Mark S.P.R. van Atten

Winner Dissertation Prize 2000

Phenomenology of Choice Sequences

Supervisors:  Prof. Dr D. van Dalen, Prof. Dr C. Parsons, Prof. Dr R. Tieszen
Nomination: Utrecht University, Department of Philosophy

Report by the selection committee

This is an original, out-of-the ordinary study of Husserl’s phenomenological and Brouwer’s intuitionist discussion of mathematics, clearly and succinctly written. It contains an examination of basic principles which is of fundamental importance to both philosophy and mathematics, and therefore to the exact sciences. The aim of the thesis is to provide a philosophical basis for Brouwer’s choice sequences. These are dynamic and grow in time. Husserl on the other hand expressly rejects the possibility of dynamic mathematical objects. This results in a dilemma, which is solved by Van Atten by defending the proposition that at least some mathematical objects are not omnitemporal. Phenomenological philosophy and exact modes of thought are reconciled in a compact, indeed almost mathematical style of argumentation and writing. There is no clichéd antithesis between ‘arts’ and ‘science’! The reader comes to appreciate, moreover, the real significance of the fact that the father of phenomenology – seen by some as woolly philosophising – was by training a mathematician.