FOM: Why Hersh can't distinguish between math and chess

Reuben Hersh rhersh at
Thu Jan 22 18:06:37 EST 1998

Yes, you caught me, with my non-rated chess I did assume that such
an obvious truth about chess had a proof.

Your question (1) was not, is this true, but is this mathematics?

So my answer yes was correct, even though the statment in question
isnot a theorem but only a well justified conjecture.

We have other well justified conjecture, like Goldbach and twin
primes.  Of course they are mathematical conjeactures, which may
in time become mathematical theorems.

The interesting question is whether and how well you bellieve suhc
unproved conjectures.  I think your chess conjecture is much more
compellilng than the classicalmath conjectures, for the reasons y;ou
quote:  the vast amount of playing experience by a vast nu;mber of

Perhaps, thgough,all that is u;nnecessary.  I think the truth is obvious
to anyone with a few hours of playing experience.

Anyhow, the question of how much we bellieve open conjectures is
an important, difficult one. Admitting this question to the
philosophy of mathematics enlarges it considerably from the simple
questioni of proved or not proved.

I don't see how reclassifhying one statement as a conjedcture rather
than a theorem causes any difficulty for my philosophical position.

Reuben HErsh

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