THE SYNTHETICITY OF TIME: Comments on Fang's Critique of Divine Computers

Philosophia Mathematica: 233–235 (1989)
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In a recent article in this journal [Phil. Math., II, v.4 (1989), n.2, pp.?- ?] J. Fang argues that we must not be fooled by A.J. Ayer (God rest his soul!) and his cohorts into believing that mathematical knowledge has an analytic a priori status. Even computers, he reminds us, take some amount of time to perform their calculations. The simplicity of Kant's infamous example of a mathematical proposition (7+5=12) is "partly to blame" for "mislead[ing] scholars in the direction of neglecting the temporal element"; yet a brief instant of time is required to grasp even this simple truth. If Kant were alive today, "and if he had had a little more mathematical savvy", Fang explains, he could have used the latest example of the largest prime number (391,581 x 2 216,193 - 1) as a better example of the "synthetic a priori" character of mathematics. The reason Fang is so intent upon emphasizing the temporal character of mathematics is that he wishes to avoid "the uncritical mixing of ... a theology and a philosophy of mathematics." For "in the light of the Computer Age today: finitism is king!" Although Kant's aim was explicitly "to study the 'human' ... faculty", Fang claims that even he did not adequatley emphasize "the clearly and concretely distinguishable line of demarcation between the human and divine faculties."
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