Hilbert's program

Attempt to formalize all of mathematics, based on a finite set of axioms

Gödel's incompleteness theorems, published in 1931, showed that Hilbert's program was unattainable for key areas of mathematics. In his first theorem, Gödel showed that any consistent system with a computable set of axioms which is capable of expressing arithmetic can never be complete: it is possible to construct a statement that can be shown to be true, but that cannot be derived from the formal rules of the system. In his second theorem, he showed that such a system could not prove its own consistency, so it certainly cannot be used to prove the consistency of anything stronger with certainty. This refuted Hilbert's assumption that a finitistic system could be used to prove the consistency of itself, and therefore anything else.

The main goal of Hilbert's program was to provide secure foundations for all mathematics. In particular this should include:

Kurt Gödel showed that most of the goals of Hilbert's program were impossible to achieve, at least if interpreted in the most obvious way. Gödel's second incompleteness theorem shows that any consistent theory powerful enough to encode addition and multiplication of integers cannot prove its own consistency. This presents a challenge to Hilbert's program: