[FOM] Pure mathematics and humanity's collective curiosity
Timothy Y. Chow
tchow at alum.mit.edu
Tue Oct 16 14:31:23 EDT 2007
John McCarthy <jmc at cs.Stanford.EDU> wrote:
>Quine and some philosophers following him called mathematics with no
>potential applications in sciences 'recreational mathematics'
>One might extend that idea to call science without potential
>application to human material prosperity `recreational science'.
>Both ideas are wrong.
Yes, they are wrong, because *all* mathematics/science deserves to be
praised as "recreational." Even mathematics/science that seems not to
have any direct recreational value usually has indirect value, because it
often indirectly contributes to the recreation of *others* (via
The people who are obsessed with "applications" are usually the same
people who regard the production of entertainment (e.g., in the form of
movies, sports events, or toys) as extremely valuable. Therefore, if they
were thinking straight, they wouldn't fall into the error of using the
word "recreational" in a pejorative sense.
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