What Is Mathematics, Really?

What Is Mathematics, Really?

by Reuben Hersh
     
 

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Most philosophers of mathematics treat it as isolated, timeless, ahistorical, inhuman. Reuben Hersh argues the contrary, that mathematics must be understood as a human activity, a social phenomenon, part of human culture, historically evolved, and intelligible only in a social context. Hersh pulls the screen back to reveal mathematics as seen by professionals,

Overview

Most philosophers of mathematics treat it as isolated, timeless, ahistorical, inhuman. Reuben Hersh argues the contrary, that mathematics must be understood as a human activity, a social phenomenon, part of human culture, historically evolved, and intelligible only in a social context. Hersh pulls the screen back to reveal mathematics as seen by professionals, debunking many mathematical myths, and demonstrating how the "humanist" idea of the nature of mathematics more closely resembles how mathematicians actually work. At the heart of his book is a fascinating historical account of the mainstream of philosophy--ranging from Pythagoras, Descartes, and Spinoza, to Bertrand Russell, David Hilbert, and Rudolph Carnap--followed by the mavericks who saw mathematics as a human artifact, including Aristotle, Locke, Hume, Mill, and Lakatos. What is Mathematics, Really? reflects an insider's view of mathematical life, and will be hotly debated by anyone with an interest in mathematics or the philosophy of science.

Editorial Reviews

Larry Feldman
This book represents an outstanding resource for helping the mathematics-education community understand the roots of mathematical thought....The book is filled with fascinating mathematical problems and uses very little obscure symbolism.
The Mathematics Teacher
Booknews
Hersh coauthored which won the National Book Award in 1983, and has spent 20 years doing research on advanced mathematical problems; 35 years teaching graduates and undergraduates; and many hours listening to, talking to, and reading philosophers. He notes that although the 1950s saw a revolution in the philosophy of science bringing it in line with what scientists actually do, no such revolution occurred in the philosophy of math, which has remained out of touch with mathematicians, users of mathematics, and teachers of mathematics. Hersh is among the iconoclasts working to bring in new ideas, in particular an understanding that the activity of mathematics is intelligible only in a social context. Annotation c. by Book News, Inc., Portland, Or.
From the Publisher
"Hersh has a talent for exposition that makes me wish he had written most of the books on math Ive had to read....[His] fascinating...book should prove an enlightening and entertaining read for anyone who desires greater insight into the nature of the pursuit of fundamental knowledge."—Physics Today

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780199839391
Publisher:
Oxford University Press
Publication date:
08/21/1997
Sold by:
Barnes & Noble
Format:
NOOK Book
File size:
18 MB
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Meet the Author

Reuben Hersh taught at several distinguished colleges and universities around the country. Now retired, he resides in Santa Fe, New Mexico.

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