Are their any progressive uses for higher math?

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Ken Burch Ken Burch's picture
Are their any progressive uses for higher math?

 

Ken Burch Ken Burch's picture

I've come to realize that probably one reason I struggled with algebra, geometry et.al., was that it seemed to me that these were basically reactionary academic disciplines, useful for designing weaponry or potentially repressive computer technology, but not with any obvious humanistic or social positive uses.

If I'm wrong about this, I'd appreciate it if people could show me how this discipline can have progressive uses.

I also feel this could be useful in developing better ways of teaching higher mathematics if such uses could be found.

Unionist

Ken, you are so profoundly wrong about this that I wouldn't know where to start. Mathematics has applications to every single branch of human thought and activity - no known exceptions. Here is a [url=http://www.fields.utoronto.ca/programs/scientific/03-04/mathmedicine/]ra... example.[/url] When I retire, I'll devote my full time to answering your question.

Kevin_Laddle

I agree. The uses of mathematics are primarily to serve the elites and powerful within society. Thanks to mathematics, the United States was building rocket ships to collect pebbles on the moon while they had hundreds of millions of their own citizens at home starving to death. Mathematics is great for building nuclear war heads, weapons technology, software to line the pockets of millionaire fat cats, or creating non-sense to feed the bullshit rationale for junk sciences such as economics. But for the poor working family just trying to get by, mathematics has very little to offer.

Nanuq

Blanket denunciations of mathematics tend not to make a lot of sense. Mathematics underlies all of science, hard and soft. To argue against mathematics is to argue against every scientific advance of the past 500 years. That includes advances in medicine and biology by the way. Not to mention the Internet that we're using to have this little argument. Yes, there have been misuses, but there have been substantial benefits as well.

500_Apples

A good question, and not very easy to answer.

Take your post on babble for example. It would clearly be impossible without the internet. Taken in context, is this a net positive or a net negative? On the down side, the internet causes people to gain weight, procrastinate more, and gives an avenue for paedophiles and racists. On the other hand, it's responsible for the fact the 1990s were a better economic period than the 1980s, it's spreading literacy, gives an alternative to mainstream media, allows faster communication, apparently 20% of new married couples met on dating sites, et cetera. Overall, I would guess the internet is a positive.

You could make similar arguments for the airplane, for statistical theory, for food preservation and for combustion. How about the German V2 rocket. It killed so many people. But that same technology helped put a man on the moon, helped put weather sattelites up in space so we could study the atmosphere, and helped us set up a system of telecommunication through sattelite that you can communicate with people all over the world. Was it the technology that was moral/immoral, or the people?

I think you have to take a very holistic approach to the social impact of technology. There's a very long and convoluted chain between the purest of scientists who study esoteric abstractions for abstractions sake, and your common citzen demanding new products or governments demanding new weapons. It is society which decides how technology will be used.

Equivalently though, it is technology which is helping shape ethics. A philosopher, generally, would like a paper and pencil. Moving to more contemporary times, statistics are a primary tool of research in the social sciences, and there's very much an interplay between neurology, psychology, and sociology; if you try and have one without the other eventually you'll hit an intellectual dead end.

quote:

I've come to realize that probably one reason I struggled with algebra, geometry et.al., was that it seemed to me that these were basically reactionary academic disciplines, useful for designing weaponry or potentially repressive computer technology, but not with any obvious humanistic or social positive uses.

Incidentally, I agree. Very often there are no OBVIOUS humanistic or social positive uses. The purest scientists, and the type of historical science portrayed in high school and introductory university textbooks, are all about basic research. Unlike applied research, basic research is about research for its own sake. It's when you explore a new equation, a new concept, a new chemical, and you study it, and you have absolutely no idea where it will lead to. This is also where the big breakthroughs come from. Max Planck, a man I consider the father of Quantum Mechanics, was told not to go into physics because physics was "done." A hundred years later we have computers, we have lasers, and we have MRI machines.

