# Opinion 35: Mathematicians Should Pay Attention to
History and Philosophy of Math (In Particular to
Leo Corry's Fascinating Work)

## By Doron Zeilberger

Written: March 5, 1999

For us, doing math is like living. But sometimes it is a good idea to
sit back, reflect, and ask about the meaning of life and truth.
Most of us are too busy living (i.e. doing math), and don't take
time out. It is also true, that in the past, many philosophical
and historical works were too dry and technical, and too obsessed
with foundations.

I just finished reading
Leo Corry's fascinating article
The Origins of Eternal Truth in Modern Mathematics: Hilbert
to Bourbaki and Beyond
(also available from his homepage). This should be required reading
to all mathematicians. Among other interesting points,
it points out Nicolas Bourbaki's most serious
`abuse of notation', this one unintentional(?). They used
the word structure both in a narrow technical sense
and in a philosophical, value-laden, way, and used this
ambiguity to pretend
that there was a `solid' a-priori justification for their
math-outlook.

I now also see David Hilbert in a new light, and he became more
three-dimensional (in fact infinite-dimensional).

So, take time out, to read History and Philosophy of
Math, in particular Leo Corry's intriguing work.

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