FOM: attitudes of core mathematicians and applied model theorists toward f.o.m.

Stephen Fenner fenner at
Thu Jan 27 15:04:53 EST 2000

On Wed, 26 Jan 2000, Mark Steiner wrote:

> 	The intolerance of arguing that field X is of interest only if it
> contributes to MY field is regrettable, but widespread.
> 	Philosophy also sufferences from such intolerance.  I recall being
> deeply offended by Steven Weinberg's book, Dreams of a Final Theory,
> which contains a chapter, Against Philosophy.  This chapter argues that
> philosophy has made no contribution to particle physics since 1945.
> (Neither has chicken soup, but he has no chapter on that.)

This reminds me of something I heard the physicist Sheldon Glashow (a
close colleague of Weinberg's) say during a lecture at Harvard back in the
80s.  He was dismissing mathematicians' efforts to put quantum field
theory on a firm mathematical footing.  He said, quite seriously,
"mathematics is the handmaiden of physics," and his other remarks
suggested that pure mathematical pursuits are not really interesting or
important, except when they arise from or relate to physics.

Perhaps he was only refering to Mathematical Physics when he said
"mathematics" (which would be much less offensive), but this was not the
sense that I got at the time; he seemed to be talking about math as a

Stephen Fenner                       Phone: 803-777-2596
Computer Science Department          FAX:   803-777-3767
University of South Carolina         Email: fenner at
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