Step By Recursive Step: Church's Analysis Of Effective Calculability
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Alonzo Church's mathematical work on computability and undecidability is well-known indeed, and we seem to have an excellent understanding of the context in which it arose. The approach Church took to the underlying conceptual issues, by contrast, is less well understood. Why, for example, was "Church's Thesis" put forward publicly only in April 1935, when it had been formulated already in February/March 1934? Why did Church choose to formulate it then in terms of G odel's general recursiveness, not his own #-definability as he had done in 1934? A number of letters were exchanged between Church and Paul Bernays during the period from December 1934 to August 1937; they throw light on critical developments in Princeton during that period and reveal novel aspects of Church's distinctive contribution to the analysis of the informal notion of e#ective calculability. In particular, they allow me to give informed, though still tentative answers to the questions I raised; the char...