500_Apples

Kevin Laddle wrote:

quote:

I agree. The uses of mathematics are primarily to serve the elites and powerful within society. Thanks to mathematics, the United States was building rocket ships to collect pebbles on the moon while they had hundreds of millions of their own citizens at home starving to death. Mathematics is great for building nuclear war heads, weapons technology, software to line the pockets of millionaire fat cats, or creating non-sense to feed the bullshit rationale for junk sciences such as economics. But for the poor working family just trying to get by, mathematics has very little to offer.

Let's talk about the average Joe.

- Back around 100 or so years ago for average joe, the infant mortality rate in North America was around 200 per thousand.
- Life expectancy was around 50.
- There were no effective birth control methods other than abstinence. Typical marriage age for average Joe was 20.
- Horse, and sometimes boat, were the means of travel.
- If average joe was lucky enough to know how to write, he could write letters to communicate.
- It was harder for average Joe to get heating in the winter.

Now that I'm done writing this, I simply you're joking Mr. Laddle.

M. Spector M. Spector's picture

I think we should do away with chemistry. All it does is help big corporations make piles of money off us poor working stiffs, who have no use for polymers, exothermic reactions, and such.

Chemistry pollutes our planet and makes explosive weaponry available for wars. It provides Big Pharma with new ways to make money off our diseases. It allows Monsanto to control our agriculture with pesticides and fertilizer. It gave us plastic.

And don't even get me started on physics.

ETA for Michelle's benefit: [img]wink.gif" border="0[/img]

[ 14 December 2006: Message edited by: M. Spector ]

wage zombie

Well physics and chemistry and other sciences and math are all unequivocally evil. But if you want to get to the root of our problems i blame language.

Language has caused empire. Language has allowed the few to conspire to control the many. Language allows for ideology and brainwashing. If not for language there'd be no words like "us" and "them". And clearly, without language we wouldn't have run into all the problems of algebra and chemistry.

I think we should do away with language.

Kevin_Laddle

quote:


Originally posted by 500_Apples:
[b]Kevin Laddle wrote:

Let's talk about the average Joe.

- Back around 100 or so years ago for average joe, the infant mortality rate in North America was around 200 per thousand.
- Life expectancy was around 50.
- There were no effective birth control methods other than abstinence. Typical marriage age for average Joe was 20.
- Horse, and sometimes boat, were the means of travel.
- If average joe was lucky enough to know how to write, he could write letters to communicate.
- It was harder for average Joe to get heating in the winter.

Now that I'm done writing this, I simply you're joking Mr. Laddle.[/b]


But what does all of this have to do with mathematics? In a round about way, I realize you could make some abstract connection, but the same is true of anything if you want to reach far enough.

My point is merely that mathematics has historically been a tool utilized by the elites in society for their own benefit. All of the famous Greek mathematicians, for instance, were aristocrats. They had an interest in keeping their craft out of the hands of the peasants in the same way they wanted to keep them dumb, hungry, and illiterate.

Ken Burch Ken Burch's picture

Just so that people don't come to the wrong conclusions about me, I'm not here to DEFEND the idea that higher mathematics is reactionary, it's a belief that I'm trying to move past.

My position here is NOT "Death to the Quadratic Equation".

I'm trying to learn other ways to see this discipline.

[ 13 December 2006: Message edited by: Ken Burch ]

Gir Draxon

Well, everything to do with computers and modern medicine.

Research into global climate change is heavily dependent on mathematical models.

There are as many ways in which math can be applied to both good and evil ends as there are ways to use the English language for good or for evil.

West Coast Greeny

quote:


Originally posted by Gir Draxon:
[b]
Research into global climate change is heavily dependent on mathematical models.
[/b]

One of the fields I may study. Involves a painful amount of linear algebra and calculus.

quart o' homomilk

Let's do away with thought.

