FOM: social construction?
wtait at ix.netcom.com
Fri Mar 20 10:02:49 EST 1998
Charles Silver wrote (3/20)
>I believe Hersh is right that
>we find out what math is by investigating what mathematicians would do in
Maybe this is right if we are taking the approach of anthropologists,
investigating the workings of an alien culture. But if you replace ``we
find out what math is by'' by ``we learn math by'', I think you are
clearly wrong. E.g. do we learn English by investigating what English
speakers do in certain circumstances? This would not be a good
description even of how we learn a second language. But the case that is
analogous to learning math is learning our native language; and here it
is a non-starter.
If the entire membership of AMS emailed in stating that there are only
finitely many prime numbers, I would be shocked that so many people had
gone mad all at once, not that an arithmetic truth had become false.
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