[FOM] still more on Hilbert's #6

Martin Davis martin at eipye.com
Sun Jan 25 00:51:55 EST 2004

This started when I submitted a brief message suggesting that one should 
pay attention to the context in which Hilbert proposed this problem, noting 
that revolutionary developments that Hilbert  couldn't have anticipated 
were just around the corner.

Then, Harvey asked me whether I thought Hilbert would have proposed the 
problem as he did, the sort of "counter-factual" question I regard as 
usually hopelessly counter-productive. But I took the bait, and said that I 
guessed not. Now Harvey writes:

<<What I don't yet see is how that makes you think that Hilbert wouldn't have
written problem #6 the way he did now, just adding some other mysteries -
e.g., elementary quantum mechanics and so forth.

The same impulses that led Hilbert to work so hard in f.o.m. would have led
Hilbert to problem #6. And as I said above, I also think that Hilbert would
have embraced the idea that foundations of physics should not skip over
elementary physics, and go right into state of the art physics.>>

I think the problem of the foundations of classical mechanics would have 
seemed much less interesting to Hilbert had he realized it was only a very 
crude approximation to the truth. Harvey thinks otherwise. Short of a 
seance, we aren't going to resolve this question.

What is more important is that it is clear from the last pair of postings 
that Harvey and I are in essential agreement on what counts.


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