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Does Math Fit With Philosophy?


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#1 hazelm

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Posted 23 June 2018 - 12:15 PM

Is it just me?  Or does anyone else get terribly frustrated when trying to read a philosophical article or a philosophical debate and have the ideas expressed as mathematical equations?  Especially untranslated math equations?

 

I have been wondering how much of this is necessary - using math equations to illustrate philosophy ideas.  Or even with science for that matter.  In physics, yes.  In biology? 

 

Opinions?



#2 hazelm

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Posted 24 June 2018 - 12:20 PM

I hope I am not just talking to myself but I did read something very interesting in relation to my OP.   Not intended; just happened.

 

First, though,  a friend e-mailed me that she also gets frustrated the same way - trying to read something and having math equations scattered throughout  and meaning nothing to her.

 

Anyway, I am reading Michael Gazzaniga's "The Consciousness Instinct".  Among many other ideas, he talks about how we get our particular talents - our skills that will lead us into our own particular interests and, perhaps, professions.  I do not know if this is already a scientific theory or only Michael Gazzaniga's hypothesis.  He says we come (are born) already equipped with a particular set of what he calls "bubbles" (and I call needed skills).  These bubbles are ready and waiting to be called upon when needed to solve problems, create new ideas, build a career.   The brain is full of these bubbles just waiting.  When one is needed the brain searches deeply for a "bubble" to help out.

 

And now, here is what soothed my tangled frustrations.  Apparently my friend and I are not the only ones who get frustrated when trying to read someone's very good article on a given topic and running into math equations.  Michael Gazzaniga says:

 

"To get a feel for this, consider what bubble you don't have.  For instance, I can tell you I feel frustrated when equations start popping up in lectures.  Though I wish I could, I cannot tell you what it is like to grasp highly abstract math, but I bet it would be cool."

 

Ah!  If someone of Michael Gazzaniga's caliber has a problem with Ph.D. math, why should I feel bad that it is far beyond me?  I do not feel badly at all in asking "how much of it is necessary;  how much of it could be expressed in words?"  If you don't know the definition of words, you have dictionaries.    How do we find translations of math equations?

 

End of talking to myself and no answers. 



#3 Vee

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Posted 24 June 2018 - 12:27 PM

Numbers are words. (duh)



#4 exchemist

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Posted 24 June 2018 - 02:57 PM

I hope I am not just talking to myself but I did read something very interesting in relation to my OP.   Not intended; just happened.

 

First, though,  a friend e-mailed me that she also gets frustrated the same way - trying to read something and having math equations scattered throughout  and meaning nothing to her.

 

Anyway, I am reading Michael Gazzaniga's "The Consciousness Instinct".  Among many other ideas, he talks about how we get our particular talents - our skills that will lead us into our own particular interests and, perhaps, professions.  I do not know if this is already a scientific theory or only Michael Gazzaniga's hypothesis.  He says we come (are born) already equipped with a particular set of what he calls "bubbles" (and I call needed skills).  These bubbles are ready and waiting to be called upon when needed to solve problems, create new ideas, build a career.   The brain is full of these bubbles just waiting.  When one is needed the brain searches deeply for a "bubble" to help out.

 

And now, here is what soothed my tangled frustrations.  Apparently my friend and I are not the only ones who get frustrated when trying to read someone's very good article on a given topic and running into math equations.  Michael Gazzaniga says:

 

"To get a feel for this, consider what bubble you don't have.  For instance, I can tell you I feel frustrated when equations start popping up in lectures.  Though I wish I could, I cannot tell you what it is like to grasp highly abstract math, but I bet it would be cool."

 

Ah!  If someone of Michael Gazzaniga's caliber has a problem with Ph.D. math, why should I feel bad that it is far beyond me?  I do not feel badly at all in asking "how much of it is necessary;  how much of it could be expressed in words?"  If you don't know the definition of words, you have dictionaries.    How do we find translations of math equations?

 

End of talking to myself and no answers. 

You can often write a simple algebraic equation in words. For example Newton's F=ma is "Force equals mass times acceleration. But is that really any clearer to you than F=ma?

