FOM: Butz on truth wtait at
Wed Feb 4 22:40:28 EST 1998

>From: John Mayberry <J.P.Mayberry at>
>>Butz's view [no absolute truth] is absolute nonsense (and in this case
>>I use the 
>>adjective without any hesitation whatsoever). It is absolute, 
>>double-dyed nonsense in the mouth of a mathematician. For 
>>mathematicians deal in proof; and a proof is a valid argument to 
>>establish that its conclusion is a true proposition. If there is no 
>>such thing as truth, then there is no such thing as proof.
>Your premise seems to be that every axiom of every proof system is
>absolutely true.  For if not you would have proofs of theorems with no
>basis for inferring that the proved theorems were absolutely true.

This is simply not reasonable. One might wish that Mayberry had not 
picked up the habit of strong rhetoric that is all too common on the 
list---e.g. `absolute nonesense' means false, but is more offensive. But 
he is rejecting a claim that there is _no_ absolute truth in math and 
surely his argument is right. The axioms of group theory are true of all 
groups, the axioms of real closed fields are true of the ordered field of 
real numbers, etc. Any such example suffices for Mayberry's point.

Bill Tait 

More information about the FOM mailing list