Kurt Gödel, paper on the incompleteness theorems (1931)

Zach, Richard. 2005. “Kurt Gödel, Paper on the Incompleteness Theorems (1931).” In Landmark Writings in Mathematics, edited by Ivor Grattan-Guinness, 917–25. Amsterdam: Elsevier. DOI:10.1016/B978-044450871-3/50152-2

This chapter describes Kurt Gödel’s paper on the incompleteness theorems. Gödel’s incompleteness results are two of the most fundamental and important contributions to logic and the foundations of mathematics. It had been assumed that first-order number theory is complete in the sense that any sentence in the language of number theory would be either provable from the axioms or refutable. Gödel’s first incompleteness theorem showed that this assumption was false: it states that there are sentences of number theory that are neither provable nor refutable. The first theorem is general in the sense that it applies to any axiomatic theory, which is ω-consistent, has an effective proof procedure, and is strong enough to represent basic arithmetic. Their importance lies in their generality: although proved specifically for extensions of system, the method Gödel used is applicable in a wide variety of circumstances. Gödel’s results had a profound influence on the further development of the foundations of mathematics. It pointed the way to a reconceptualization of the view of axiomatic foundations.

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