FOM: What is mathematics?
Insall
montez at rollanet.org
Fri Feb 15 14:49:11 EST 2002
Miguel Lerma wrote: ``Proofs may be an important part of mathematical
activity but not essential in defining mathematics.''
I submit that mathematics needs no definition. Mathematics just is. In any
given situation, a mathematician, or other professional, may desire, or
need, to adjudicate in a matter about whether a particular activity is
mathematical in nature. In these cases, the judgement need not be held up
to so much scrutiny that it becomes a ``law''. It may, however, be
reasonably cited as a ``precedent''. In any case, however, I do not mean to
suggest that the discussion about ``What is mathematics?'' is somehow
unworthy of pursuit. It can be quite enlightening and/or entertaining to
see what is on some particular person's list of ``mathematical'' items, and
what is on that person's list of items that they deem to be definitely
``nonmathematical''.
Matt Insall
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