- In the twentieth century, the grand goal of finding a "true" and "universal" set of axioms was shown to be a hopeless dream by Gödel and others.
That's not what Gödel showed. :-) --LMS
Well, that's a reasonable paraphrase of what he showed, which was that no set of axioms sufficiently large for ordinary mathematics could be both (1) complete, i.e., capable of proving every truth; and (2) consistent, i.e., never proving an untruth. Or to put it yet another way, there must exist some assertions that are true but unprovable. --LDC
Hey... I was just following the style guidelines that said that I should leave something hanging! (I still stand be the statement that Incompleteness can be colloquially said to imply that there is no universal and true set of axioms. There are definitely complete and consistent systems such as real arithmetic, but they lack the power of, say, integer arithmetic and thus can be said not to be universal. Another way to read what I was saying is that Principia was a hopeless task and not just because of a few paradoxes that might someday be weaseled around. -- TedDunning
What do you mean by real arithmetic? Not arithmetic of real numbers, surely, because that includes integer arithmetic as a subset and so is just as powerful. -- Josh Grosse
Actually, real arithmetic does not include integer arithmetic as a subset. The reals include the integers, but logical systems built on the two fields are not equivalent. In particular, real arithmetic is generally taken as not including comparison while integer arithmetic has comparison. The exclusion of comparison is generally due to the complexity of the definitions of the reals. The completeness of the real system was proved (I think) by either Banach or Tarski in the middle of the twentieth century.
My own personal view is that Incompleteness is just a guise of the Halting problem. Since you can solve the Halting problem with real arithmetic where the reals are defined using bit-strings and you are allowed to look at and compare a finite prefix of any real. The trick is that the algorithm requires an initial condition that is not a computable real (TANSTAAFL!) -- TedDunning