FOM: Rota

Stephen G Simpson simpson at
Fri Oct 16 15:29:55 EDT 1998

Robert Tragesser 13 Oct 1998 03:49:49 writes:
 > If there's any interest on FOM, I'd gladly expand on some of Rota?

Yes, that would be most welcome, so far as I am concerned.

 > Steve Simpson noted the discrepancy between Hersh's claims on Rota
 > and Rota's actual writings.  This has puzzled many of us who have
 > followed Rota closely.  Indeed, in _What is Mathematics, really?_,
 > misprisions of Rota make Rota to appear to be the worst sort of
 > philosophical hack, wildly misinterpreting Rota, as for example
 > Rota's paper on the pernicious influence of mathematics on
 > philosophy.  Notice that Rota published Hersh's initial interesting
 > paper in Advances in Mathematics.

Yes, the Hersh-Rota connection is puzzling.  I conjecture that there
is some sort of I'll-scratch-your-back-you-scratch-mine relationship,
where Rota helps and praises Hersh in return for Hersh's help and
praise, regardless of his private evaluation of Hersh.  This would be
consistent with what I know of Rota's methods, especially in the way
he runs Advances in Mathematics.  Some but not all of these methods
are explicitly stated in Indiscrete Thoughts.

Of course that's not to deny that Rota seeks out and publishes
excellent papers.  For instance, there is my own paper with Tim
Carlson in Advances 53 1984.  :-)

 > Hersh's book, unfortunately, does not retain the promise of the
 > paper.  Philosophy sits in there like lumps of uncooked dough.

Yes.  He presents thumbnail sketches of a lot of thinkers, but he
doesn't weave them together.

-- Steve

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