Thinking has been used to develop weapons to kill millions of people, and to scrounge up rationalizations and propaganda for doing the killing in the first place.

Typically, thought has been a tool of the ruling class to come up with all sorts of ways to oppress the masses. Or they shut other people out of their thoughts just to be exclusive and petty.

Maybe you can use thoughts to do some good things but most people only use their thoughts to imagine doing dirty things to their secretaries.

End the oppressive burden of thought!

Southlander

Many things you learn at school past the age of about 12 are not realy necessary to function in society. One of the important things we try and teach is an openmindedness and a logical way of thinking and annalysing things. Teaching maths above 12 is also designed to promote maths as a career option, as outlined above.

Rabelais

I think that the use of our brains beyond the limbic system and the basic sensory, motor, and association cortices is elitist and should be stopped. Using our frontal lobes has let to racism, war, and mathematics, and clearly we would have been better off without using those particular neurons. Let's make stop using our frontal lobes the last logical decision that we make, people, and reclaim a simpler time, before it's too late for everyone.

[ 14 December 2006: Message edited by: Rabelais ]

Michelle

quote:


Originally posted by quart o' homomilk:
[b]End the oppressive burden of thought![/b]

This whole post made me burst out laughing, especially the part about thoughts being used to think dirty things about their secretaries. [img]biggrin.gif" border="0[/img]

Seriously though - I'm really kind of surprised at some of these posts, unless they're so subtly satirical that I'm a patsy. I mean, I can tell that a couple of them besides homomilk's are satirical but a couple of them have me scratching my head.

Are some of us really advocating that the advanced study of some of the natural sciences and mathematics are bad? I've never been good at math, never my strong point, but I KNOW there is a beauty to it that I'm missing out on and it's always been kind of a sad thing for me. (I recognize this because I've read people who ARE into it talking about it and I think, wow, they're really inspired by this stuff, and during those few "flashes" where I "get it" when things are explained to me by someone who is passionate about it, whether in print or in person, I think, wow, this is really neat.)

I know it would have helped me quite a bit when I was taking philosophy courses, if I had been a mathematician.

500_Apples

Kevin Laddle I ask you again if you're serious?

quote:

But what does all of this have to do with mathematics? In a round about way, I realize you could make some abstract connection, but the same is true of anything if you want to reach far enough.

My point is merely that mathematics has historically been a tool utilized by the elites in society for their own benefit. All of the famous Greek mathematicians, for instance, were aristocrats. They had an interest in keeping their craft out of the hands of the peasants in the same way they wanted to keep them dumb, hungry, and illiterate.


The starting point for modern medicine are the microscope, computer modelling, and statistics. Both of which are impossible without mathematics. The microscope is an application of optics, which is a discipline heavily depend on mathematics.

The reason the famous greek mathematicians were aristocrats is the same the reason all greek thinkers were aristocrats. Back in the days, they didn't have the economic luxury of universal education. People had to work their jobs or die. The rich, hoever, had the luxury of pursuing esoteric pursuits.

500_Apples

Ken Burch wrote:

quote:

Just so that people don't come to the wrong conclusions about me, I'm not here to DEFEND the idea that higher mathematics is reactionary, it's a belief that I'm trying to move past.
My position here is NOT "Death to the Quadratic Equation".

I'm trying to learn other ways to see this discipline.


Most pure mathematicians regard their work as being analogous to art, with no direct application. Professor Godfrey Harold Hardy FRS (February 7, 1877 – December 1, 1947), for eample, would often brag about how useless his work was, and that it could only be used for other math. Of course, 100 years later, his work is at the foundation of cryptography. There was an exception to this attitude though: Hardy is also known for formulating the Hardy-Weinberg principle, a basic principle of population genetics, independently from Wilhelm Weinberg in 1908. He played cricket with the geneticist Reginald Punnett who introduced the problem to him, and Hardy thus became the somewhat unwitting founder of a branch of applied mathematics.

