David Bourget (Western Ontario)
David Chalmers (ANU, NYU)
Rafael De Clercq
Jack Alan Reynolds
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History and Philosophy of Logic 25 (2):79-94 (2004)
In the 1920s, Ackermann and von Neumann, in pursuit of Hilbert's programme, were working on consistency proofs for arithmetical systems. One proposed method of giving such proofs is Hilbert's epsilon-substitution method. There was, however, a second approach which was not reflected in the publications of the Hilbert school in the 1920s, and which is a direct precursor of Hilbert's first epsilon theorem and a certain ?general consistency result? due to Bernays. An analysis of the form of this so-called ?failed proof? sheds further light on an interpretation of Hilbert's programme as an instrumentalist enterprise with the aim of showing that whenever a ?real? proposition can be proved by ?ideal? means, it can also be proved by ?real?, finitary means
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