This book presents reverse mathematics to a general mathematical audience for the first time. Reverse mathematics is a new field that answers some old questions. In the two thousand years that mathematicians have been deriving theorems from axioms, it has often been asked: which axioms are needed to prove a given theorem? Only in the last two hundred years have some of these questions been answered, and only in the last forty years has a systematic approach been developed. In Reverse Mathematics , John Stillwell gives a representative view of this field, emphasizing basic analysis--finding the right axioms to prove fundamental theorems--and giving a novel approach to logic. Stillwell introduces reverse mathematics historically, describing the two developments that made reverse mathematics possible, both involving the idea of arithmetization. The first was the nineteenth-century project of arithmetizing analysis, which aimed to define all concepts of analysis in terms of natural numbers and sets of natural numbers. The second was the twentieth-century arithmetization of logic and computation. Thus arithmetic in some sense underlies analysis, logic, and computation. Reverse mathematics exploits this insight by viewing analysis as arithmetic extended by axioms about the existence of infinite sets. Remarkably, only a small number of axioms are needed for reverse mathematics, and, for each basic theorem of analysis, Stillwell finds the right axiom to prove it. By using a minimum of mathematical logic in a well-motivated way, Reverse Mathematics will engage advanced undergraduates and all mathematicians interested in the foundations of mathematics.
From the Back Cover Reverse mathematics is the mathematical logician's version of zoology or botany, a classification of mathematical theorems in terms of the strength of the axioms needed to prove them. Stillwell carefully situates the field in the broader context of the history of mathematics and its foundations, and does a fine job of making the whole endeavor accessible to a general mathematical audience. --Jeremy Avigad, Carnegie Mellon University Filling an important niche, this book gives readers a good picture of the basics of reverse mathematics while suggesting several directions for further reading and study. It provides a context for the questions investigated by reverse mathematics and makes an extended argument for their significance within contemporary mathematical practice. --Denis Hirschfeldt, University of Chicago Reverse mathematics is a major research direction in the foundations of mathematics and mathematical logic, and the insights obtained from reverse mathematics will interest a wide mathematically minded audience. Stillwell's book is self-contained and includes much background material in analysis, mathematical logic, combinatorics, and computability. I heartily commend this very readable and accessible book. --Stephen Simpson, Vanderbilt University