A quote:

quote:

Hardy preferred his work to be considered pure mathematics, perhaps because of his detestation of war and the military uses to which mathematics had been applied. He made several statements similar to that in his Apology:

"I have never done anything 'useful'. No discovery of mine has made, or is likely to make, directly or indirectly, for good or ill, the least difference to the amenity of the world."[1]
However, aside from formulating the Hardy-Weinberg law in population genetics, some of his work in number theory are reported to have found practical application in cryptography.
[url=http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/G._H._Hardy]http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/G....


n general you don't know what the applications are when you go into something brand new. If it's poorly understood, how could you know the applications? To be really good at something, you can't really do it as a means to an end, you have to do it as an end in itself. Scientists and mathematicians who are really talented and productive love the subject matter. If you want to know how to approach the subject, the best way is to simply see the equations for how beautiful they really are, to look for the reasons the methods work, and to try and make your solutions more elegent.

quote:

"Physics is like sex. Sure, it may give some practical results, but that's not why we do it." - Richard Feynman

[url=http://www.spaceandmotion.com/Physics-Richard-Feynman-QED.htm]www.spacea...

Kevin_Laddle

quote:


Originally posted by 500_Apples:
[b]Kevin Laddle I ask you again if you're serious?[/b]

Yes. The reaction you are having leads me to believe you are misunderstanding me. I'm not saying that math is a bad thing. I guess what my point really is is that access to tools and information that power is derived from has historically been used as a means of excluding others. I'm of the belief that all information; university studies, formulas for creating new pharmaceutical cures, technologies that could save lives, etc should be free to all. These are things that belong to all of human kind, and I do not think we should be excluding some. Obviously it would be foolish to renounce mathematics, or any type of other science, in some attempt to weed out bad uses (that would be like banning any use of metallic materials because some are used to make weapons). However, I just don't think we should say that since their are some useful and good applications of math, that we should therefore refrain from ever questioning how math (or other tools of information, such as literacy) are used to keep certain groups of people in the dark, while others can use it to suit their own ends.

Martha (but not...

quote:


Originally posted by Kevin_Laddle:
[b]My point is merely that mathematics has historically been a tool utilized by the elites in society for their own benefit.[/b]

I think that the other babblers were making a similar point: [i]every intellectual enterprise[/i], even language itself, has historically been a tool utilized by the elites in society for their own benefit. Language has been thus used. History has been thus used. Art has been thus used. Poetry has been thus used. Chemistry has been thus used. And so on. But few would advocate getting rid of language, art, poetry and chemistry.

Martha (but not...

quote:


Originally posted by Kevin_Laddle:
[b]I'm of the belief that all information; university studies, formulas for creating new pharmaceutical cures, technologies that could save lives, etc should be free to all. These are things that belong to all of human kind, and I do not think we should be excluding some.[/b]

Pure mathematics is the most democratic discipline. You only need a writing instrument and something to write on in order to engage in pure mathematics: a pen and napkin will suffice, or a stick and a piece of ground to make marks on.

Here's a joke.

The provost and the dean are meeting with the chair of the department of physics, who is trying to get money out of them for new lab equipment.

The provost says, "Why can't you physicists be like the mathematicians? All they need is a pencil, some paper, and a wasterpaper basket." But then the dean adds, "Better yet, why can't you physicists be like the philosophers? They don't even need the wastepaper basket."

Fidel

I think it's true to a certain extent that upper level math isn't used quite as much in the work place as what you would see in four years of most BSc or BEng university degree. A friend of mine graduated with a BSc degree in Chemistry, and he used quite a lot of upper level math in just his core chemistry subjects.

I don't look at math as being an elitist subject per se. I knew an NDP'er who ran for election in my hometown many years ago. During his high school years, Karl Morin-Strom won several provincial and national mathematics competitions and went on to obtain a PhD in math before working with the NDP. There is no shortage of left-brained lefties, imo. Einstein etc.

