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On Why Mathematics Can Not be Ontology

  • Shiva RahmanEmail author
Original Paper


The formalism of mathematics has always inspired ontological theorization based on it. As is evident from his magnum opus Being and Event, Alain Badiou remains one of the most important contemporary contributors to this enterprise. His famous maxim—“mathematics is ontology” has its basis in the ingenuity that he has shown in capitalizing on Gödel’s and Cohen’s work in the field of set theory. Their work jointly establish the independence of the continuum hypothesis from the standard axioms of Zermelo–Fraenkel set theory, with Gödel’s result showing their consistency to the affirmative, while Cohen’s showing it to the negative. These results serve as the cornerstone of Badiou’s mathematical ontology. In it, drawing heavily on Cohen’s technically formidable method of forcing, Badiou makes the latter result the key to his defense of the possibility of a faithful tracing of the consequences in the ‘state’ of an ‘event’ by a ‘subject’. Whereas, Gödel’s result based on the assumption of constructability becomes the pivot for criticism of the general philosophical orientation that Badiou calls ‘constructivism’. Viewed from a position internal to mathematical formalism itself, and taking into account the twentieth century developments in the relevant field, Badiou’s stance seems to be neither appreciative of the actual course of such developments, nor just to the philosophical view point that was actually maintained by Gödel. In the present paper, this concern is intended to be substantiated through an exposition of certain facts pertaining to the said developments as well as to Gödel’s philosophical inclinations.


Mathematical ontology Continuum hypothesis Constructability Constructivism Demonstrability Metamathematics Objective mathematical truth 


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature B.V. 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PhilosophyUniversity of CalicutCalicutIndia

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