Questions involving philosophy of mathematics

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270
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35answers
27k 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 ...
51
votes
4answers
6k 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 ...
35
votes
8answers
4k views

Infinite sets don't exist!?

Has anyone read this article? Set theory 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 ...
4
votes
10answers
3k 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 ...
5
votes
6answers
2k 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 ...
5
votes
10answers
827 views

what is the definition of Mathematics ?

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 ...
22
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 ...
9
votes
1answer
448 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 ...
7
votes
7answers
582 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 ...
5
votes
4answers
379 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] ...
146
votes
21answers
11k 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 ...
47
votes
10answers
12k 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?
39
votes
17answers
4k 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.
10
votes
1answer
273 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 ...
45
votes
4answers
2k 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 ...
27
votes
5answers
1k views

What's the best way to measure mathematical ability?

Very soft question I admit, but it's something that's been bothering me for a while. I've been thinking that being self taught has the problem of accreditation. You can't evaluate a mathematician ...
12
votes
5answers
2k views

Why does Benford's Law (or Zipf's Law) hold?

Both Benford's Law (if you take a list of values, the distribution of the most significant digit is rougly proportional to the logarithm of the digit) and Zipf's Law (given a corpus of natural ...
75
votes
9answers
4k 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 ...
23
votes
9answers
4k 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?
26
votes
8answers
2k views

Complex analysis is 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 ...
20
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. ...
28
votes
6answers
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 ...
25
votes
4answers
2k views

Is mathematical history written by the victors?

The question is the title of a recent piece in the Notices of the American Mathematical Society, by twelve authors (of which I am one). The contention is that traditional history of mathematics is ...
13
votes
6answers
2k views

What philosophical consequence of Goedel's incompleteness theorems?

I want to write a philosophical essay centered about Goedel's incompleteness theorem. However I cannot find any real philosophical consequences that I can write more than half a page about. I read the ...
14
votes
8answers
1k 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 ...
21
votes
10answers
2k 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 ...
20
votes
5answers
650 views

What does it mean for a set to exist?

Is there a precise meaning of the word 'exist', what does it mean for a set to exist? And what does it mean for a set to 'not exist' ? And what is a set, what is the precise definition of a set?
5
votes
0answers
127 views

Gödel's Completeness Theorem and logical consequence

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) ...
5
votes
4answers
2k 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 ...
3
votes
2answers
142 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 ...
3
votes
1answer
163 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 ...
120
votes
24answers
10k 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 ...
86
votes
17answers
12k 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"?
63
votes
22answers
5k 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 ...
45
votes
12answers
5k views

I need mathematical proof that the distance from zero to 1 is the equal to the distance from 1 to 2 [closed]

I didn't know how to phrase the question properly so I am going to explain how this came about. I know Math is a very rigorous subject and there are proofs for everything we know and use. In fact, I ...
31
votes
1answer
654 views

What is the role of mathematical intuition and common sense in questions of irrationality or transcendence of values of special functions?

I got the number $$\frac{\Gamma\left(\frac{1}{5}\right)\Gamma\left(\frac{4}{15}\right)}{\Gamma\left(\frac{1}{3}\right)\Gamma\left(\frac{2}{15}\right)}=0.824326275998351470388591998726842...$$ in the ...
13
votes
7answers
1k views

What mathematical questions or areas have philosophical implications outside of mathematics?

Please list both the problem/area and justify why it is important philosophically. This question doesn't cover questions that are only important within the philosophy of mathematics itself.
35
votes
8answers
3k 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 ...
49
votes
6answers
4k 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 ...
36
votes
14answers
10k views

How big is infinity?

This might be more philosophy than math, but it’s been bothering me for a while. Question: If there’s an infinite amount of real numbers between $ 0 $ and $ 1 $, shouldn’t there be twice the ...
32
votes
17answers
3k views

Non-Scientific questions solved by mathematics

I have a general question about the applications of mathematics. What are some applications of mathematics that are not scientific, perhaps maybe literary or philosophical, or political. I am ...
26
votes
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, ...
7
votes
4answers
1k views

What are the most important questions or areas of study in the philosophy of mathematics?

This question is intended to complement What mathematical questions or areas have philosophical implications outside of mathematics?
15
votes
5answers
680 views

Definition of definition

I was wondering if there is a good way to "define" what definition means exactly in mathematics. Since the answers may be subjective or philosophical, I want to ask only for references on this topic. ...
5
votes
1answer
220 views

Is there an introduction to probability and statistics that balances frequentist and bayesian views?

Perhaps, roughly, I might be described as advanced undergraduate regarding mathematics. However, I have not learned statistics and have only learned elementary probability. Does there exist a book or ...
12
votes
7answers
2k views

Why do statements which appear elementary have complicated proofs?

The motivation for this question is : http://math.stackexchange.com/questions/4066/rationals-of-the-form-fracpq-where-p-q-are-primes-in-a-b and some other problems in Mathematics which looks as if ...
7
votes
5answers
2k views

how do we assume there is infinity?

Definition of infinite: A set is infinite iff it is equivalent to one of its proper subsets. We know that our universe doesn't contain infinite number of elements, so how do we assume there is ...
12
votes
1answer
505 views

Is First Order Logic (FOL) the only fundamental logic?

I'm far from being an expert in the field of mathematical logic, but I've been reading about the academic work invested in the foundations of mathematics, both in a historical and objetive sense; and ...
6
votes
3answers
1k 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 ...
6
votes
5answers
314 views

Are there more real numbers than we can actually imagine?

I mean, if we could imagine all the real numbers then we could assign each number a finite sentence (or a finite book). Since the set of the finite books is countable then the set of real numbers ...