It's true that higher education in general was a privilege of the rich for many centuries. I don't like the inequality of access that's happening with neo-Liberal agendas today.

jeff house

It is certainly impossible to have a planned economy without using sophisticated mathematics.

Same for a mixed economy.

Sans Tache

Do you think mathematics or science cares as to what your political leaning is? Pure mathematics in all of its glorious splendour is the beautiful truth and that is all it asks for, the truth as there can be only one truth. Solving a complex mathematical equation is like eating the perfect meal, listening to the perfect musical score, experiencing the perfect event. It also doesn't care about who is using it. There is nothing more pure or contain more truth than mathematics.
Science is the lesser or younger sibling of mathematics. Then we start to experience the slippery slope of other disciplines until we finally get to the worst of them all... Sorry, I thought I was in the Banter section. [img]wink.gif" border="0[/img]

Erik Redburn

Since my connection is still hanging in; I don't see anyone here Seriously disagreeing that mathematics is above and beyond politics....just sos we can all, like, agree on the general drift.

M. Spector M. Spector's picture

[url=http://www.twbookmark.com/books/15/0446677264/chapter_excerpt16038.html]... Math for Everyday Life[/url]

[url=http://www.amazon.co.uk/Why-Buses-Come-Threes-Mathematics/dp/1861058624]Why Do Buses Come in Threes?: The Hidden Mathematics of Everyday Life[/url]

Ken Burch Ken Burch's picture

I'd like to thank everyone for their posts. I started this thread to expand my perceptions of this discipline and my assumptions about it, and these comments are going to help.

And again, I wasn't calling for the abolition of college math departments. I never meant to insult anyone's intellectual preferences.

Michelle

quote:


Originally posted by Martha (but not Stewart):
[b]The provost says, "Why can't you physicists be like the mathematicians? All they need is a pencil, some paper, and a wasterpaper basket." But then the dean adds, "Better yet, why can't you physicists be like the philosophers? They don't even need the wastepaper basket."[/b]

Haha! I love philosophy jokes. [img]biggrin.gif" border="0[/img]

How do you get a philosopher off your front porch? Pay for the pizza.

Brett Mann

The very fact that this question can even be asked is disturbing. It is my belief that somewhere in the past two or three decades, a thread of anti-intellectualism and even anti-rationalism has crept into leftist thinking. It used to be that right wing USians had a monopoly on anti-intellectualism. There even was a group that proudly called themselves the "know-nothings" in the 1930s or so. The term "pointy-headed intellectual" was introduced by American reactionaries. The denial of global warming, the rejection of evolution, are directly traceable to a contempt for science, knowledge and learning. And a corrosive cynicism which distrusts everything (even mathematics!) is likely the legacy of post-modern, deconstructionist philosophy. Ken's question reveals a current of thinking on the left which desperately needs to be re-examined.

Unionist

quote:


Originally posted by Brett Mann:
[b]The very fact that this question can even be asked is disturbing. It is my belief that somewhere in the past two or three decades, a thread of anti-intellectualism and even anti-rationalism has crept into leftist thinking. [/b]

Your utterly baseless and (I would say) slanderous "belief" is similar to your belief that the "Left" is blind to the threat that "Al Qaeda" poses to civilization as we know it.

The posts in this very thread should suffice to refute your anti-intellectualist straw man.

As for Al Qaeda, you're right. I personally can't see it anywhere, so you've unearthed one blind leftist anyway. Keep checking underneath those beds, though...

Brett Mann

Utterly baseless? Do a search on "anti-intellectualism" and see what you come up with. You might stumble upon [url=http://www.washingtontimes.com/commentary/20050201-094824-5748r.htm]this... article from the Washington Times. Leaving aside the merits of the specific case discussed, take a look at the author's conclusion:

"It's not that important whether Mr. Summers is right or wrong. What's important is the attempt by some of the academic elite to stifle inquiry. Universities are supposed to be places where ideas are pursued and tested, and stand or fall on their merit. Suppression of ideas seen as out of the mainstream has become all too common at universities. The creed of the leftist religion is that any difference between people is a result of evil social forces. That is a vision that can return us to the Dark Ages".

