constructive
<mathematics> A proof that something exists is "constructive" if it
provides a method for actually constructing it. Cantor's proof that the real
numbers are uncountable can be thought of as a *nonconstructive* proof that
irrational numbers exist. (There are easy constructive proofs, too; but there
are existence theorems with no known constructive proof).
Obviously, all else being equal, constructive proofs are better than
nonconstructive proofs. A few mathematicians actually reject *all*
nonconstructive arguments as invalid; this means, for instance, that the law of
the excluded middle (either P or notP must hold, whatever P is) has to go; this
makes proof by contradiction invalid. See intuitionistic logic for more
information on this.
Most mathematicians are perfectly happy with nonconstructive proofs; however,
the constructive approach is popular in theoretical computer science, both
because computer scientists are less given to abstraction than mathematicians
and because intuitionistic logic turns out to be the right theory for a
theoretical treatment of the foundations of computer science.
(19950413)
Nearby terms:
CONSTRAINTS « constraint satisfaction « constructed
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constructive » Constructive Cost Model »
constructive solid geometry » constructor
