Questions tagged [philosophy]

Questions involving philosophy of mathematics. Please consider if Philosophy Stack Exchange is a better site to post your question.

779 questions
58k 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 ...
20k 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 ...
15k 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 only had an SD card: Given that I don't know the bias of this SD card, would flipping it be considered a "fair toss"? I thought if I'm ...
23k 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 ...
8k 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 ...
16k 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"?
16k 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 ...
18k 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?
14k 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 "...
12k views

Is mathematics just a bunch of nested empty sets?

When in high school I used to see mathematical objects as ideal objects whose existence is independent of us. But when I learned set theory, I discovered that all mathematical objects I was studying ...
13k 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 ...
6k 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 ...
11k 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, ...
8k views

Why do we not have to prove definitions?

I am a beginning level math student and I read recently (in a book written by a Ph. D in Mathematical Education) that mathematical definitions do not get "proven." As in they can't be proven. Why not? ...
8k 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 ...
9k 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.
8k views

Is there such a thing as proof by example (not counter example)

Is there such a logical thing as proof by example? I know many times when I am working with algebraic manipulations, I do quick tests to see if I remembered the formula right. This works and is ...
6k views

Is it an abuse of language to say “*the* integers,” “*the* rational numbers,” or “*the* real numbers,” etc.?

I'm finding that the more math I learn, the more concepts I thought were well-defined seem to be intuitive and naive. Here I'm asking about whether it's an abuse of language to refer to "the integers,"...
5k views

Is a proof still valid if only the writer understands it? [closed]

Say that there is some conjecture that someone has just proved. Let's assume that this proof is correct--that it is based on deductive reasoning and reaches the desired conclusion. However, if he/...
5k views

What does it mean to solve an equation?

This question might be more philosophical than mathematical. In school we are taught how to solve equations such as $x^2 - 1 = 0$ or $\sin(x) - 1= 0$. Solutions to these equations are quite simple. ...
2k views