Anti-intellectualism is dangerous, whether it occurs on the right or left.

Unionist

quote:


Originally posted by Brett Mann:
[b]Utterly baseless? Do a search on "anti-intellectualism" and see what you come up with. [/b]

Every time you amaze me, you then come back to amaze me some more.

The Washington Times was founded and is owned by right-wing fanatic cult-leader Sun Myung Moon.

The article you quote is written by the late unlamented [url=http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Walter_E._Williams]Walter E. Williams[/url], that luminary of impartial observation and enlightened opinion:

quote:

Dr. Williams is also an outspoken critic of the minimum wage and affirmative action, believing that both practices are detrimental to blacks. Dr. Williams especially emphasizes his belief that racism and the legacy of slavery in the United States are overemphasized as problems faced by the black community and do not adequately explain the situation blacks face today.

Like most conservatives and libertarians, Dr. Williams criticizes gun control as endangering the innocent and failing to reduce crime.

Dr. Williams praises capitalism (of a laissez-faire variety) as being the most moral and most productive system man has ever devised.


Amaze me some more please, Brett.

Ken Burch Ken Burch's picture

Walter E. Williams may be unlamented, but as far as I know the man is NOT late. I've seen his column in the Anchorage newspaper(well, the half-page remnant of the OLD right-wing Anchorage newspaper that is published in the moderate Anchorage newspaper...)within the last week or so.

And Brett, once again, I started this thread in order to gather evidence to help refute the perception I had about mathematics, not to justify that perception. I had realized that what I thought about this couldn't actually be right and I was trying to move past it intellectually. OK?

[ 15 December 2006: Message edited by: Ken Burch ]

Brett Mann

Sorry if you got caught in the crossfire, Ken. I'm a bit hypersensitive perhaps on this topic. I am not attacking any specific person, but a drift towards the dimunition of logic and intellectual enterprise I perceive on the left. Frankly, ad hominem arguments like the one advanced by Unionist strengthen my impression that elements of anti-rationalism have entered leftist discourse. I in no way accuse you, Ken, or Unionist, of holding anti-intellectual values personally, but the tone of the discourse speaks for itself. On the Agenda with Steve Paiken a few weeks ago, there was a round table discussion about crises facing humanity, with a brilliant and extremely well-spoken author, [url=http://www.tvo.org/cfmx/tvoorg/theagenda/index.cfm?page_id=7&bpn=279048&... Homer-Dixon.[/url] Two of the panelists, university professors who appeared to be representing the left-progressive side of the debate were almost embarrassing, I thought, in their inability to rise above ad hominem arguments and shallow post-modern "deconstructions" of the situation we are in. This program convinced me more ever that the decline in logical reasoning I suspect on the left, replaced by mechanical rhetoric, is no illusion.

Catchfire Catchfire's picture

quote:


The denial of global warming, the rejection of evolution, are directly traceable to a contempt for science, knowledge and learning. And a corrosive cynicism which distrusts everything (even mathematics!) is likely the legacy of post-modern, deconstructionist philosophy.

This is absolutely absurd. I can't even believe you wrote this seriously. The fact that you think that current neo-con, right wing tenents are based in a philosophical school that arose in the environment of labour riots in 1960s Paris further demonstrates your complete lack of understanding of deconstrucyion and postmodernism. Criticze it for being apolitical, criticize it for being ivory tower navel-gazing, or for its self-indulgent Academic play, but to blame it for ignoring global warming is beyond sanity.

