[FOM] Nelson's ultraformalism --to Slater
Mirco Mannucci
mmannucc at cs.gmu.edu
Sun Nov 5 12:31:52 EST 2006
---- Hartley Slater <slaterbh at cyllene.uwa.edu.au> wrote:
> I have read this paper ('Syntax and Semantics'), and can readily see
> why it should be thought important.
Actually, I ought to apologize, I am guilty of pointing everyone to
the WRONG paper: the one I had in mind is called "Mathematics and Faith"
http://www.math.princeton.edu/~nelson/papers/faith.pdf
and the amazing "confession" I was referring to is at page 7,
beginning with the sentence:
--I must relate how I lost my faith in pythagorean numbers--.
Anyway, the one you are discussing is along the same lines: Nelson, if
I understand him at all, essentially proposes a rigorous ultra-formalism.
---> Ultra-formalism = everything (in math) is syntax, syntax and
nothing but syntax
I think that this is a FOM challenge for everybody, and I take it very
seriously (to the point of taking Nelson's logic itself to task, when he
proposes his own brand of finitistic arithmetics and finitistic
set theory).
I also think that there are a few interesting topics to ponder here.
For instance:
1) can we keep a formalist approach in a coherent way, not just
at the mathematical level, but also at the meta-mathematical one? (stopping
finally the meta-delusion that there is a meta-level "above" math)
2) can we give a positive interpretation of the incompleteness phenomena in
the ultra-formalist approach? In other words, can we account for Godel's
incompleteness as saying something ABOUT our syntactical games, as opposed
to referring to some "intended" pre-built platonic structures?
(the negative interpretation, saying--they are great theorems, but
they mean nothing---, is the cheap way out)
3) how does the math world looks to a ultra-formalist that does not allow
himself/herself the (expensive!) luxury of naively using infinitary
arguments of any type and shape?
I have my own view (which I shall present in due time), but I would like
to hear from others on 1)--> 3)
Best Wishes
Mirco A. Mannucci
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