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352
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35answers
42k views

Do complex numbers really exist?

Complex numbers involve the square root of negative one, and most non-mathematicians find it hard to accept that such a number is meaningful. In contrast, they feel that real numbers have an obvious ...
108
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4answers
12k views

How do I convince someone that $1+1=2$ may not necessarily be true?

Me and my friend were arguing over this "fact" that we all know and hold dear. However, I do know that $1+1=2$ is an axiom. That is why I beg to differ. Neither of us have the required mathematical ...
21
votes
6answers
4k views

Why is mathematical induction a valid proof technique? [duplicate]

Context: I'm studying for my discrete mathematics exam and I keep running into this question that I've failed to solve. The question is as follows. Problem: The main form for normal induction over ...
6
votes
4answers
659 views

What is the “correct” reading of $\bot$?

I have some doubts about the "natural" interpretation of $\bot$ in Natural Deduction and sequent calculus. In Prawitz (1965) $\bot$ (falsehood or absurdity) is called a sentential constant [page 14] ...
7
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9answers
2k views

what is the definition of Mathematics ? [closed]

we all study mathematics , and all of us learn mathematical methods to solve problems , we learn how to prove , how to think mathematically but the question is, what is mathematics ? how can we ...
97
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10answers
5k views

How far can one get in analysis without leaving $\mathbb{Q}$?

Suppose you're trying to teach analysis to a stubborn algebraist who refuses to acknowledge the existence of any characteristic $0$ field other than $\mathbb{Q}$. How ugly are things going to get for ...
7
votes
6answers
4k views

How to interpret material conditional and explain it to freshmen?

After studying mathematics for some time, I am still confused. The material conditional “$\rightarrow$” is a logical connective in classical logic. In mathematical texts one often encounters the ...
20
votes
1answer
751 views

Are there areas of mathematics (current or future) that cannot be formalized in set theory?

I often read that ZFC can formalize "most" of everyday mathematics, but I could never find an example which it cannot. The closest I got is differential geometry (DF), where some article mentions that ...
6
votes
9answers
6k views

Does a negative number really exist?

Second Update: I see that some answers that reference my image are more closely answering my question. Here is a second image to clarify my point. Take this image representing a checkerboard like ...
193
votes
24answers
15k views

Is mathematics one big tautology?

Is mathematics one big tautology? Let me put the question in clearer terms: Mathematics is a deductive system: it works by starting with arbitrary axioms, and deriving therefrom "new" properties ...
34
votes
3answers
2k views

Avoiding proof by induction

Proofs that proceed by induction are almost always unsatisfying to me. They do not seem to deepen understanding, I would describe something that is true by induction as being "true by a technicality". ...
11
votes
1answer
726 views

What would qualify as a valid reason to believe there is a closed form?

I noticed that almost every non-homework-level integral posted on this site prompts somebody to ask "Do you have any reason to believe there is a closed form?" (some recent examples here and here) I ...
54
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4answers
4k views

What is “ultrafinitism” and why do people believe it?

I know there's something called "ultrafinitism" which is a very radical form of constructivism that I've heard said means people don't believe that really large integers actually exist. Could someone ...
10
votes
1answer
649 views

Why is CH true if it cannot be proved?

Continuum hypothesis (CH) states that there can be no set whose cardinality is strictly between that of integers and real numbers. Godel, 1940 and Paul Cohen,1963 showed that CH can neither be proved ...
9
votes
8answers
956 views

What is a number?

A dictionary I consulted said a 'number' is a 'quantity', so I looked up what quantity means and the same dictionary said it is an amount or number of some material or thing. Since quantity and ...
154
votes
25answers
12k views

Can a coin with an unknown bias be treated as fair?

This morning, I wanted to flip a coin to make a decision but no coins were in reach. There was however an SD card on my desk: Given that I don't know the bias of this SD card, would flipping it be ...
47
votes
18answers
6k views

What's the goal of mathematics?

