Traditional geometry concerns itself with planimetric and stereometric considerations, which are at the root of the division between plane and solid geometry. To raise the issue of the relation between these two areas brings with it a host of different problems that pertain to mathematical practice, epistemology, semantics, ontology, methodology, and logic. In addition, issues of psychology and pedagogy are also important here. To our knowledge there is no single contribution that studies in detail even one of the aforementioned areas.
Throughout history, mathematicians have expressed preference for solutions to problems that avoid introducing concepts that are in one sense or another “foreign” or “alien” to the problem under investigation. This preference for “purity” (which German writers commonly referred to as “methoden Reinheit”) has taken various forms. It has also been persistent. This notwithstanding, it has not been analyzed at even a basic philosophical level. In this paper we give a basic analysis of one conception of purity—what we call topical purity—and (...) discuss its epistemological significance. (shrink)
Roughly, a proof of a theorem, is “pure” if it draws only on what is “close” or “intrinsic” to that theorem. Mathematicians employ a variety of terms to identify pure proofs, saying that a pure proof is one that avoids what is “extrinsic,” “extraneous,” “distant,” “remote,” “alien,” or “foreign” to the problem or theorem under investigation. In the background of these attributions is the view that there is a distance measure (or a variety of such measures) between mathematical statements and (...) proofs. Mathematicians have paid little attention to specifying such distance measures precisely because in practice certain methods of proof have seemed self- evidently impure by design: think for instance of analytic geometry and analytic number theory. By contrast, mathematicians have paid considerable attention to whether such impurities are a good thing or to be avoided, and some have claimed that they are valuable because generally impure proofs are simpler than pure proofs. This article is an investigation of this claim, formulated more precisely by proof- theoretic means. After assembling evidence from proof theory that may be thought to support this claim, we will argue that on the contrary this evidence does not support the claim. (shrink)
Many mathematicians have cited depth as an important value in their research. However, there is no single widely accepted account of mathematical depth. This article is an attempt to bridge this gap. The strategy is to begin with a discussion of Szemerédi's theorem, which says that each subset of the natural numbers that is sufficiently dense contains an arithmetical progression of arbitrary length. This theorem has been judged deep by many mathematicians, and so makes for a good case on which (...) to focus in analyzing mathematical depth. After introducing the theorem, four accounts of mathematical depth will be considered. (shrink)
In his 1978 paper “Mathematical Explanation”, Mark Steiner attempts to modernize the Aristotelian idea that to explain a mathematical statement is to deduce it from the essence of entities figuring in the statement, by replacing talk of essences with talk of “characterizing properties”. The language Steiner uses is reminiscent of language used for proofs deemed “pure”, such as Selberg and Erdős’ elementary proofs of the prime number theorem avoiding the complex analysis of earlier proofs. Hilbert characterized pure proofs as those (...) that use only “means that are suggested by the content of the theorem”, a characterization we have elsewhere called “topical purity”. In this paper we will examine the connection between Steiner’s account of mathematical explanation and topical purity. Are Steiner-explanatory proofs necessarily topically pure? Are topically pure proofs necessarily Steiner-explanatory? Answers to these questions will shed light on the general question of the relation between purity and explanatory power. (shrink)
Many mathematicians have sought ‘pure’ proofs of theorems. There are different takes on what a ‘pure’ proof is, though, and it’s important to be clear on their differences, because they can easily be conflated. In this paper I want to distinguish between two of them.
Many mathematicians and philosophers of mathematics believe some proofs contain elements extraneous to what is being proved. In this paper I discuss extraneousness generally, and then consider a specific proposal for measuring extraneousness syntactically. This specific proposal uses Gentzen's cut-elimination theorem. I argue that the proposal fails, and that we should be skeptical about the usefulness of syntactic extraneousness measures.