Sans Tache

[url=http://www.fmnetwork.org.uk/press_releases.php]"The University of Chester is pleased to be part of the national Further Mathematics Network- widening choice for A level Mathematics students. More students studying more [b]mathematics is good[/b]for the UK and for student employability. The University of Chester rewards applicants offering a Further Mathematics qualification with double UCAS points for their Further Mathematics grade.[/url]

[url=http://www.princeton.edu/pr/pub/ags/06/058.htm]People study mathematics for various reasons. Some do so simply because they find it interesting and enjoyable for its own sake. However, training in [b]mathematics is good [/b]preparation for a number of careers. As with any subject, there is the possibility of an academic career. Knowledgeable teachers of mathematics and science are badly needed at all levels. Graduate schools of business and departments of computer science and statistics generally look favorably on applications from mathematics graduates, especially those who also have some courses in the relevant specialties. If mathematics appeals to you, there is every reason to take it as part of a liberal education. Also, quite a few graduates of the department have gone into law, medicine, or other careers in which mathematics is not specifically relevant.[/url]

Brett Mann

Sorry if I was unclear, Catchfire - I was blaming deconstructionism for a spreading cynicism on the left, not for global warming. Quite the reverse, actually - global cooling. [img]biggrin.gif" border="0[/img]

But seriously, does not postmodern thought tend to undermine the concept of an objective reality which exists beyond all our constructions? The fatal flaw of the relativist position of course is that logically, it too is only a position with no claim to correctness over other views. I'm old school. I believe in right and wrong. There was a time when the left used to as well, but things got kind of hazy somehow.

Unionist

quote:


Originally posted by Ken Burch:
[b]Walter E. Williams may be unlamented, but as far as I know the man is NOT late. I've seen his column in the Anchorage newspaper(well, the half-page remnant of the OLD right-wing Anchorage newspaper that is published in the moderate Anchorage newspaper...)within the last week or so.

[/b]


You're right - just wishful thinking I guess. He's still enriching humanity's treasury of tripe and trash. Here is his restrained and dispassionate tribute to Milton Friedman, entitled [url=http://www.gmu.edu/departments/economics/wew/articles/06/friedman.html]D... of a Giant[/url]:

quote:

While the man is gone, those of us who hold personal liberty as society's highest end will always remember his steadfast support of the principles of personal liberty. [...]

During [b]my guest-hosting stints on the Rush Limbaugh show[/b], Professor Friedman was a guest on several occasions. His responses to caller questions demonstrated the real teacher in him -- the ability to explain complex phenomena in a way that ordinary people can readily understand.

In terms of his scholarly output and worldwide contributions to ideas on liberty, Professor Milton Friedman was the 20th century's greatest economist.


Excellent source, Brett, for your theories on the Decline and Fall of the Left.

Unionist

quote:


Originally posted by Brett Mann:
[b]I'm old school. I believe in right and wrong. [/b]

I'm new school. I believe in right is wrong.

Ken Burch Ken Burch's picture

quote:


[b]But seriously, does not postmodern thought tend to undermine the concept of an objective reality which exists beyond all our constructions?[/b]

Not necessarily. What postmodern or decontstructionist thought is, as I see it, attempting to undermine if it is attempting to undermine anything, is the assumption that "objective reality" or "absolute right or wrong" inherently posits the political or economic status quo, or the cultural or historical interpretation that supports the existing order of things on any level, as the inherently "right" one, as, in a sense, the kind of intellectual successor to the Divine Right theory.

Catchfire Catchfire's picture

Well, Brett, I can't really answer for all of postmodernism, because you will find people who will argue against "objective reality." However, Derrida, for example, believed in ideal things like justice, just that we'd never get there.

