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Gödel and ‘the objective existence' of mathematical objects

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This paper is a discussion of Gödel's arguments for a Platonistic conception of mathematical objects. I review the arguments that Gödel offers in different papers, and compare them to unpublished material (from Gödel's Nachlass ). My claim is that Gödel's later arguments simply intend to establish that mathematical knowledge cannot be accounted for by a reflexive analysis of our mental acts. In other words, there is at the basis of mathematics some data whose constitution cannot be explained by introspective analysis. This does not mean that mathematics is independent of the human mind, but only that it is independent of our ‘conscious acts and decisions', to use Gödel's own words. Mathematical objects may then have been created by the human mind, but if so, the process of creation cannot be completely analysed and re-enacted. Such a thesis is weaker than some of the statements that Gödel made about his conceptual realism. However, there is evidence that Gödel seriously considered this weak thesis, or a position depending only on this weak thesis. He also criticized Husserl's Phenomenology from this point of view.

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: CNRS, UMR 8519, University of Lille III, Lille, France

Publication date: September 1, 2005

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