Wisdom mathematics

Nicholas Maxwell (2010) Wisdom mathematics, Friends of Wisdom Newsletter, vol. 1, no. 6, pp. 1 - 6. Available online at http://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/1370628/

What implications does wisdom-inquiry have for mathematics? Is not mathematics an especially secure branch of knowledge, immune to any changes that may be brought about by moving from knowledge-inquiry to wisdom-inquiry? All the well-known views that construe mathematics as a body of knowledge fail, however, to solve the fundamental problem: What constitutes genuinely significant, important mathematics? How do we distinguish between mathematics that is genuinely of value, and mathematics that is trivial? Platonism may be interpreted as holding that significant mathematics is about real, Platonic, mathematical entities, whereas trivial mathematics is about nothing. But why should Platonic entities exist only in connection with mathematics of value? Platonism in any case suffers from the fatal objection that it holds mathematics provides us with absolutely secure, proven knowledge about entities for whose existence we have no evidence whatsoever. Logicism, formalism and intuitionism are no more successful. If however we reject knowledge-inquiry and accept wisdom-inquiry instead, we are no longer obliged to construe mathematics as a branch of knowledge. What, then, is it? I suggest that we should see mathematics as the enterprise of developing and unifying problem-solving methods, the enterprise of exploring and delineating problematic possibilities. Mathematics is not about anything actual; it is about (problematic) possibilities. Wisdom mathematics, construed along these lines, does solve the problem of how to distinguish significant from trivial mathematics.

(My publication)Posted:May 31 2010, 06:00 PM by NickMaxwell
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