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Hilbert’s “Verunglückter Beweis,” the first epsilon theorem and consistency proofs. History and Philosophy of Logic
"... Abstract. On the face of it, Hilbert’s Program was concerned with proving consistency of mathematical systems in a finitary way. This was to be accomplished by showing that that these systems are conservative over finitistically interpretable and obviously sound quantifierfree subsystems. One propo ..."
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Abstract. On the face of it, Hilbert’s Program was concerned with proving consistency of mathematical systems in a finitary way. This was to be accomplished by showing that that these systems are conservative over finitistically interpretable and obviously sound quantifierfree subsystems. One proposed method of giving such proofs is Hilbert’s epsilonsubstitution method. There was, however, a second approach which was not refelected in the publications of the Hilbert school in the 1920s, and which is a direct precursor of Hilbert’s first epsilon theorem and a certain “general consistency result. ” An analysis of this socalled “failed proof ” lends further support to an interpretation of Hilbert according to which he was expressly concerned with conservatitvity proofs, even though his publications only mention consistency as the main question. §1. Introduction. The aim of Hilbert’s program for consistency proofs in the 1920s is well known: to formalize mathematics, and to give finitistic consistency proofs of these systems and thus to put mathematics on a “secure foundation.” What is perhaps less well known is exactly how Hilbert thought this should be carried out. Over ten years before Gentzen developed sequent calculus formalizations