Henri Poincaré - Number Quotes
7 Sourced Quotes
Modern mathematics can be kept alive only by a large number of mathematicians cultivating different parts of the same system of values: a community which can be kept coherent only by the passionate vigilance of universities, journals and meetings, fostering these values and imposing the same respect for them on all mathematicians.
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.
Tolstoi explains somewhere in his writings why, in his opinion, "Science for Science's sake" is an absurd conception. We cannot know all the facts since they are infinite in number. We must make a selection... guided by utility... Have we not some better occupation than counting the number of lady-birds in existence on this planet?
The facts of greatest outcome are those we think simple; may be they really are so, because they are influenced only by a small number of well-defined circumstances, may be they take on an appearance of simplicity because the various circumstances upon which they depend obey the laws of chance and so come to mutually compensate.