Are we just trying to prove every theorem or find theories which lead to a lot of creativity or what? I've already read G. H. Hardy Apology but I didn't get an answer from it.
50
votes
10answers
7k views

Infinite sets don't exist!?

Has anyone read this article? This accomplished mathematician gives his opinion on why he doesn't think infinite sets exist, and claims that axioms are nonsense. I don't disagree with his arguments, ...
17
votes
4answers
5k views

Why do we need to learn Set Theory?

I was planning to write some article for the Mathematics magazine of our college and it occurred to me that it will be a good idea to write about the impact and importance of Set Theory. I plan ...
27
votes
9answers
2k views

Is formal truth in mathematical logic a generalization of everyday, intuitive truth?

I'm trying to wrap my head around the relationship between truth in formal logic, as the value a formal expression can take on, as opposed to commonplace notions of truth. Personal background: When I ...
8
votes
3answers
2k views

What would be the immediate implications of a formula for prime numbers?

What would be the immediate implications for Math (or sciences as a general) if someone developed a formula capable of generating every prime number progressively and perfectly, also able to prove (or ...
23
votes
10answers
4k views

How can Zeno's dichotomy paradox be disproved using mathematics?

A brief description of the paradox taken from Wikipedia: Suppose Sam wants to catch a stationary bus. Before he can get there, he must get halfway there. Before he can get halfway there, he must ...
8
votes
0answers
322 views

Gödel's Completeness Theorem and logical consequence [closed]

At the end of a long process of "rumination" on "old" math log textbooks, I've found the "missing link" - from my personal point of view - between some issues I've raised in the previous months : (i) ...
2
votes
7answers
734 views

Does it make any sense to prove $0.999\ldots=1$?

I have read this post which contains many proofs of $0.999\ldots=1$. My question is, Does it make any sense to prove this equality? Can one give any "meaning" of the symbol $0.999\ldots$ ...
3
votes
1answer
196 views

Can equinumerosity by defined in monadic second-order logic?

Two properties (or concepts) $F$ and $G$ are said to be equinumerous if they have the same cardinality, i.e. if they can be put in one-to-one correspondence with each other. This can be very easily ...
3
votes
3answers
241 views

Implications and Ordinary language

I studied propositional logic, and everyday I see applications of what I learned on the internet, in mathematical books and miscelaneous resources. One particular case is sentences in the form $...
118
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5answers
3k views

Why can't differentiability be generalized as nicely as continuity?

The question: Can we define differentiable functions between (some class of) sets, "without $\Bbb R$"* so that it Reduces to the traditional definition when desired? Has the same use in at least ...
64
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10answers
14k views

How is a system of axioms different from a system of beliefs?

Other ways to put it: Is there any faith required in the adoption of a system of axioms? How is a given system of axioms accepted or rejected if not based on blind faith?
29
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11answers
8k views

Good books on Philosophy of Mathematics

Where can I learn more about the implications, meta discussions, history and the foundations of mathematics? Is Russell's Introduction to Mathematical Philosophy a good start?
37
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9answers
4k views

Is complex analysis more “real” than real analysis?

In physics, in the past, complex numbers were used only to remember or simplify formulas and computations. But after the birth of quantum physics, they found that a thing as real as "matter" itself ...
59
votes
6answers
8k views

In what sense are math axioms true?

Say I am explaining to a kid, $A +B$ is the same as $B+A$ for natural numbers. The kid asks: why? Well, it's an axiom. It's called commutativity (which is not even true for most groups). How do I "...
30
votes
1answer
2k views

$e^{e^{e^{79}}}$ and ultrafinitism

I was reading the following article on Ultrafinitism, and it mentions that one of the reasons ultrafinitists believe that N is not infinite is because the floor of $e^{e^{e^{79}}}$ is not computable. ...
35
votes
4answers
2k views

If all sets were finite, how could the real numbers be defined?

An extreme form of constructivism is called finitisim. In this form, unlike the standard axiom system, infinite sets are not allowed. There are important mathematicians, such as Kronecker, who ...
29
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4answers
1k views

Is $\mathbb{N}$ impossible to pin down?

