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Mathematical proofs at a crossroad
 Theory Is Forever, Lectures Notes in Comput. Sci. 3113
, 2004
"... Abstract. For more than 2000 years, from Pythagoras and Euclid to Hilbert and Bourbaki, mathematical proofs were essentially based on axiomaticdeductive reasoning. In the last decades, the increasing length and complexity of many mathematical proofs led to the expansion of some empirical, experimen ..."
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Abstract. For more than 2000 years, from Pythagoras and Euclid to Hilbert and Bourbaki, mathematical proofs were essentially based on axiomaticdeductive reasoning. In the last decades, the increasing length and complexity of many mathematical proofs led to the expansion of some empirical, experimental, psychological and social aspects, yesterday only marginal, but now changing radically the very essence of proof. In this paper, we try to organize this evolution, to distinguish its different steps and aspects, and to evaluate its advantages and shortcomings. Axiomaticdeductive proofs are not a posteriori work, a luxury we can marginalize nor are computerassisted proofs bad mathematics. There is hope for integration! 1
Formal Proof: Reconciling Correctness and Understanding
"... A good proof is a proof that makes us wiser. Manin [41, p. 209]. Abstract. Hilbert’s concept of formal proof is an ideal of rigour for mathematics which has important applications in mathematical logic, but seems irrelevant for the practice of mathematics. The advent, in the last twenty years, of pr ..."
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A good proof is a proof that makes us wiser. Manin [41, p. 209]. Abstract. Hilbert’s concept of formal proof is an ideal of rigour for mathematics which has important applications in mathematical logic, but seems irrelevant for the practice of mathematics. The advent, in the last twenty years, of proof assistants was followed by an impressive record of deep mathematical theorems formally proved. Formal proof is practically achievable. With formal proof, correctness reaches a standard that no penandpaper proof can match, but an essential component of mathematics — the insight and understanding — seems to be in short supply. So, what makes a proof understandable? To answer this question we first suggest a list of symptoms of understanding. We then propose a vision of an environment in which users can write and check formal proofs as well as query them with reference to the symptoms of understanding. In this way, the environment reconciles the main features of proof: correctness and understanding. 1