از "دفاعیه یک ریاضی‌دان" - 4

I have often used the adjective ‘real’, and as we use it commonly in conversation. I have spoken of ‘real mathematics’ and ‘real mathematicians’, as I might have spoken of ‘real poetry’ or ‘real poets’, and I shall continue to do so. But I shall also use the word ‘reality’, and with two different connotations. In the first place, I shall speak of ‘physical reality’, and here again I shall be using the word in the ordinary sense. By physical reality I mean the material world, the world of day and night, earthquakes and eclipses, the world which physical science tries to describe. I hardly suppose that, up to this point, any reader is likely to find trouble with my language, but now I am near to more difficult ground. For me, and I suppose for most mathematicians, there is another reality, which I will call ‘mathematical reality’; and there is no sort of agreement about the nature of mathematical reality among either mathematicians or philosophers. Some hold that it is ‘mental’ and that in some sense we construct it, others that it is outside and independent of us. A man who could give a convincing account of mathematical reality would have solved very many of the most difficult problems of metaphysics. If he could include physical reality in his account, he would have solved them all.

I should not wish to argue any of these questions here even if I were competent to do so, but I will state my own position dogmatically in order to avoid minor misapprehensions. I believe that mathematical reality lies outside us, that our function is to discover or observe it, and that the theorems which we prove, and which we describe grandiloquently as our ‘creations’, are simply our notes of our observations. This view has been held, in one form or another, by many philosophers of high reputation from Plato onwards, and I shall use the language which is natural to a man who holds it. A reader who does not the philosophy can alter the language: it will make very little difference to my conclusions.

G.H. Hardy, A Mathematician's Apology

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