FOM: What is mathematics?

Insall montez at
Fri Feb 15 14:49:11 EST 2002

Miguel Lerma wrote:  ``Proofs may be an important part of mathematical
activity but not essential in defining mathematics.''

I submit that mathematics needs no definition.  Mathematics just is.  In any
given situation, a mathematician, or other professional, may desire, or
need, to adjudicate in a matter about whether a particular activity is
mathematical in nature.  In these cases, the judgement need not be held up
to so much scrutiny that it becomes a ``law''.  It may, however, be
reasonably cited as a ``precedent''.  In any case, however, I do not mean to
suggest that the discussion about ``What is mathematics?'' is somehow
unworthy of pursuit.  It can be quite enlightening and/or entertaining to
see what is on some particular person's list of ``mathematical'' items, and
what is on that person's list of items that they deem to be definitely

Matt Insall

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