FOM: Hersh's fingers
wtait@ix.netcom.com
wtait at ix.netcom.com
Mon Mar 2 00:06:21 EST 1998
No doubt there are propositions which are mixed mathematical and
empirical (e.g. if I have five fingers, then I have an odd number of
fingers.) But these are easily decomposed into a mathematical component
and an empirical one. (Interestingly, Plato discussed this matter in the
_Phaedo_.) There may, as Charles P. suggests, an empirical meaning of
`five' involved in the statement that I have five fingers. Charle's
argument for this can also be regarded as an explication of what he
means: Children can learn to count the number of fingures on someone's
hand without having, in any reasonable sense, a grasp of the number
concept (every number has a successor, math induction, etc.)
But mathematics is not about what children do and FOM is about
foundations of _mathematics_. For Charles' or Hersh's remarks to be
relevant to this, one would have to argue that our empirical
understanding of numbers or whatever is relevant to the truth of
_mathematical_ propositions---not in the causal sense of explaining why
we come to have such and such mathematical concepts, but in the logical
sense of being the grounds for the truth of mathematical propositions. I
doubt that Charles would want to argue for this.
Bill Tait
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