In the early twentieth century, a massive undertaking to rid mathematics of all paradoxes and inconsistencies was underway. Known as Hilbert’s program, it sought to provide an unshakable foundation for all of mathematics. Things seemed to be proceeding well until young Kurt Gödel stunned the world by proving that Hilbert’s goals were unobtainable, that contradiction was part of the warp and weave of any mathematical system.Yet what at the time seemed to be a fatal blow to mathematical consistency now forms the basis of modern logic. Gödel’s incompleteness theorems are often misunderstood to be a statement of the limits of mathematical reasoning, but in truth they strengthen mathematics, building it up to be more powerful than what had come before.
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