Again, this post is a long reply to questions posed by ACM. It is a complement to the previous post "Conceptual mathematics vs. the classical (combinatorial) one". The title is intentionally similar to the titles of three well known books by F. Klein.

First, the terminology in “Conceptual mathematics vs. the classical (combinatorial) one” is my and was invented at the spot, and the word "classical" is a very bad choice. I should find something better. The word

*"conceptual"*is good enough, but not as catchy as I may like. I meant something real, but as close as possible to the Gowers's idea of*"two cultures"*. I do not believe in his theory anymore; but by simply using his terms I will promote it.Another choice, regularly used in discussions in Gowers's blog is

*"combinatorial"*. It looks like it immediately leads to confusion, as one may see from your question (but not only). First of all (I already mentioned it in Gowers's blog or here), there two rather different types of combinatorics. At one pole there is the algebraic combinatorics and most of the enumerative combinatorics. R. Stanley and the late J.-C. Rota are among the best (or the best) in this field. One can give even a more extreme example, mentioned by M. Emerton: symmetric group and its representations. Partitions of natural numbers are at the core of this theory, and in this sense it is combinatorics. One the other hand, it was always considered as a part of the theory of representations, a highly conceptual branch of mathematics.So, there is already a lot of conceptual and quite interesting combinatorics. And the same time, there is Hungarian combinatorics, best represented by the Hungarian school. It is usually associated with P. Erdös and since the last year Abel prize is also firmly associated with E. Szemerédi. Currently T. Gowers is its primary spokesperson, with T. Tao serving as supposedly independent and objective supporter. Of course, all this goes back for centuries.

Today the most obvious difference between these two kinds of combinatorics is the fact that the algebraic combinatorics is mostly about exact values and identities, and Hungarian combinatorics is mostly about estimates and asymptotics. If no reasonable estimate is in sight, the existence is good enough. This is the case with the original version of Szemerédi's theorem. T. Gowers added to it some estimates, which are huge but a least could be written down by elementary means. He also proved that any estimate should be huge (in a precise sense). I think that the short paper proving the latter (probably, it was Gowers's first publication in the field) is the most important result around Szemerédi’s theorem. It is strange that it got almost no publicity, especially if compared with his other papers and Green-Tao's ones. It could be the case that this opinion results from the influence of a classmate, who used to stress that lower estimates are much more deep and important than the upper ones (for positive numbers, of course), especially in combinatorial problems.

Indeed, I do consider Hungarian combinatorics as the opposite of all new conceptual ideas discovered during the last 100 years. This, obviously, does not mean that the

**results**of Hungarian combinatorics cannot be approached conceptually. We have an example at hand: Furstenberg’s proof of Szemerédi theorem. It seems that it was obtained within a year of the publication of Szemerédi’s theorem (did not checked right now). Of course, I cannot exclude the possibility that Furstenberg worked on this problem (or his framework for his proof without having this particular application as the main goal) for years within his usual conceptual framework, and missed by only few months. I wonder how mathematics would look now if Furstenberg would be the first to solve the problem.One cannot approach the area (not the results alone) of Hungarian combinatorics from any conceptual point of view, since the Hungarian combinatorics is not conceptual almost by the definition (definitely by its description by Gowers in his

*“Two cultures”*). I adhere to the motto*“Proofs are more important than theorems, definitions are more important than proofs”*. In fact, I was adhering to it long before I learned about this phrase; this was my taste already in the middle school (I should confess that I realized this only recently). Of course, I should apply it uniformly. In particular, the Hungarian style of proofs (very convoluted combinations of well known pieces, as a first approximation) is more essential than the results proved, and the insistence on being elementary but difficult should be taken very seriously – it excludes any deep definitions.I am not aware of any case when

*“heuristic”*of Hungarian combinatorics lead anybody to conceptual results. The theorems can (again, Furstenberg), but they are not heuristics.I am not in the business of predicting the future, but I see only two ways for Hungarian combinatorics, assuming that the conceptual mathematics is not abandoned. Note that still not even ideas of Grothendieck are completely explored, and, according to his coauthor J. Dieudonne, there are enough ideas in Grothendieck’s work to occupy mathematicians for centuries to come – the conceptual mathematics has no internal reasons to die in any foreseeable future. Either the Hungarian combinatorics will mature by itself and will develop new concepts which eventually will turn it into a part of conceptual mathematics. There are at least germs of such development. For example, matroids (discovered by H. Whitney, one of the greatest topologists of the 20

^{th}century) are only at the next level of abstraction after the graphs, but matroids is an immensely useful notion (unfortunately, it is hardly taught anywhere, which severely impedes its uses). Or it will remain a collection of elementary tricks, and will resemble more and more the collection of mathematical Olympiads problems. Then it will die out and forgotten.I doubt that any area of mathematics, which failed to conceptualize in a reasonable time, survived as an active area of research. Note that the meaning of the word

*“reasonable”*changes with time itself; at the very least because of the huge variations of the number of working mathematicians during the history. Any suggestions of counterexamples?Next post: About Timothy Gowers.