, Volume 53, Issue 1-2, pp 63-96

Does Reductive Proof Theory Have A Viable Rationale?

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Abstract

The goals of reduction andreductionism in the natural sciences are mainly explanatoryin character, while those inmathematics are primarily foundational.In contrast to global reductionistprograms which aim to reduce all ofmathematics to one supposedly ``universal'' system or foundational scheme, reductive proof theory pursues local reductions of one formal system to another which is more justified in some sense. In this direction, two specific rationales have been proposed as aims for reductive proof theory, the constructive consistency-proof rationale and the foundational reduction rationale. However, recent advances in proof theory force one to consider the viability of these rationales. Despite the genuine problems of foundational significance raised by that work, the paper concludes with a defense of reductive proof theory at a minimum as one of the principal means to lay out what rests on what in mathematics. In an extensive appendix to the paper,various reduction relations betweensystems are explained and compared, and arguments against proof-theoretic reduction as a ``good'' reducibilityrelation are taken up and rebutted.