[FOM] Quotation of Brouwer on Cantor
martin at eipye.com
Thu Sep 8 14:15:55 EDT 2005
Patrick Caldon wrote:
>I dimly recall a statement of Brouwer's, something vaguely along the
>"Cantorian mathematics was a sickness which is best forgotten"
For years I heard something similar attributed to Poincaré: "Some day set
theory will be regarded as a disease from which one has recovered." Wanting
to quote this in a book I was writing I researched the matter and came up
empty-handed. Remarks about Cantor's transfinite I could find in Poincaré's
writings were much more equivocal.
Stories about sayings of mathematicians float around the profession, but
must be regarded as mere rumors without a firm attribution. Another
example: Rebecca Goldstein's recent book on Goedel quotes Hilbert, almost
certainly incorrectly, on his foundational views. But she could cite an
actual book of mathematical sayings for the quote. Of course that book of
sayings gave no source, merely repeating hearsay. This instance seems to
have gone back to E.T. Bell's rather crude expalantion of Hilbertian
formalism that later writers turned into an alleged quote from Hilbert.
The supposed quotation from Brouwer doesn't ring true to my ear, but of
course I may be mistaken about that.
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