Gaisi Takeuti (1926–2017) is one of the most distinguished logicians in proof theory after Hilbert and Gentzen. He extensively extended Hilbert's program in the sense that he formulated Gentzen's sequent calculus, conjectured that cut-elimination holds for it (Takeuti's conjecture), and obtained several stunning results in the 1950–60s towards the solution of his conjecture. Though he has been known chiefly as a great mathematician, he wrote many papers in English and Japanese where he expressed his philosophical thoughts. In particular, he used (...) several keywords such as "active intuition" and "self-reflection" from Nishida's philosophy. In this paper, we aim to describe a general outline of our project to investigate Takeuti's philosophy of mathematics. In particular, after reviewing Takeuti's proof-theoretic results briefly, we describe some key elements in Takeuti's texts. By explaining these texts, we point out the connection between Takeuti's proof theory and Nishida's philosophy and explain the future goals of our project. (shrink)
Over the years many mathematicians have voiced a preference for proofs that stay “close” to the statements being proved, avoiding “foreign”, “extraneous”, or “remote” considerations. Such proofs have come to be known as “pure”. Purity issues have arisen repeatedly in the practice of arithmetic; a famous instance is the question of complex-analytic considerations in the proof of the prime number theorem. This article surveys several such issues, and discusses ways in which logical considerations shed light on these issues.
This paper aims to bring together the study of normative judgments in mathematics as studied by the philosophy of mathematics and verbal hygiene as studied by sociolinguistics. Verbal hygiene (Cameron 1995) refers to the set of normative ideas that language users have about which linguistic practices should be preferred, and the ways in which they go about encouraging or forcing others to adopt their preference. We introduce the notion of mathematical hygiene, which we define in a parallel way as the (...) set of normative discourses regulating mathematical practices and the ways in which mathematicians promote those practices. To clarify our proposal, we present two case studies from 17th century France. First, we exemplify a case of mathematical hygiene proper: Descartes' algebraic geometry and Newton's subsequent criticism of it, a case of (im)purity in mathematics. Then, we compare Descartes' and Newton's mathematical hygiene with verbal hygiene from this period, as exemplified by the work of the grammarian Claude Favre de Vaugelas (Ayres-Bennett 1987). We argue that these early modern normative discourses on mathematics and language respectively can be seen as emanating from a common socio-political program: the development of a new bourgeois intellectual class. We conclude that the study of mathematical hygiene has the potential to yield new understandings of the social aspects of mathematical practice, and that similarities between mathematical and verbal hygiene at certain time periods, such as 17th century France, open up a new area of inquiry at the borders of linguistics and the philosophy of mathematics. (shrink)
Gaisi Takeuti extended Gentzen's work to higher-order case in 1950's–1960's and proved the consistency of impredicative subsystems of analysis. He has been chiefly known as a successor of Hilbert's school, but we pointed out in the previous paper that Takeuti's aimed to investigate the relationships between "minds" by carrying out his proof-theoretic project rather than proving the "reliability" of such impredicative subsystems of analysis. Moreover, as briefly explained there, his philosophical ideas can be traced back to Nishida's philosophy in Kyoto's (...) school. For the proving the consistency of such systems, it is crucial to prove the well-foundedness of ordinals called "ordinal diagrams" developed for it. Takeuti presented such arguments several times in order to show that they are admitted in his stand point. As a starting point of investigating his finitist stand point, we formulate the system of ordinal notations up to ε0 and reconstruct the well-foundedness arguments of them. (shrink)
In this paper we consider three potential simplifications to a result of Solovay’s concerning the Turing degrees of nonstandard models of arbitrary completions of first-order Peano Arithmetic (PA). Solovay characterized the degrees of nonstandard models of completions T of PA, showing that they are the degrees of sets X such that there is an enumeration R ≤T X of an “appropriate” Scott set and there is a family of functions (tn)n∈ω, ∆0 n(X) uniformly in n, such that lim tn(s) s→∞.
