FOM: Kazhdan, Macpherson, f.o.m., 2050, 2100

Mark Steiner marksa at
Sat Jan 15 14:14:51 EST 2000

I see again that I didn't answer all the questions, but there is one
point I think worth adding:

Kazhdan touches tangentially on the question "What is mathematics" in
his lecture, but in different ways than a f.o.m. specialist might.  The
latter might tend to be interested in mathematical reasoning, and how it
differs formally from other kinds.  Kazhdan is interested in the subject
matter of mathematics--what makes a concept mathematical, rather than,
say, a game (like chess).  He doesn't deal with that question, but with
a related one, why is mathematics one subject.  [I have always been
interested in the reason that geometry and number theory were regarded
as two parts of the same subject, and the historical question when did
the same term "mathematics" start being used for both subjects.]
Kazhdan says that there was no reason to believe that mathematics might
not break up into different subjects in the twentieth century, but in
fact this did not happen, for reasons he does not pretend to understand,
but he thinks it's the same phenomenon that Wigner points to in his
famous article about the relation of mathematics to physics.

More information about the FOM mailing list