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A Common Type of Rigorous Proof that Resists Hilbert’s Programme

  • Alan BundyEmail author
  • Mateja Jamnik
Chapter
  • 107 Downloads
Part of the Mathematics Education in the Digital Era book series (MEDE, volume 14)

Abstract

Following Hilbert, there seems to be a simple and clear definition of mathematical proof: it is a sequence of formulae each of which is either an axiom or follows from earlier formulae by a rule of inference. Automated theorem provers are based on this Hilbertian concept of proof, in which the formulae and rules of inference are represented in a formal logic. These logic-based proofs are typically an order of magnitude longer than the rigorous proofs produced by human mathematicians. There is a consensus, however, that rigorous proofs could, in principle, be unpacked into logical proofs, but this programme is rarely carried out because it would be tedious and uninformative. We argue that, for at least one class of rigorous proofs, which we will call schematic proofs, such a simple unpacking is not available. We will illustrate schematic proofs by analysing Cauchy’s faulty proof of Euler’s Theorem V − E + F = 2, as reported in Lakatos (1976) and giving further examples from Nelsen (1993). We will then give a logic-based account of schematic proofs, distinguishing them from Hilbertian proofs, and showing why they are error prone.

Notes

Acknowledgements

The research reported in this chapter is based on Bundy et al. (2005), Jamnik and Bundy (2005), Bundy (2012). It was supported by EPSRC grants GR/S01771, GR/S31099 and EP/N014758/1. Many thanks to Predrag Janic̆ić and Alison Pease for drawing some of the images and to Andy Fugard for permission to use a diagram drawn by one of the participants in his study. Thanks to Gila Hanna and Andy Fugard for comments on an earlier version.

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Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.University of EdinburghEdinburghUK
  2. 2.University of CambridgeCambridgeUK

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