FOM: Jurassic pebbles (more on Davis/Hersh)
rhersh at math.unm.edu
Thu Mar 19 04:47:59 EST 1998
you sent me some starred queries.
Do I believe that the origin of arithmetic in counting and
commerce is my discovery?
You've got to be kidding. You can't really think I am
totally cuckoo, or some sort of serious paranoid, otherwise
you wouldn't bother e-mailing me, would you?
No, Martin, I don't think that.
Your other questions, I think all had easy yes answers, but I'll check
again before I send this. I hope my last letter helped you to
understand what I think. It's all in the book, which you have.
OK, I reread your starred questions.
To your questions about physical reality in the past, I
agree, I say yes.
To your questions about the validity of mathematical theories
in the past, as mathematical theories, about mathematical
objects, with mathematical hypotheses--it's not that they
weren't valid, they weren't there at all. To claim that they
were, you have to imagine that human thoughts and ideas can
exist without humans to think them. Do you say they are or were
already inherent in the pebbles or the planets? That to me
is not so different from saying you and I have immaterial souls.
The planets and pebbles are just what they are. We make
theories to study them, whether in the past, present or
future. The theories try to be true to exterior reality,
but they are not in or part of exterior reality, they are
our devices to describe exterior reality. Without human
readers, our libraries are mere piles of ink and paper.
Mathematics is something we do, for several purposes, including
to do physics. The physical world goes on without us.
Our marks on paper or magnetic chips are only our ways of
thinking together and talking to each other.
I'm getting repetitious.
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