FOM: Nature of mathematics
pratt at CS.Stanford.EDU
Sat Jan 22 00:49:14 EST 2000
A couple of weeks ago Michael Thayer asked me privately whether there was
any good reason for mathematicians to strive for absolute certainty, exact
proof, etc. My response began as follows, and on looking back on it just
now it occurs to me that my position might be of interest to this list.
Mathematics is a tool-kit, and a mathematician is someone who is good
at using those tools and/or creating new ones. Mathematics' emphasis to
date on certainty is going to decrease gradually, but it won't change the
basic way mathematics is done. This decrease is however something in the
nature of a revolution, and it may shake up many mathematics departments.
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