Abstract:
My dissertation concerns the proper foundation for the intuitionistic mathematics whose development began with L.E.J. Brouwer's work in the first half of the 20th Century. It is taken for granted by most philosophers, logicians, and mathematicians interested in foundational questions that intuitionistic mathematics presupposes a special, proof-conditional theory of meaning for mathematical statements. I challenge this commonplace. Classical mathematics is very successful as a coherent body of theories and a tool for practical application. Given this success, a view like Dummett's that attributes a systematic unintelligibility to the statements of classical mathematicians fails to save the relevant phenomena. Furthermore, Dummett's program assumes that his proposed semantics for mathematical language validates all and only the logical truths of intuitionistic logic. In fact, it validates some intuitionistically invalid principles, and given the lack of intuitionistic completeness proofs, there is little reason to think that every intuitionistic logical truth is valid according to his semantics.
In light of the failure of Dummett's foundation for intuitionism, I propose and carry out a reexamination of Brouwer's own writings. Brouwer is frequently interpreted as a proto-Dummettian about his own mathematics. This is due to excessive emphasis on some of his more polemical writings and idiosyncratic philosophical views at the expense of his distinctively mathematical work. These polemical writings do not concern mathematical language, and their principal targets are Russell and Hilbert's foundational programs, not the semantic principle of bivalence. The failures of these foundational programs has diminished the importance of Brouwer's philosophical writings, but his work on reconstructing mathematics itself from intuitionistic principles continues to be worth studying.
When one studies this work relieved of its philosophical burden, it becomes clear that an intuitionistic mathematician can make sense of her mathematical work and activity without relying on special philosophical or linguistic doctrines. Core intuitionistic results, especially the invalidity of the logical principle tertium non datur, can be demonstrated from basic mathematical principles; these principles, in turn, can be defended in ways akin to the basic axioms of other mathematical theories. I discuss three such principles: Brouwer's Continuity Principle, the Principle of Uniformity, and Constructive Church's Thesis.