Brouwer’s certainties: mysticism, mathematics, and the ego
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The lives of few mathematicians offer the drama that is presented by the life of L. E. J. Brouwer, correctly identified on the cover of this book as a topologist, intuitionist, and philosopher, and before we go any further, it will be worth indicating why.
It is not just that Brouwer would rank high among mathematicians for his work in topology alone: he set standards for rigour and created a theory of dimension for topological spaces, and his fixed-point theorem is of great importance. Nor is it just that his philosophy of intuitionism created a new and vibrant branch of logic, that is, arguably, the only viable alternative to naïve, classical logic outside the enclave of professional logicians. Rather, it is that there is a tension, popularly taken to amount to a contradiction, in the fundamental ideas behind his topology and his intuitionism. Added to that, he took a highly principled stand on mathematical issues that led him into confrontations with major figures and a certain...