Henri Poincaré - Mathematical Quotes
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But, one will say, if raw experience can not legitimatize reasoning by recurrence, is it so of experiment aided by induction? We see successively that a theorem is true of the number 1, of the number 2, of the number 3 and so on; the law is evident, we say, and it has the same warranty as every physical law based on observations, whose number is very great but limited. But there is an essential difference. Induction applied to the physical sciences is always uncertain, because it rests on the belief in a general order of the universe, an order outside of us. Mathematical induction, that is, demonstration by recurrence, on the contrary, imposes itself necessarily, because it is only the affirmation of a property of the mind itself.
The principal aim of mathematical education is to develop certain faculties of the mind, and among these intuition is not the least precious. It is through it that the mathematical world remains in touch with the real world, and even if pure mathematics could do without it, we should still have to have recourse to it to fill up the gulf that separates the symbol from reality.
What we call objective reality is, in the last analysis, what is common to many thinking beings, and could be common to all; this common part, we shall see, can only be the harmony expressed by mathematical laws. It is this harmony then which is the sole objective reality, the only truth we can attain; and when I add that the universal harmony of the world is the source of all beauty, it will be understood what price we should attach to the slow and difficult progress which little by little enables us to know it better.