FOM: social construction?

Lincoln Wallen Lincoln.Wallen at
Sun Mar 22 17:58:52 EST 1998

   Date: Sun, 22 Mar 1998 15:38:40 -0500 (EST)
   From: Charles Silver <csilver at>
   cc: wtait at, fom at
   MIME-Version: 1.0
   Content-Type: TEXT/PLAIN; charset=US-ASCII

   Lincoln Wallen said:
   > The reconstructed task of the anthropologist is to articulate these so
   > called ethno-methods of (local) investigation.
   > In these terms I understand Silver to be agreeing with Hersh that we
   > need to articulate the ethno-methods used by mathematicians to create
   > and sustain mathematics. 

   [Charlie Silver]
	   I want to make a few distinctions.  Suppose we didn't understand
   the game of baseball and tried to analyze it using various
   "ethno-methods". I don't think we would come to the conclusion that the
   game of baseball is primarily one that uses ethno-methods similar to those
   we used in our analysis.  (They use a bat, ball, and glove, for example. 
   They run around the bases, and so on.)  

If I understand you correctly, I have not made myself understood.  The
term ethnomethods refers to the ways in which those involved with
baseball seek to distinguish various phenomena and give account for
them.  The anthroplogist comes only with the human/social ability to
learn how to play baseball and a certain understanding of how tacit
practices can (or can;t) be articulated.

   And, I think the methods employed
   by players, coaches, fans, etc. for "sustaining" (the institution of) 
   baseball would be different yet.  

These are the things one seeks to get at and articulate.

   Here, I'm trying to make a distinction
   between anthropologists' methods used in studying mathematics and the
   methods employed by practicing mathematicians.  (I think a third batch of
   methods would be needed to preserve the institution of mathematics, though
   I think there would be some overlap here since teaching others how to do
   math is similar to just plain doing math.) 

   Charlie Silver

Agreed.  The institution of mathematics in which mathematical practice
is situated is a wider activity, akin to any other human profession.

Lincoln  Wallen

More information about the FOM mailing list