The Foundations of Computability Theory

pp 9-30


The Foundational Crisis of Mathematics

  • Borut RobičAffiliated withFaculty of Computer and Information Science, University of Ljubljana Email author 

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The need for a formal definition of the concept of algorithm was made clear during the first few decades of the twentieth century as a result of events taking place in mathematics. At the beginning of the century, Cantor’s naive set theory was born. This theory was very promising because it offered a common foundation to all the fields of mathematics. However, it treated infinity incautiously and boldly. This called for a response, which soon came in the form of logical paradoxes. Because Cantor’s set theory was unable to eliminate them—or at least bring them under control—formal logic was engaged. As a result, three schools of mathematical thought—intuitionism, logicism, and formalism—contributed important ideas and tools that enabled an exact and concise mathematical expression and brought rigor to mathematical research.