Consider [url=http://www.lrb.co.uk/v26/n21/butl02_.html]this helpful gloss[/url] by the always aweseome Judith Butler:

quote:

Derrida made clear in his short book on Walter Benjamin, The Force of Law (1994), that justice was a concept that was yet to come. This does not mean that we cannot expect instances of justice in this life, and it does not mean that justice will arrive for us only in another life. He was clear that there was no other life. It means only that, as an ideal, it is that towards which we strive, without end. Not to strive for justice because it cannot be fully realised would be as mistaken as believing that one has already arrived at justice and that the only task is to arm oneself adequately to fortify its regime. The first is a form of nihilism (which he opposed) and the second is dogmatism (which he opposed). Derrida kept us alive to the practice of criticism, understanding that social and political transformation was an incessant project, one that could not be relinquished, one that was coextensive with the becoming of life and the encounter with the Other, one that required a reading of the rules by means of which a polity constitutes itself through exclusion or effacement.

Much of Derrida's work, for example, was based on Plato and the acknowledgement of an "ideal" form. Obviously, Derrida troubled this claim, but never fully denied it.

Sans Tache

Mathematics is the search for the truth. The truth has no right or wrong, no left or right, it is, well, the truth.

If someone asks an accountant to add 2 + 2, the accountant will in turn ask, what would you like the answer to be? If a mathematician is solving a problem, there is only one answer.

arborman

What a bizarrely absurd thread. Math? Math is a value neutral tool for understanding the world.

It can be used to manipulate/understand the world for good or evil, but that good or evil comes from us, not the math.

Sheesh.

Sans Tache

quote:


Originally posted by arborman:
[b]What a bizarrely absurd thread. Math? Math is a value neutral tool for understanding the world.

It can be used to manipulate/understand the world for good or evil, but that good or evil comes from us, not the math.

Sheesh.[/b]


I missed that one, thanks arborman. There is no good or evil in mathematics, just the truth.

Truth = Mathematics is a [url=http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/congruent]congruent[/url] statement.

TemporalHominid TemporalHominid's picture

quote:


Originally posted by arborman:
[b]What a bizarrely absurd thread. Math? Math is a value neutral tool for understanding the world.

It can be used to manipulate/understand the world for good or evil, but that good or evil comes from us, not the math.

Sheesh.[/b]


well said

Erik Redburn

Yes yes, we all agree on that, its value neutral like any other intellectual tool but of course can also be misused like any other tool. (listen to some business major sometime) Yeesh, even Babble dog piles are getting kinda banal nowadays. [img]tongue.gif" border="0[/img]

Unionist

quote:


Originally posted by EriKtheHalfaRed:
[b]Yes yes, we all agree on that, its value neutral like any other intellectual tool but of course can also be misused like any other tool. [/b]

Would some leftist [i]please[/i] say math is evil? It will make Brett's day.

jrootham

I'm not about to say that math is evilnor that it is not true. However, to say something is true in mathematics is to assert that it is consistent with your assumptions. A lot of math is paring those assumptions down to a very minimal set.

Also, note that this is a very different thing than the popular definition of truth. That definition is that something is true if the world (universe, whatever) works that way.

Further note that the natural sciences do not have the concept truth or proof. There is only consistent with the best available theory. Some of those theories are considered to be very good, but none reach the standard of proof that mathematics holds.

The connection between math and the world is a very interesting one. At this point I would say that it is an open question as to whether there is a fundamental connection between mathematics and the world, or it is just coincidence that the world can be described mathematically.

It is true that almost all commonly used math was constructed to help understand the world, the question is whether that was able to be done my lucky accident or not.

Fidel

quote:


Originally posted by unionist:
[b]

I'm new school. I believe in right is wrong.[/b]


[img]biggrin.gif" border="0[/img] You're a shit disturber, you know that ?.

Ken Burch Ken Burch's picture

God, I started this whole thread trying to let go of some negative and inaccurate preconceptions.

Who knew people were this touchy about anything that even sounded like it was questioning the legitimacy of math(which, by the way, I wasn't actually doing)?

Michelle, can you please lock this? The whole thing took a turn I never intended it to take.

[ 16 December 2006: Message edited by: Ken Burch ]

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