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Edsger W. Dijkstra

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Programming is one of the most difficult branches of applied mathematics; the poorer mathematicians had better remain pure mathematicians.

 
Edsger W. Dijkstra

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I am obliged to interpolate some remarks on a very difficult subject: proof and its importance in mathematics. All physicists, and a good many quite respectable mathematicians, are contemptuous about proof. I have heard Professor Eddington, for example, maintain that proof, as pure mathematicians understand it, is really quite uninteresting and unimportant, and that no one who is really certain that he has found something good should waste his time looking for proof.

 
G. H. Hardy
 

Math is perfect (in principle), but mathematicians are not (because they are humans), hence the mathematics that (human) mathematicians do is influenced by the weltanschauung of the people around them.

 
Doron Zeilberger
 

It is with Bernhard Riemann's work that we finally have the mathematical glasses to explore such worlds of the mind. And now my journey through the abstract world of 20th century mathematics has revealed that maths is the true language that the universe is written in. They key to understanding the world around us. Mathematicians aren't motivated by money and material gain, or even by practical applications of their work. For us it's the glory of solving one of the great unsolved problems that have outwitted previous generations of mathematicians. David Hilbert was right; itís the unsolved problems of mathematics which make it a living subject. Which obsess each new generation of mathematicians. Despite all the things we've discovered over the last 7 millennia, there are still many things we don't understand. And its Hilbertís call of "We must know, we will know" which drives mathematics.

 
Marcus du Sautoy
 

...it is rare that mathematicians are intuitive, and that men of intuition are mathematicians, because mathematicians wish to treat matters of intuition mathematically, and make themselves ridiculous, wishing to begin with definitions and then with axioms, which is not the way to proceed in this kind of reasoning. Not that the mind does not do so, but it does it tacitly, naturally, and without technical rules; for the expression of it is beyond all men, and only a few can feel it. 1

 
Blaise Pascal
 

One of the bad effects of an anti-intellectual philosophy such as that of Bergson, is that it thrives upon the errors and confusions of the intellect. Hence it is led to prefer bad thinking to good, to declare every momentary difficulty insoluble, and to regard every foolish mistake as revealing the bankruptcy of intellect and the triumph of intuition. There are in Bergson's work many allusions to mathematics and science, and to a careless reader these allusions may seem to strengthen his philosophy greatly. As regards science, especially biology and physiology, I am not competent to criticize his interpretations. But as regards mathematics, he has deliberately preferred traditional errors in interpretation to the more modern views which have prevailed among mathematicians for the last eighty years. In this matter, he has followed the example of most philosophers. In the eighteenth and the early nineteenth centuries, the infinitesimal calculus, though well developed as a method, was supported, as regards his foundations, by many fallacies and much confused thinking. Hegel and his followers seized upon these fallacies and confusions, to support them in their attempt to prove all mathematics self-contradictory. Thence the Hegelian account of these matters passed into the current thought of philosophers, where it has remained long after the mathematicians have removed all the difficulties upon which the philosophers rely. And so long as the main object of philosophers is to show that nothing can be learned by patience and detailed thinking, but that we ought rather to worship the prejudices of the ignorant under the title or 'reason' if we are Hegelians, or of 'intuition' if we are Bergsonians, so long philosophers will take care to remain ignorant of what mathematicians have done to remove the errors by which Hegel profited.

 
Henri-Louis Bergson
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