Re: self-evident

Garry DeWeese (
Tue, 07 Apr 1998 10:07:48 -0600

At 04:41 PM 4/5/1998 -0500, Moorad Alexanian wrote:
>Mathematics is a human invention. Of course, the mystery is that this human
>invention is indeed useful in describing the workings of nature. As a
>logical game, the only requirement of the postulates is that they are not
>contradictory and are in some sense complete.

A minor point, perhaps, but I cannot let the assertion that "Mathematics is
a human invention" go by without objection. (I had hoped that someone more
qualified in the philosophy of mathematics than I am would respond; I
suppose George Murphy is quite busy these days with Holy Week activities in
his church.)

Moorad, are you endorsing a constructivist account of mathematics? Would
you really want to assert that when Pythagoras discovered his famous
theorem, or when Wylie proved Fermat's Last Theorem, that they were
*inventing* something, not *discovering* it? Unless I missed it recently,
there still is no proof or disproof of Goldbach's Conjecture. On your
view, it is neither true nor false. But I would maintain that it is either
true or it is false; we may never know which, but its truth (or falsity) is
not something we invent.

I think it is much more cogent for a Christian to hold that mathematical
objects (numbers, relations, theorems, etc.) exist in the mind of God, and
are necessarily and timelessly true, and that we merely discover them,
thereby thinking God's thoughts after him. So the explanation of the
"mystery" of why mathematics has real-world application is that the world
was designed by God in conformity with the necessary, timeless mathematical
truths which he knows.

Best wishes,
Garry DeWeese