FOM: Re: Poor slobs and unique structures

Charles Silver csilver at
Fri Oct 9 09:42:44 EDT 1998

On Fri, 9 Oct 1998, Neil Tennant wrote:

> On Fri Oct  9 06:21 EDT 1998, Charlie Silver wrote:
> > I take it that Hersh and others would think you are radically
> > misdescribing mathematical activity, though I believe in their
> > descriptions of mathematical activity they'd have to include somewhere the
> > fact that mathematicians may *think* there's a unique structure out there. 
> > I'm a little puzzled as to how a sophisticated version of this would go. 

> I'm not interested in sophisticated versions of The False. There's
> been enough of that from Clinton already; let's not draw more of the
> same from Hersh. (Note that, according to the humanistic
> postmodernist, I cannot be convicted of bad faith, or bad rhetoric, or
> bad logic, in putting WhiteHouseSpeak and HershSpeakOnThe NatureOfMath
> side-by-side!)

	I'd have thought the two were quite separate, but I'm not prepared
to argue the point.

> > Would one who was describing mathematical activity, but totally rejected
> > Platonism (and perhaps supported something like "humanistic mathematics"),
> > have to say something to the effect that many of the poor slobs who *do*
> > mathematics think their work is guided by the existence of silly things
> > like unique structures?  

> I confess I don't know. Perhaps one has to ask the poor slobs who
> support "humanistic mathematics" what guides the work of "poor slobs"
> like G"odel.


> > But we, acting as cultural anthropologists
> > observing their behavior, can see that they are really just engaged in a
> > lot of scribbling exercises, besides hanging out together and speaking in
> > a contrived language which seems to give them pleasure? 
> Have you heard the story about the psychiatrist (call him Jones) who
> decided to enter an asylum incognito in order to do field work on a
> research project into how psychiatrists related to inmates? He sat
> unobtrusively in a corner, making notes in his notebook about the
> conversational exchanges and the ethical implications of various other
> personal interactions that he observed between doctors and inmates. He
> was unaware of being observed, himself, by the doctor in charge of the
> ward. When Jones resumed normal duties (and his old identity), he came
> across the ward journal. The doctor in charge that earlier occasion
> had written "Patient J. exhibits writing behavior".

	Nice story.  And, I think it also applies.

Charlie Silver

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