An account of mathematical understanding should account for the differences between theorems whose proofs are “easy” to discover, and those whose proofs are difficult to discover. Though Hilbert seems to have created proof theory with the idea that it would address this kind of “discovermental complexity”, much more attention has been paid to the lengths of proofs, a measure of the difficulty of _verifying_ of a _given_ formal object that it is a proof of a given formula in a given (...) formal system. In this paper we will shift attention back to discovermental complexity, by addressing a “topological” measure of proof complexity recently highlighted by Alessandra Carbone ( 2009 ). Though we will contend that Carbone’s measure fails as a measure of discovermental complexity, it forefronts numerous important formal and epistemological issues that we will discuss, including the structure of proofs and the question of whether impure proofs are systematically simpler than pure proofs. (shrink)
Une preuve est pure si, en gros, elle ne réfère dans son développement qu’à ce qui est « proche » de, ou « intrinsèque » à l’énoncé à prouver. L’infinité des nombres premiers, un théorème classique de l’arithmétique, est un cas d’étude particulièrement riche pour les recherches philosophiques sur la pureté. Deux preuves différentes de ce résultat sont ici considérées, à savoir la preuve euclidienne classique et une preuve « topologique » plus récente proposée par Furstenberg. D’un point de vue (...) naïf, il semblerait que la première soit pure et la seconde impure. Des objections à cette vue naïve sont ici considérées et réfutées. Concernant la preuve euclidienne, la question relève de la logique, notamment de la définissabilité arithmétique de l’addition en termes de successeur et de divisibilité telle que démontrée par Julia Robinson, tandis qu’en ce qui concerne la preuve topologique, la question relève de la sémantique, notamment pour tout ce qui touche au problème de savoir ce qui est « inclus » dans le contenu d’énoncés particuliers.A proof is pure, roughly, if it draws only on what is « close » or « intrinsic » to the statement being proved. The infinitude of prime numbers, a classical theorem of arithmetic, is a rich case study for philosophical investigation of purity. Two different proofs of this result are considered, namely the classical Euclidean proof and a more recent « topological » proof by Furstenberg. Naively the former would seem to be pure and the latter to be impure. Objections to these naive views are considered and met. In the case of the former the issue rests on logical matters, specifically the arithmetic definability of addition in terms of successor and divisibility shown by Julia Robinson, while in the case of the latter the issue rests on semantic matters, specifically with respect to what is « contained » in the content of particular statements. (shrink)
Review of Dowek, Gilles, Computation, Proof, Machine, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 2015. Translation of Les Métamorphoses du calcul, Le Pommier, Paris, 2007. Translation from the French by Pierre Guillot and Marion Roman.
Our visual experience seems to suggest that no continuous curve can cover every point of the unit square, yet in the late 19th century Giuseppe Peano proved that such a curve exists. Examples like this, particularly in analysis received much attention in the 19th century. They helped to instigate what Hans Hahn called a ‘crisis of intuition’, wherein visual reasoning in mathematics came to be thought to be epistemically problematic. Hahn described this ‘crisis’ as follows : " Mathematicians had for (...) a long time made use of supposedly geometric evidence as a means of proof in much too naive and much too uncritical a way, till the unclarities and mistakes that arose as a result forced a turnabout. Geometrical intuition was now declared to be inadmissible as a means of proof … "Avoiding geometrical evidence, Hahn continued, mathematicians aware of this crisis pursued what he called ‘logicization’, ‘when the discipline requires nothing but purely logical fundamental concepts and propositions for its development’. On this view, an epistemically ideal mathematics would minimize, or avoid altogether, appeals …. (shrink)
Our visual experience seems to suggest that no continuous curve can cover every point of the unit square, yet in the late nineteenth century Giuseppe Peano proved that such a curve exists. Examples like this, particularly in analysis (in the sense of the infinitesimal calculus) received much attention in the nineteenth century. They helped instigate what Hans Hahn called a “crisis of intuition”, wherein visual reasoning in mathematics came to be thought to be epistemically problematic. Hahn described this “crisis” as (...) follows: Mathematicians had for a long time made use of supposedly geometric evidence as a means of proof in much too naive and much too uncritical a way, till the unclarities and mistakes that arose as a result forced a turnabout. Geometrical intuition was now declared to be inadmissible as a means of proof... (p. 67) Avoiding geometrical evidence, Hahn continued, mathematicians aware of this crisis pursued what he called “logicization”, “when the discipline requires nothing but purely logical fundamental concepts and propositions for its development.” On this view, an epistemically ideal mathematics would minimize, or avoid altogether, appeals to visual representations. This would be a radical reformation of past practice, necessary, according to its advocates, for avoiding “unclarities and mistakes” like the one exposed by Peano. (shrink)
A variety of projects in proof theory of relevance to the philosophy of mathematics are surveyed, including Gödel's incompleteness theorems, conservation results, independence results, ordinal analysis, predicativity, reverse mathematics, speed-up results, and provability logics.
