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On the Intelligibility of the Universe and the Notions of Simplicity, Complexity and Irreducibility
, 2002
"... We discuss views about whether the universe can be rationally comprehended, starting with Plato, then Leibniz, and then the views of some distinguished scientists of the previous century. Based on this, we defend the thesis that comprehension is compression, i.e., explaining many facts using few ..."
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We discuss views about whether the universe can be rationally comprehended, starting with Plato, then Leibniz, and then the views of some distinguished scientists of the previous century. Based on this, we defend the thesis that comprehension is compression, i.e., explaining many facts using few theoretical assumptions, and that a theory may be viewed as a computer program for calculating observations. This provides motivation for defining the complexity of something to be the size of the simplest theory for it, in other words, the size of the smallest program for calculating it. This is the central idea of algorithmic information theory (AIT), a field of theoretical computer science. Using the mathematical concept of programsize complexity, we exhibit irreducible mathematical facts, mathematical facts that cannot be demonstrated using any mathematical theory simpler than they are. It follows that the world of mathematical ideas has infinite complexity and is therefore not fully comprehensible, at least not in a static fashion. Whether the physical world has finite or infinite complexity remains to be seen. Current science believes that the world contains randomness, and is therefore also infinitely complex, but a deterministic universe that simulates randomness via pseudorandomness is also a possibility, at least according to recent highly speculative work of S. Wolfram. [Written for a meeting of the German Philosophical Society, Bonn, September 2002.]
BERNAYS AND SET THEORY
"... Abstract. We discuss the work of Paul Bernays in set theory, mainly his axiomatization and his use of classes but also his higherorder reflection principles. Paul Isaak Bernays (1888–1977) is an important figure in the development of mathematical logic, being the main bridge between Hilbert and Göd ..."
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Abstract. We discuss the work of Paul Bernays in set theory, mainly his axiomatization and his use of classes but also his higherorder reflection principles. Paul Isaak Bernays (1888–1977) is an important figure in the development of mathematical logic, being the main bridge between Hilbert and Gödel in the intermediate generation and making contributions in proof theory, set theory, and the philosophy of mathematics. Bernays is best known for the twovolume 1934,1939 Grundlagen der Mathematik [39, 40], written solely by him though Hilbert was retained as first author. Going into many reprintings and an eventual second edition thirty years later, this monumental work provided a magisterial exposition of the work of the Hilbert school in the formalization of firstorder logic and in proof theory and the work of Gödel on incompleteness and its surround, including the first complete proof of the Second Incompleteness Theorem. 1 Recent reevaluation of Bernays ’ role actually places him at the center of the development of mathematical logic and Hilbert’s program. 2 But starting in his forties, Bernays did his most individuated, distinctive mathematical work in set theory, providing a timely axiomatization and later applying higherorder reflection principles, and produced a stream of
Hilbert’s Second Problem: Foundations of Arithmetic
"... of 23 problems that he considered crucial to the development of mathematics. The problems concerned various topics ranging from number theory to analysis to geometry. The second problem Hilbert presented concerned the foundations of arithmetic itself – and, as recent results of that time suggested, ..."
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of 23 problems that he considered crucial to the development of mathematics. The problems concerned various topics ranging from number theory to analysis to geometry. The second problem Hilbert presented concerned the foundations of arithmetic itself – and, as recent results of that time suggested, perhaps the foundations of all of mathematics. Hilbert’s second problem concerns the axioms of arithmetic – in particular, Hilbert was interested in showing that the axioms are independent and more importantly, not contradictory. In his words: “Upon closer consideration the question arises: Whether, in any way, certain statements of individual axioms depend upon one another, and whether the axioms may not therefore contain certain parts in common, which must be isolated if one wishes to arrive at a system of axioms that shall be altogether independent of one another. But above all I wish to designate the following as the most important among the numerous questions which can be asked with regard to the axioms: To prove that they are not contradictory, that is, that a finite number of logical steps based upon them can never lead to contradictory results. ” 12 The first question is fairly clear – Hilbert wishes to decide if any one axiom of a system is