MATHEMATICS AND THE NERVOUS SYSTEMS 277
If mathematics had physical content or a definite meaning ascribed to its undefined terms, such mathematics could be applied only in the given case and not otherwise. If, instead of making the mathematical statement that one and one make two, without mentioning what the one or the two stands for, we should establish that one apple and one apple make two apples, this statement would not be applied safely to anything else but apples. The generality would be lost, the validity of the statement endangered, and we should be deprived of the greatest value of mathematics. Such a statement concerning apples is not a mathematical statement, but belongs to what is called 'applied mathematics', which has content. Such experimental facts as that one gallon of water added to one gallon of alcohol gives
less than two gallons of the mixture, do not invalidate the mathematical statement that one and one make two, which remains valid by definition. The last mentioned experiment with the 'addition' of water to alcohol is a deep sub-microscopic structural characteristic of the empirical world, which must be discovered at present by experiment. The most we can say is that we find the above mathematical statement applicable in some instances, and non-applicable in others.Not assigning definite meanings to the undefined terms, mathematical postulates have variable meanings and so consist of prepositional functions. Mathematics must be viewed as a manifold of patterns of exact relational languages, representing, at each stage, samples of the best working of the human 'mind'. The application to practical problems depends on the ingenuity of those desiring to use such languages.
Because of these characteristics, mathematics, when studied as a form of human behaviour, gives us a wealth of psycho-logical and semantic data, usually entirely neglected.
As postulates consist of propositional functions with undefined terms, all mathematical proof is formal and depends exclusively on the form of the premises and not on special meanings which we may assign to our undefined terms. This applies to all 'proof. 'Theories' represent linguistic structures, and must be proved on semantic grounds and never by empirical 'facts'. Experimental facts only make a theory more plausible, but no number of experiments can 'prove' a theory. A proof belongs to the
verbal level, the experimental facts do not; they belong to a different order of abstractions, not to be reached by language, the connecting link being structure, which, in languages, is given by the systems of postulates.Theories or doctrines are always linguistic. They formulate something which is going on inside our skin in relation to what is going on |
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