276 V. MATHEMATICS A A LANGUAGE |
||

a marked progress in mathematics, though much less in other verbal enterprises; which accounts for the long neglect of the structure of languages. Without tracing down a linguistic scheme to a postulate system, it is extremely difficult or impossible to find its structural assumptions.
A peculiarity of modern mathematics is the insistence upon the formal character of all mathematical reasoning, which, with the new
non-el theory of meanings, ultimately should apply to all linguistic procedures.The problems of 'formalism' are of serious and neglected psychological importance, and are connected with great semantic dangers in daily life if associated with the lack of consciousness of abstracting; or, in other words, when we confuse the orders of abstractions. Indeed, the majority of 'mentally' ill are
too formal in their psycho-logical, one-, two-, or few-valued processes and so cannot adjust themselves to the oo-valued experiences of life. Formalism is only useful in the search for, and test of, structure; but, in that case, the consciousness of abstracting makes the attitude behind formal reasoning as-valued and probable, so that semantic disturbances and shocks in life are avoided. Let us be simple about it: the mechanism of the semantic disturbance, called 'identification', or 'the confusion of orders of abstractions' in general, and 'objectification' in particular, is, to a large extent, dependent on two-valued formalism without the consciousness of abstracting.In mathematics, formalism is uniquely useful and necessary. In mathematics, the formal point of view is pressed so far as to disclaim that any meanings, in the ordinary sense, have been ascribed to the undefined terms, the emphasis being on the postulated relations between the undefined terms. The last makes the majority of mathematicians able to adjust themselves, and mathematics extremely general, as it allows us to ascribe to the mathematical postulates an indefinite number of meanings which satisfy the postulates.
This fact is not a defect of mathematics; quite the opposite. It is the basis of its tremendous practical value. It makes mathematics a linguistic scheme which embodies the possibility of perfection, and which, no doubt, satisfies semantically, at each epoch, the great majority of properly informed individual Smiths and Browns. There is nothing absolute about it, as all mathematics is ultimately a product of the human nervous system, the best product produced at each stage of our development. The fact that mathematics establishes such linguistic relational patterns without specific content, accounts for the generality of mathematics in applications. |
||