The Paideia Archive: Twentieth World Congress of Philosophy

Volume 34, 1998

Philosophy of Mathematics

Alan Weir
Pages 41-47

A Neo-Formalist Approach to Mathematical Truth

I outline a variant on the formalist approach to mathematics which rejects textbook formalism's highly counterintuitive denial that mathematical theorems express truths while still avoiding ontological commitment to a realm of abstract objects. The key idea is to distinguish the sense of a sentence from its explanatory truth conditions. I then look at various problems with the neo-formalist approach, in particular at the status of the notion of proof in a formal calculus and at problems which Gödelian results seem to pose for the tight link assumed between truth and proof.