I don't know if this is appropriate for math.stackexchange, or whether philosophy.stackexchange would have been a better bet, but I'll post it here because the content is somewhat technical. In ZFC, ...
5
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5answers
2k views

What's behind the Banach-Tarski paradox? [closed]

The discovery of the Banach-Tarski paradox was of course a great thing in mathematics but raises the issue of the relation between mathematics and reality. Empirically there are good reasons for faith ...
27
votes
6answers
2k views

What are natural numbers?

What are the natural numbers? Is it a valid question at all? My understanding is that a set satisfying Peano axioms is called "the natural numbers" and from that one builds integers, rational numbers,...
21
votes
12answers
7k views

What is a negative number?

I'm trying to get to an abstract definition of a negative number that would fit in with the basic concept of addition/subtraction. There are questions here about multiplying and dividing negative ...
12
votes
4answers
1k views

What would happen if ZFC were found to be inconsistent?

If, one fine day, someone found a contradiction in ZFC (or even ZF), what implications would such an event have for mathematicians? Is there currently any backup axiomatic system on par with ZFC that ...
14
votes
8answers
2k views

Reference request: is mathematics discovered or created?

I have to write a short monograph as an assignment for a course on the philosophy of science. Being a math student, of course I want to opt for something math-related. After some initial ideas which ...
4
votes
4answers
3k views

Is McGee's counterexample to Modus Ponens accepted by the mathematical community?

In the mid 1980's Vann McGee proposed a counterexample to Modus Ponens: (a) If a Republicans will win the election, then if Reagan will not win, Anderson will win. (b) A Republican will win the ...
12
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3answers
468 views

Is there any difference between a math invention and a math discovery? [closed]

From wikipekia: The calculus controversy was an argument between 17th-century mathematicians Isaac Newton and Gottfried Leibniz (begun or fomented in part by their disciples and associates – ...
6
votes
3answers
321 views

Do the Kolmogorov's axioms permit speaking of frequencies of occurence in any meaningful sense?

It is frequently stated (in textbooks, on Wikipedia) that the "Law of large numbers" in mathematical probability theory is a statement about relative frequencies of occurrence of an event in a finite ...
10
votes
2answers
2k views

Definition of “non-constructive proof”

I was wondering if it is possible to define exactly what a non-constructive (nc) proof is. I have often seen the concept associated with the use of principles such as the axiom of choice or the law of ...
7
votes
2answers
309 views

Does $\mathsf{ZFC} + \neg\mathrm{Con}(\mathsf{ZFC})$ suffice as a foundations of mathematics?

I've heard people make the argument that: $\mathsf{ZFC}$ suffices as a foundations of mathematics because almost all theorems in the mathematics literature can be proven using $\mathsf{ZFC}$, so ...
6
votes
1answer
185 views

Description of the Universe $V$ [closed]

For me, the concept "set" seams very ambiguous. This does not satisfy me because sets are used very often in mathematics, and so many questions in mathematics are not definite for me. I want to read ...
3
votes
1answer
186 views

Errors of Euler interpretation?

To complement the recent post on Euler's errors, I would pose the following question: what common errors of Euler interpetation appear in the literature? What errors are attributed to Euler's work in ...
1
vote
2answers
132 views

Abstract Objects in Logic

I am confused on the concept of extensionality versus intensionality. When we say 2<3 is True, we say that 2<3 can be demonstrated by a mathematical proof. So, according to mathematical logic, ...
102
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16answers
14k views

Is 10 closer to infinity than 1?

This may be considered a philosophy but is the number "10" closer to infinity than the number "1"?
80
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22answers
9k views

Is math built on assumptions?

I just came across this statement when I was lecturing a student on math and strictly speaking I used: Assuming that the value of $x$ equals <something>, ... One of my students just rose ...
59
votes
9answers
6k views

Does mathematics require axioms?

I just read this whole article: http://web.maths.unsw.edu.au/~norman/papers/SetTheory.pdf which is also discussed over here: Infinite sets don't exist!? However, the paragraph which I found most ...