[FOM] Mathematics ***is*** formalising of our thought and intuition (Shay Logan)

Shay Logan logan110 at umn.edu
Wed Jun 2 12:58:00 EDT 2010

I'm unclear on the meaning of the word formal as it is being used in
this discussion.

This word has picked up a variety of meanings over the last century or
so, and I think clarifying (very specifically) what we mean by formal
may help the discussion.

If by formal we mean what the word etymologically should mean; that
is, that truth is a function EXCLUSIVELY of the form of our sentences,
it seems odd to me to claim that mathematics is formal. There is far
more going on in mathematics than merely a verification that the
shapes (forms) of the sentences of mathematical statements are of the
right type. Political science would also fail to be formal in this

However, if by formal we mean something more colloquial, something
more along the lines of "rigorously thought through and carefully
argued", then a great deal of political science does seem formal to
me. So does mathematics. Mathematics may be (somehow) more formal than
political science when looked at from these lights.

Shay Logan

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