of the 1920s (1922–1931). I begin with an account of his early attempt to prove directly, and thus not by reduction or by constructing a model, the consistency of (a fragment of) arithmetic. In subsequent sections, I give a kind of overview of Hilbert’s metamathematics of the 1920s and try to shed light on a number of difficulties to which it gives rise. One serious difficulty that I discuss is the fact, widely ignored in the pertinent literature on Hilbert’s programme, that his language of finitist metamathematics fails to supply the conceptual resources for formulating a consistency statement qua unbounded quantification. Along the way, I shall comment on W. W. Tait’s objection to an interpretation of Hilbert’s finitism by Niebergall and Schirn, on G. Gentzen’s allegedly finitist consistency proof for Peano Arithmetic as well as his ideas on the provability and unprovability of initial cases of transfinite induction in pure number theory. Another topic I deal with is what has come to be known as partial realizations of Hilbert’s programme, chiefly advocated by S. G. Simpson. Towards the end of this essay, I take a critical look at Wittgenstein’s views about (in)consistency and consistency proofs in the period 1929–1933. I argue that both his insouciant attitude towards the emergence of a contradiction in a calculus and his outright repudiation of metamathematical consistency proofs are unwarranted. In particular, I argue that Wittgenstein falls short of making a convincing case against Hilbert’s programme. I conclude with some philosophical remarks on consistency proofs and soundness and raise a question concerning the consistency of analysis.
Keywords Compactness theorem  Completeness theorem  Relative/direct/approximative consistency proof  Consistency statement  Creation by definition  Finitist point of view  Game formalism  Metamathematics  Model  Soundness  Transfinite induction
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DOI 10.1007/s10516-010-9110-3
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Frege in Perspective.Joan Weiner - 2018 - Cornell University Press.

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Frege’s Philosophy of Geometry.Matthias Schirn - 2019 - Synthese 196 (3):929-971.

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