The Mathematical Intelligencer recently published a note by Y. Sergeyev that challenges both mathematics and intelligence. We examine Sergeyev’s claims concerning his purported Infinity computer. We compare his grossone system with the classical Levi-Civita fields and with the hyperreal framework of A. Robinson, and analyze the related algorithmic issues inevitably arising in any genuine computer implementation. We show that Sergeyev’s grossone system is unnecessary and vague, and that whatever consistent subsystem could be salvaged is subsumed entirely within a stronger and (...) clearer system. Lou Kauffman, who published an article on a grossone, places it squarely outside the historical panorama of ideas dealing with infinity and infinitesimals. (shrink)
We examine Paul Halmos’ comments on category theory, Dedekind cuts, devil worship, logic, and Robinson’s infinitesimals. Halmos’ scepticism about category theory derives from his philosophical position of naive set-theoretic realism. In the words of an MAA biography, Halmos thought that mathematics is “certainty” and “architecture” yet 20th century logic teaches us is that mathematics is full of uncertainty or more precisely incompleteness. If the term architecture meant to imply that mathematics is one great solid castle, then modern logic tends to (...) teach us the opposite lesson, namely that the castle is floating in midair. Halmos’ realism tends to color his judgment of purely scientific aspects of logic and the way it is practiced and applied. He often expressed distaste for nonstandard models, and made a sustained effort to eliminate first-order logic, the logicians’ concept of interpretation, and the syntactic vs semantic distinction. He felt that these were vague, and sought to replace them all by his polyadic algebra. Halmos claimed that Robinson’s framework is “unnecessary” but Henson and Keisler argue that Robinson’s framework allows one to dig deeper into set-theoretic resources than is common in Archimedean mathematics. This can potentially prove theorems not accessible by standard methods, undermining Halmos’ criticisms. (shrink)
To explore the extent of embeddability of Leibnizian infinitesimal calculus in first-order logic (FOL) and modern frameworks, we propose to set aside ontological issues and focus on pro- cedural questions. This would enable an account of Leibnizian procedures in a framework limited to FOL with a small number of additional ingredients such as the relation of infinite proximity. If, as we argue here, first order logic is indeed suitable for developing modern proxies for the inferential moves found in Leibnizian infinitesimal (...) calculus, then modern infinitesimal frameworks are more appropriate to interpreting Leibnizian infinitesimal calculus than modern Weierstrassian ones. (shrink)
We apply a framework developed by C. S. Peirce to analyze the concept of clarity, so as to examine a pair of rival mathematical approaches to a typical result in analysis. Namely, we compare an intuitionist and an infinitesimal approaches to the extreme value theorem. We argue that a given pre-mathematical phenomenon may have several aspects that are not necessarily captured by a single formalisation, pointing to a complementarity rather than a rivalry of the approaches.