This collection of essays explores what makes modern mathematics ‘modern’, where ‘modern mathematics’ is understood as the mathematics done in the West from roughly 1800 to 1970. This is not the trivial matter of exploring what makes recent mathematics recent. The term ‘modern’ (or ‘modernism’) is used widely in the humanities to describe the era since about 1900, exemplified by Picasso or Kandinsky in the visual arts, Rilke or Pound in poetry, or Le Corbusier or Loos in architecture (a building (...) by the latter graces the cover of this book’s dust jacket). (shrink)
In this paper I begin by extending two results of Solovay; the first characterizes the possible Turing degrees of models of True Arithmetic (TA), the complete first-order theory of the standard model of PA, while the second characterizes the possible Turing degrees of arbitrary completions of P. I extend these two results to characterize the possible Turing degrees of m-diagrams of models of TA and of arbitrary complete extensions of PA. I next give a construction showing that the conditions Solovay (...) identified for his characterization of degrees of models of arbitrary completions of PA cannot be dropped (I showed that these conditions cannot be simplified in the paper. (shrink)
When mathematicians think of the philosophy of mathematics, they probably think of endless debates about what numbers are and whether they exist. Since plenty of mathematical progress continues to be made without taking a stance on either of these questions, mathematicians feel confident they can work without much regard for philosophical reflections. In his sharp–toned, sprawling book, David Corfield acknowledges the irrelevance of much contemporary philosophy of mathematics to current mathematical practice, and proposes reforming the subject accordingly.
Why do mathematics often give several proofs of the same theorem? This is the question raised in this article, introducing the notion of an epistemic ideal and discussing two such ideals, the explanatoriness and purity of proof.
The project of this Précis de philosophie de la logique et des mathématiques (vol. 1 under the direction of F. Poggiolesi and P. Wagner, vol. 2 under the direction of A. Arana and M. Panza) aims to offer a rich, systematic and clear introduction to the main contemporary debates in the philosophy of mathematics and logic. The two volumes bring together the contributions of thirty researchers (twelve for the philosophy of logic and eighteen for the philosophy of mathematics), specialists in (...) the history or philosophy of logic or mathematics. Each volume consists of ten chapters; each chapter is about forty pages, is independent from the others and deals with a particular philosophical question about logic or mathematics. The objective is to offer to the French-speaking reader a reference book. On many of the issues addressed, this Précis offers the first clear and thorough synthesis that is available in French. -/- This book is intended for third year / master's students, but also for teachers of philosophy in secondary or higher education, for logicians and mathematicians willing to take a philosophical look at the fundamental concepts of their discipline, and for any reader interested in the basic issues discussed in the philosophy of logic and mathematics. Each chapter is self-contained, although some basic training in logic (or in mathematics, as the case may be) is required. The book should be looked at as a comprehensive framework for contemporary discussions in the philosophy of logic and mathematics, while also giving some guidance on the disciplinary content required by these discussions. -/- The first three chapters of the present volume (on the philosophy of mathematics) are devoted to the history of the philosophy of mathematics: from antiquity to the modern era, and from this period to the foundational crisis of the nineteenth century, to the twentieth century. Next, four chapters deal with the crucial questions for the philosophy of mathematics of the twentieth century: the opposition and/or comparison of set theory and category theory as foundational frameworks for mathematics; mathematical constructivism; the analysis of calculability; and Benaceraff's problem. The two following chapters are focused on the philosophy of mathematical practice, by treating the notion of ideals of proof, in particular explanation and purity, and the notion of informal proof and the use of visual artifacts in mathematical argumentation. Finally the last chapter deals with the applicability of mathematics, including the role of probability. -/- In Chapter 1, Sébastien Maronne and David Rabouin present the history of the philosophy of mathematics from antiquity to the modern era. The goal is to show that the philosophy of mathematics has a history as ancient as mathematics and philosophy itself, a history largely continuous with the latter, often by staying out of sync with respect to the former. In Chapter 2, Sébastien Gandon discusses the question of the foundations of mathematics from Kant to the end of the nineteenth century. By tying this question to Kant, he is able to show that the discussion of the