FOM: Hersh's Book
rhersh at math.unm.edu
Tue Dec 30 10:32:22 EST 1997
On Mon, 29 Dec 1997, Stephen Cook wrote:
> In outlining his book Reuben Hersh (Dec 22) makes the case that mathematics
> is a "social-cultural-historic" reality. Who would disagree? But so
> are all academic disciplines. It seems to me that a more important question
> which should be addressed by a book on the nature of mathematics is:
> What is it that distinguished mathematics from other academic disciplines?
> Stephen Cook
A good question!
Roughly speaking, academic disciplines can mostly be divided into
sciences and humanities. Like, physics, chemistry, biology, geology,
are called sciences. History, literature, philosophy are called
humanities. You can put fine arts with humanities. Some
disciplines--psychology, anthropology, e.g.--are in dispute between
calling themselves one or the other.
The humanities study the works of man(woman).
The sciences claim to or try to attain reproducible results--strong
Math, by this analysis, is distinguished by studying the works of
man(woman)--namely, mathematical concepts and objects, so it is one
of the humanities--and also, at the same time, attaining reproducible
results--very strong consensus--so it is also a science.
This is my rough, basic characterization of math among academic disciplines.
Scientific in its results, humanistic in its content.
If one goes into details (applied math, computing, fom) there will
be refinements and more exact description.>
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