— Henri Poincaré, buch Wissenschaft und Hypothese
Quelle: Science and Hypothesis (1901), Ch. I. (1905) Tr. George Bruce Halstead
Kontext: This procedure is the demonstration by recurrence. We first establish a theorem for n = 1; then we show that if it is true of n - 1, it is true of n, and thence conclude that it is true for all the whole numbers... Here then we have the mathematical reasoning par excellence, and we must examine it more closely.
... The essential characteristic of reasoning by recurrence is that it contains, condensed, so to speak, in a single formula, an infinity of syllogisms.
... to arrive at the smallest theorem [we] can not dispense with the aid of reasoning by recurrence, for this is an instrument which enables us to pass from the finite to the infinite.
This instrument is always useful, for, allowing us to overleap at a bound as many stages as we wish, it spares us verifications, long, irksome and monotonous, which would quickly become impracticable. But it becomes indispensable as soon as we aim at the general theorem...
In this domain of arithmetic,.. the mathematical infinite already plays a preponderant rôle, and without it there would be no science, because there would be nothing general.<!--pp.10-12