Mathematics in Society and History: Sociological Inquiries / Edition 1

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This is the first book by a sociologist devoted exclusively to a general sociology of mathematics. The author provides examples of different ways of thinking about mathematics sociologically. The survey of mathematical traditions covers ancient China, the Arabic-Islamic world, India, and Europe. Following the leads of classical social theorists such as Emile Durkheim, Restivo develops the idea that mathematical concepts and ideas are collective representations, and that it is mathematical communities that create mathematics, not individual mathematicians. The implications of the sociology of mathematics, and especially of pure mathematics, for a sociology of mind are also explored. In general, the author's objective is to explore, conjecture, suggest, and stimulate in order to introduce the sociological perspective on mathematics, and to broaden and deepen the still narrow, shallow path that today carries the sociology of mathematics.
This book will interest specialists in the philosophy, history, and sociology of mathematics, persons interested in mathematics education, students of science and society, and people interested in current developments in the social and cultural analysis of science and mathematics.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780792317654
  • Publisher: Springer-Verlag New York, LLC
  • Publication date: 11/30/1992
  • Series: Episteme Series, #20
  • Edition description: 1992
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 218
  • Product dimensions: 0.63 (w) x 6.14 (h) x 9.21 (d)

Table of Contents

Prologue. Part I: Introduction. 1. Mathematics and Culture. An introduction to Oswald Spengler's pioneering work on 'numbers and culture' in The Decline of the West. This is the source of a 'weak' sociology of mathematical traditions, and a 'strong' sociology of mathematics as a social world (mathematics as social relations and worldview). The 'weak' perspective guides the discussion in Part II, the 'strong' perspective guides the discussion in Part III. 2. Mathematics from the Ground Up. The Social activities of everyday life in ancient societies give rise to arithmetic and geometry, the classical forms of mathematical work. Part II: Mathematical Traditions. 3. The Mathematics of Survival in China. From the legend of Yu the Great and the Lo River tortoise to the 'golden age' in T'ang. 4. Mathematics in Context: The Arabic-Islamic Golden Age. A 'golden age of mathematics' (700-1400 in the Arabic-Islamic world) is sketched with an emphasis on historical conditions and cultural settings. 5. Indian Mathematics: A History of Episodes. Sociological highlights from the history of Indian mathematics. 6. Mathematics and Renaissance in Japan. The seventeenth century 'renaissance' makes Japan a center of oriental mathematical work; the mathematical revolution ends abruptly with the consolidation of power by the Tokugawa shoguns. 7. Conflict, Social Change, and Mathematics in Europe. 'Scandals' are shown to reflect transitions to new conditions of competition and conflict: the cases of Cardan and Tartaglia (1540s), Newton and Leibniz (1670-1730), and Cauchy, Abel, and Galois (1826-1832) represent key transitional scandals from the 'robber baron' era. The Cantor-Kronecker case (late nineteenth century) represents a transition from the robber baron era to the era of 'saintly politicians' who emphasize the collective side of science in an era of competition between 'schools' of mathematics. The group of mathematicians known as Bourbaki is a key example. Appendix 1: African Mathematics and the Problem of Ethnoscience. Appendix 2: On Modes of Thought. Appendix 3: Mathematics and God. Part III: Math Worlds. 8. Mathematics as Representation. Survey of a wide range of issues, examples, and conjectures in the sociology of mathematics that bear on the problem of representation. 9. Foundations of the Sociology of Pure Mathematics. The sociological conditions behind experiencing and labeling mental states and products as 'pure'. 10. The Social Relations of Pure Mathematics. Includes a sociological reading of Boole's 'laws of thought' and of Kleene's 'metamathematics'. Bibliographic Epilogue. References. Index.

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