SCIENCE AND SANITY - online book

An Introduction To Non-aristotelian Systems And General Semantics.

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Only and exclusively in mathematics does deduction, if correct, work absolutely, for no particulars are left out which may later be discovered and force us to modify our deductions.
Not so in abstracting from physical objects. Here, particulars are left out; we proceed by forgetting, our deductions work only relatively, and must be revised continuously whenever new particulars are discovered. In mathematics, however, we build for ourselves a fictitious and over-simplified verbal world, with abstractions which have all particulars included. If we compare mathematics, taken as a language, with our daily language, we see readily that in both verbal activities we are building for ourselves forms of representation for this something-going-on, which is not words.
Considered as a language, mathematics appears as a language of the highest perfection, but at its lowest development. Perfect, because the structure of mathematics makes it possible to be so (all characteristics included, and no physical content), and because it is a language of relations which are also found in this world. At the lowest development, because we can speak in it as yet about very little and that in a very narrow, restricted field, and with limited aspects.
Our other languages would appear, then, as the other extreme, as the highest mathematics, but also at their lowest development - highest mathematics, because in them we can speak about everything; at their lowest development because they are still A and not based on asymmetrical relations. Between the two languages there exists as yet a large unbridged structural gap. The bridging of this gap is the problem of the workers of the future. Some will work in the direction of inventing new mathematical methods and systems, bringing mathematics closer in scope and adaptability to ordinary language (for instance, the tensor calculus, the theory of groups, the theory of sets, the algebra of states and observ-ables,.). Others will undertake linguistic researches designed to bring ordinary language closer to mathematics (for instance, the present work). When the two forms of representation meet on relational grounds, we shall probably have a simple language of mathematical structure, and mathematics, as such, might then even become obsolete.
It is not desirable that the reader should be under the impression that all mathematical 'thinking' is low-grade 'thinking'. The mathematicians who discover or invent new methods for relating and structures are the biggest 'mental' giants we have had, or ever shall have. Only the technical interplay of symbols, to find out some new possible combination, can be considered as low-grade 'thinking'.