A Pluralist Foundation of the Mathematics of the First Half of the Twentieth Century

Journal of the Indian Council of Philosophical Research 34 (2):343-363 (2017)
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MethodologyA new hypothesis on the basic features characterizing the Foundations of Mathematics is suggested.Application of the methodBy means of it, the several proposals, launched around the year 1900, for discovering the FoM are characterized. It is well known that the historical evolution of these proposals was marked by some notorious failures and conflicts. Particular attention is given to Cantor's programme and its improvements. Its merits and insufficiencies are characterized in the light of the new conception of the FoM. After the failures of Frege's and Cantor's programmes owing to the discoveries of an antinomy and internal contradictions, respectively, the two remaining, more radical programmes, i.e. Hilbert's and Brouwer's, generated a great debate; the explanation given here is their mutual incommensurability, defined by means of the differences in their foundational features.ResultsThe ignorance of this phenomenon explains the inconclusiveness of a century-long debate between the advocates of these two proposals. Which however have been so greatly improved as to closely approach or even recognize some basic features of the FoM.Discussion on the resultsYet, no proposal has recognized the alternative basic feature to Hilbert's main one, the deductive organization of a theory, although already half a century before the births of all the programmes this alternative was substantially instantiated by Lobachevsky's theory on parallel lines. Some conclusive considerations of a historical and philosophical nature are offered. In particular, the conclusive birth of a pluralism in the FoM is stressed.

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