foundations of mathematics that occupied a large part of these two centuries has much older roots. Accent is placed on the differences between the framework proposed by Kant for making sense of classical mathematics and the use made by Frege and then Russell of logical tools for giving a different reading of arithmetic and real analysis. The link between between these different conceptions and the evolution of mathematics itself is also underlined. -/- Chapter 3, written by Hourya Benis-Sinaceur and Mirna Džamonja, deals with the evolution of mathematics in the twentieth century, notably the structuralist turn of Dedekind, E. Noether, and Bourbaki, and certain more recent developments. They devote themselves, among other things, to explaining how these developments can be understood as responses to and extensions of questions posed during the foundational debate of the immediately preceding era. -/- In Chapter 4, Jean-Pierre Marquis and Jean-Jacques Szczeciniarz discuss the different foundational options coming from set theory and category theory. They discuss, among other things, Lawvere's program to replace ZF with an axiomatization of the category of sets, the latter judged better adapted to the needs of contemporary mathematics. Different reactions, as much philosophical as technical, raised by this program are also taken into account. -/- Constructive mathematics are the object of Chapter 5, in which Gerhard Heinzmann and Mark van Atten examine in a critical and comparative manner a variety of constructivisms, including intuitionism, constructive type theory, predicativism, and finitism. -/- In Chapter 6, Guido Gherardi and Maël Pegny present computability theory, stressing its philosophical consequences. They discuss the basic concepts of this theory, for the computability of both the natural numbers and the real numbers. They then tackle the theory of computational complexity. -/- In Chapter 7, Andrea Sereni and Fabrice Pataut present Benacerraf's problem, opposing every possible account of mathematical knowledge to the availability of a theory of truth founded on an abstract ontology of mathematical objects. They give an overview of the original problem and its reformulation by Hartry Field, and reconstruct the debate that this problem has raised, by meeting at once the major opposing positions today of the analytic affiliation of the philosophy of mathematics, as much those on the platonist side as on that of nominalism. -/- In Chapter 8, Valeria Giardino and Yacin Hamami treat certain crucial aspects of the philosophy of mathematical practice. They deal in particular with the notion of an informal proof and on the role of artifacts in mathematical reasoning. They consider how such proofs, making use of these means, can contribute to the understanding of theorems and mathematical theories, thanks also to the role of visualisation and the aid of computer tools. -/- Why do mathematics often give several proofs of the same theorem? This is the question that Andrew Arana raises in Chapter 9, introducing the notion of an epistemic ideal and discuss two such ideals, the explanatoriness and purity of proof. -/- Chapter 10 is devoted to the applicability of mathematics in the study of empirical phenomena. After summarizing the history of this question, going back to Plato and Aristotle and passing by Mill and Kant, Daniele Molinini and Marco Panza reconstruct the contemporary debate, in relation, among other things, to questions raised in the philosophy of science. -/- Two appendices complete the volume. In the first Frédéric Patras treats the French tradition in philosophy of mathematics of the 20th century. In the second, Maria Carla Galavotti discusses the notion of probability and its use in science. (shrink)
In correspondence with Mersenne in 1629, Descartes discusses a construction involving a cylinder and what Descartes calls a “helice.” Mancosu has argued that by “helice” Descartes was referring to a cylindrical helix. The editors of Mersenne’s correspondence (Vol. II), and Henk Bos, have independently argued that, on the con- trary, by “helice” Descartes was referring to the Archimedean spiral. We argue that identifying the helice with the cylindrical helix makes better sense of the text. In the process we take a (...) careful look at constructions of the cylindrical helix available to Descartes and relate them to his criteria for excluding mechanical curves from geometry. Résumé Dans sa correspondance avec Mersenne en 1629, Descartes discute d’une construction qui fait intervenir un cylindre et ce que Descartes appelle une “hélice”. Mancosu a argumenté que Descartes faisait référence à une hélice cylindrique. Les éditeurs de la Correspondance de Mersenne (vol. 2), et Henk Bos, ont indépendamment affirmé que, au contraire, par “hélice” Descartes faisait référence à la spirale d’Archimède. Nous affirmons qu’identifier l’hélice avec l’hélice cylindrique est plus cohérent avec le texte. Dans le même temps nous examinons soigneusement les constructions de l’hélice cylindrique que Descartes avait à disposition et nous les mettons en relation avec son critère d’exclusion des courbes mécaniques de la géométrie. (shrink)