Numbers and functions in Hilbert's finitism

Taiwanese Journal for History and Philosophy of Science 10:33-60 (1998)
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David Hilbert's finitistic standpoint is a conception of elementary number theory designed to answer the intuitionist doubts regarding the security and certainty of mathematics. Hilbert was unfortunately not exact in delineating what that viewpoint was, and Hilbert himself changed his usage of the term through the 1920s and 30s. The purpose of this paper is to outline what the main problems are in understanding Hilbert and Bernays on this issue, based on some publications by them which have so far received little attention, and on a number of philosophical reconstructions of the viewpoint (in particular, by Hand, Kitcher, and Tait).

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Richard Zach
University of Calgary


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