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2008-08-17 19:19

As excerpted in the AMS Notices, Martin H. Krieger translates a 1940 letter of André Weil on analogy in mathematics:

Once it is possible to translate any particular proof from one theory to another, then the analogy has ceased to be productive for this purpose; it would cease to be at all productive if at one point we had a meaningful and natural way of deriving both theories from a single one. … Gone is the analogy: gone are the two theories, their conflicts and their delicious reciprocal reflections, their furtive caresses, their inexplicable quarrels; alas, all is just one theory, whose majestic beauty can no longer excite us. Nothing is more fecund than these slightly adulterous relationships; nothing gives greater pleasure to the connoisseur, whether he participates in it, or even if he is an historian contemplating it retrospectively, accompanied, nevertheless, by a touch of melancholy. The pleasure comes from the illusion and the far from clear meaning; once the illusion is dissipated, and knowledge obtained, one becomes indifferent at the same time. …

Curry-Howard isomorphism, anyone?