 

It seems to me that, as we are all taught nowadays in school enough maths to be able to understand F=ma, it is not unreasonable to expect that readers can deal with it. But more complicated things will lose readers, inevitably.  


Edited by exchemist, 24 June 2018 - 02:57 PM.


#5 hazelm

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Posted 24 June 2018 - 04:26 PM

You can often write a simple algebraic equation in words. For example Newton's F=ma is "Force equals mass times acceleration. But is that really any clearer to you than F=ma?

 

It seems to me that, as we are all taught nowadays in school enough maths to be able to understand F=ma, it is not unreasonable to expect that readers can deal with it. But more complicated things will lose readers, inevitably.  

No, I confess I did not know "a" meant acceleration.  A minor detail?  At any rate....

 

Thank you, exchemist.  Your point is well taken but  it (or more complicated ones) can be a foreign language to anyone who has never had occasion to learn all the math symbols.  Not everyone follows the same path through high school and/or university.  Not everyone is exposed to he same terms.  It depends on their intentions for the future.  Or, bless his heart - iike Gazziniga - was not born with a math bubble.

 

How would you react if a lecturer was going along fine with a lecture and you were really enjoying his ideas when he suddenly said to to the class "nos dawch" and walked out of the room? Unless you know Welsh, you might just think he got tired of all of you and left.  All he said was "good night".

 

I know.  It is a double-edged sword.  And a lot depends on the category.  Chemistry, physics - they are going, by necessity, to be loaded with equations and we who know nothing of the fields or the math that is attached to them keep a distance.   But if someone cannot describe the trajectory of a baseball or why oxygen contributes to rust without equations, I have questions for him and they aren't "please translate".

 

But that's the simple part.  Please rethink Gazzaniga's comment.  I'd love to know how much that is accepted by the scientific community but that's another topic.  The point he is making is that there are people who simply cannot grasp higher math.  And, forgive me  for reminding you (I know you know it), there is a whopper of difference between what is taught in high school and what is learned in high school.

 

So, all Gazzaniga and I are saying is "look, this is why I don't understand you.  Then, if you want the person to understand, you translate.  If not, you don't.    But if you can write a 1,000 word report and use plain English until the very end where you revert to putting it all in equations .....

 

I am leaving in just a minute ,  Just this which I may have posted before.  I have a book written by Albert Einstein.  It is called Relativity -  the Special and the General Theory.  This book has 178 pages and only in the last five or six pages do equations begin to appear.  Since he managed to write that much before he needed equations, could he not have translated those?

 

Oh, by they way, in case anyone does not know this book, it was written in 1915, specifically for those not versed in physics or higher math.  If Einstein could do it ..... 

 

Well, as I said, it's a two-edged sword.  I just had to vent my frustration after trying to read something that I really did want to read.  I finally gave up.  If you use words I do not understand, I have dictionaries.  Where do I go to translate a long equation?

 

Nos dawch.  :-)


Edited by hazelm, 24 June 2018 - 04:31 PM.


#6 Turtle

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Posted 07 July 2018 - 09:26 PM

When I run across unfamiliar elements in a text, whether mathematical or not, I stop reading and look up the element. Once confident that I have the element by the short-hairs, I return to the text, back up a paragraph from my stop point, and start reading again. Rinse & repeat as necessary until achieving a most happy conclusion. :read: :read: :read: :read: :bounce:

 

On the topic of math as applies to philosophy, math underlies it whether or not explicitly invoked. If you doubt this, then reread paragraph 4 in that philosophical article you last math bashed with. :banghead:  See, you can't go to paragraph 4 without knowing counting. There is no relief, and that is the first principle. :edizzy: The second principle is to always seek relief.  :spin:


Edited by Turtle, 07 July 2018 - 09:35 PM.


#7 hazelm

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Posted 08 July 2018 - 05:45 AM

When I run across unfamiliar elements in a text, whether mathematical or not, I stop reading and look up the element. Once confident that I have the element by the short-hairs, I return to the text, back up a paragraph from my stop point, and start reading again. Rinse & repeat as necessary until achieving a most happy conclusion. :read: :read: :read: :read: :bounce:

 

On the topic of math as applies to philosophy, math underlies it whether or not explicitly invoked. If you doubt this, then reread paragraph 4 in that philosophical article you last math bashed with. :banghead:  See, you can't go to paragraph 4 without knowing counting. There is no relief, and that is the first principle. :edizzy: The second principle is to always seek relief.  :spin:

Great.  I'd argue with you but I withdrew from the numbers world when some (philosopher?  not sure.  maybe would-be cosmologist) tried to convince me that "the universe is math".  Trouble is that, when asked to explain, he could not.  Where is C E Moore when we need him?

 

Seriously, though - after my silliness - what you say is so true.  Google has a built-in system for just that.  Same with big words we don't understand.  Highlight the word, right-click the word, click "Search Google for system" and - voila - all the definitions one could ask for.   Sometimes I get to hung up in some article the definition refers me to that I never gt back to my original spot.

 

And now - as you suggest -  I should try that with math equations.  Why hadn't I thought of it?  Thanks.


Edited by hazelm, 08 July 2018 - 05:56 AM.


#8 Turtle

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Posted 08 July 2018 - 02:59 PM

Great.  I'd argue with you but I withdrew from the numbers world when some (philosopher?  not sure.  maybe would-be cosmologist) tried to convince me that "the universe is math".  Trouble is that, when asked to explain, he could not.  Where is C E Moore when we need him?
 
Seriously, though - after my silliness - what you say is so true.  Google has a built-in system for just that.  Same with big words we don't understand.  Highlight the word, right-click the word, click "Search Google for system" and - voila - all the definitions one could ask for.   Sometimes I get to hung up in some article the definition refers me to that I never gt back to my original spot.
 
And now - as you suggest -  I should try that with math equations.  Why hadn't I thought of it?  Thanks.

 
Argue all you want, but as soon as you make your first point, math has been invoked. Math doesn't give a whit whether you engage it or not because you can't escape its web. Cest la vis. :lol:
 
The ideas I suggested far predate the internet when we used papier things called books. Define a word; dictionary. Read up on a topic; encyclopedia. Need more, visit a library or heaven forbid, write a letter.
 
As we do have the web, I recommend you bookmark the WolframAlpha Computational Engine.

If you register for free you get some extra functionalities. :smart:



#9 hazelm

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Posted 09 July 2018 - 04:06 AM

 
Argue all you want, but as soon as you make your first point, math has been invoked. Math doesn't give a whit whether you engage it or not because you can't escape its web. Cest la vis. :lol:
 
The ideas I suggested far predate the internet when we used papier things called books. Define a word; dictionary. Read up on a topic; encyclopedia. Need more, visit a library or heaven forbid, write a letter.
 
As we do have the web, I recommend you bookmark the WolframAlpha Computational Engine.

If you register for free you get some extra functionalities. :smart:

 

Oh, heavens to Betsy, I know you are right.  I just don't want to know you are right.   And some of it - which really commits me to the ancient world, I do not even believe.  Math?  When I went to school  (shhhhh!!!!), math was arithmetic and was very simple.  But then, to paraphrase somebody we know,  what was was.

 

WolframAlpha Computational Engine?  What in the -------.   I am still trying to find out what space pixels are.  But  curiosity always gets me.  Will do Wolfram, hoping it will translate math equations for me.    I have two pages full of the symbols used with codes to typing them but nothing about translating them into English.  And therein is the stumbling block.   When did they teach this stuff?

 

Confession:  I still write letters (long ones as you can see) and spend hours reading books.  A smile for you before I go:  I recently went into Macy's and asked the man if he had a book case.  He said 'oh, yes", and pointed to a very flimsy piece of furniture.  The shelves were thin slabs of plywood with a vase here and there.  I said those  would never hold books.  He looked at me in absolute amazement and responded:  "You're going to put  books on them?  Oh, no, they won't hold books."    It's a book case!

 

WolframAlpha, here I come! 



#10 wiseshopper

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Posted 30 July 2018 - 01:31 AM

When I was still studying at the uni, I had a Philosophy class. One of the topics we discussed there is Logic. It's the most frustrating thing in the world for me because our prof literally used mathematical equations to explain the logic. I don't like math so I really struggled with understanding the concept behind those equations. But after I was able to practice and read more about the interconnection, it became easier for me. It's logical. It made sense.